Canvas by Instructure

Independence School District

Canvas for Elementary: Creating Consistency for Every Learner

Independence School District



Adopted Canvas for Elementary: 2021


Independence School District, or ISD, ensures “each learner will achieve the skills…to be successful in an ever-changing world.” Recently, ISD’s technology coach, Sage Arnote, and virtual learning coordinator, Becky Herl, spoke on the district wide adoption of Canvas for Elementary.

The Challenge

At Independence School District, transitioning their young learners to a virtual environment came with its challenges. To make an informed decision about how to best tackle these challenges, ISD reached out to both neighboring districts and their own stakeholders to identify common pain points surrounding user experience in their virtual learning environments.

What started as a conversation about improving the elementary virtual learning experience, turned into a broader discussion about how to set all students, guardians, teachers, and support staff in the district up for success with a consistent Canvas LMS experience.

“We surveyed districts around us to learn what was the biggest complaint from their patrons. The largest grievance was different course expectations [in Canvas]. We have tried to be uniform in our K-12 practices using Canvas LMS. Because we want to offer our families ease of navigation and course consistency, our secondary schools have also adopted Canvas for Elementary,” Herl said.

Making this district wide transition to Canvas for Elementary was a strategic change that came with many benefits.

Key Insights

Implementing Canvas for Elementary for all levels across K-12 resulted in a more consistent virtual learning experience for teachers, students, and guardians.

Canvas for Elementary’s clean navigation gives teachers the option to customize where to place important student information like Homeroom, Schedule, Grades, and Resources.

Guardians of both primary and secondary students can nickname and easily toggle between their students’ courses.

Creating an implementation plan complete with onboarding and ongoing support for all stakeholders results in higher buy in and a smoother adoption.

The Solution

After identifying Canvas for Elementary as the solution, ISD prepared for implementation. To provide the smoothest transition for the whole district, ISD developed a timeline for implementation, surveyed their own stakeholders, trained staff, students, and families, and created a system of continued support for ongoing enrollment.

“We…have support to help our parents in the form of an email and phone number that they can reach out to our staff to assist with questions,” Arnote said.

Ongoing and Onboarding Support

As part of their implementation plan and to ensure that all educators would be ready for the change, instructional and virtual learning coaches planned summer PD opportunities to bring teachers together and introduce them to Canvas for Elementary ahead of the upcoming school year, according to Arnote.

When asked how students, and guardians were trained, Herl outlined how Canvas for Elementary was introduced before the school year began at back to school night. The idea was to introduce Canvas for Elementary early at the same time as orientation and Chromebook distribution so that all students and their guardians would get a glimpse of the new, consistent virtual learning experience for themselves. Virtual learning handbooks for both the elementary and secondary levels were also created and distributed at this time.

In addition to the summer onboarding, additional ongoing training opportunities were presented throughout the year to support teachers with any questions they had along the way. This included the creation of a virtual help desk called ISDHelpMe and training videos.

“‘We did provide as instructional coaches ongoing training and we had optional meetings that teachers could attend if they wanted. We also put together a checklist at the start of any semester that went through all the things that were required of a teacher with regards to their Canvas courses,” Arnote said.

All Course & Grade Information In One View

Another benefit from Canvas for Elementary, according to Herl, was a homepage featuring all course information and a condensed, clean, customizable navigation. Grades can be viewed at the subject and assignment level, resources and custom announcements accessed, and missing assignments clearly displayed on course cards, as well as any other important dates designated by the teacher

To learn more about how Canvas for Elementary provides learners with an equitable digital classroom through clear orientation, focus, and promoting student success at schools like those in ISD, explore our infographic.

The Results

“The main thing was to establish course consistency for our virtual families. We wanted our families to see the same navigational layout and know they were in a course built by the ISD,” Herl said. And with Canvas for Elementary, the ISD accomplished that original mission to bring consistency.

Looking ahead, Herl concluded, ”The plan is, at this point in time, to continue with Canvas for Elementary.”

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