Canvas LMS

Virtual Arkansas

Scaling High-Quality Content & Courses Statewide With Canvas


Plumerville, AR, USA

23,000+ Students

Started 2019


As a fully online school, Virtual Arkansas provides supplemental courses throughout the state. Working directly with an educational service cooperative and the department of education, they exist to provide schools with high-quality content, courses, and resources, specifically to create equitable access for schools in urban and rural districts. Learn how Virtual Arkansas uses Canvas Studio and Canvas Commons to simplify content creation and enhance learning for students and teachers alike.

The Challenge

With a mission to provide equitable access to high-quality courses and resources in rural and urban districts throughout the state, Virtual Arkansas needed a reliable system that would simplify teacher collaboration, resource sharing, and content creation. Before using Canvas, Virtual Arkansas started off using two learning management systems; one was a self-hosted platform, the other was Blackboard. However, from a functionality standpoint, the Virtual Arkansas team realized that neither system could meet their needs, and training teachers to use two different systems simultaneously was no easy feat.

“When you really look at what we had to invest in hosting our own site and the risk involved with it, Canvas truly was the less expensive and most strategic choice overall.”

-John Ashworth, Director

Additionally, creating a custom learning ecosystem that integrates with a multitude of devices and learning apps was vital in the decision-making process.

“We wanted a shift from focusing on panicked LMS fixes to teachers focusing on pedagogy and practice.”

-Candice McPherson, Director of Design & Development

Key Insights

Using Canvas, Virtual Arkansas provides supplemental courses for schools throughout the state, increasing equity and access to quality resources.

The school uses Canvas Studio to create content for both teachers and students to learn.

The team streamlines content management by creating course Blueprints and sharing them via Canvas Commons.

The Solution

In 2019, Virtual Arkansas chose Canvas as their comprehensive learning management system. As part of Virtual Arkansas’ involvement in education cooperatives, the school system provides supplemental courses, content, and flexible paced learning plans to surrounding districts.

With one reliable system in place, the team has left concerns about operational issues, such as servers crashing, behind. They can now spend more time creating high-quality resources to support the schools in their network.

Since many of these schools had not used a learning management system of any kind before the pandemic, the support Virtual Arkansas provided via Canvas better equipped teachers to engage with students outside of the classroom.

In a fully online environment with teachers using different systems, it can be all too easy for teachers to feel isolated. The switch to Canvas helped “break that barrier down,” as Kirsten Wilson, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, put it. One of the best examples of this culture shift lies in the Virtual Arkansas course-change form, which gives teachers the autonomy to make changes to course content and structure for greater impact on student engagement.

“We know when we honor teachers’ voices, teachers then honor students’ voices.”

-Kirsten Wilson, MEd, Director of Curriculum & Instruction

Teachers have enjoyed the clarity and consistency of the courses and have mentioned that with Canvas, they're spending less time searching for information and more time interacting with students.

Additionally, the team’s ability to create Blueprints and share them via Canvas Commons was a game-changer because it provided a consistent and shareable starting point for teachers to develop and manage content within a course without starting from scratch each time.

“We can so easily share content, and that has been a huge boost to us. Not having to start from scratch creates an even better final product. What you get is this huge collaborative sharing of courses that get better and better with each hand they pass through.”

-Candice McPherson, Director of Design & Development

But when teachers need to create content, their secret weapon is Canvas Studio. From video course announcements to mini-lessons and personalized feedback, Studio has provided a simple and effective way for teachers to add a personal touch to the courses they receive from Virtual Arkansas and gain valuable insight into student engagement.

But it’s not just used to engage students; Studio is also used widely to help teachers learn and build collective teacher efficacy. Using Canvas as its primary professional development tool, Virtual Arkansas allows teachers to learn together in the same system they teach in.

“Studio allows our PD training to be both synchronous and asynchronous. That way, teachers can access all recordings from the session on their own time and rewatch as many times as needed.”

-Kirsten Wilson, Director of Curriculum and Instruction at Virtual Arkansas

Studio makes content more accessible for everyone, allowing teachers to create transcripts and share recorded content so that everyone can learn together, at their own pace.

The Results

Before Virtual Arkansas switched to Canvas, teachers often asked, “Is there any way to know if students actually watched the video we shared?” And today, there’s a clear answer.

The expansion of Virtual Arkansas’ online network has grown significantly since the pandemic began. Canvas can keep up, giving faculty the tools they need to quickly onboard and train new teachers and integrating with the apps they need to create high-quality content for any subject.

One of the team’s first questions when evaluating a new tool is, “Does this integrate with Canvas?” and so far, the answer has always been "yes."

The Virtual Arkansas team agreed, “Without reliability, there can be no innovation.” Canvas has not only streamlined the team’s workflow, but it’s also met the school system’s core values by making innovation possible, putting teaching and learning first, and providing a foundation where collaboration can thrive.

“When you have to put out fires in your LMS constantly, it draws your attention away from students. Because Canvas is so reliable, teachers can spend more time building relationships and creating a positive learning culture.”

-Kirsten Wilson, Director of Curriculum and Instruction at Virtual Arkansas

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