I listened to a webinar today, hosted by Instructure Canvas. My college uses Canvas as our LMS (learning management system), so whenever they have a new initiative, I pay attention. This time, they were publicizing “Canvas Commons,” which will give Canvas users the ability to share not only individual learning objects (LOs), but entire course modules, including lessons, animations, quizzes, and any other component you can put in a module. Currently in beta testing, Canvas Commons will be available to educators to create entire courses, which they can choose to share within their departments, or with whomever is interested. Students can be given a link to the Commons course, and will have access to its resources. Course components can be shared; whole modules or individual LOs can be exported from the Commons and imported into another course. The key for Instructure, of course, is that this will be available to users of the Canvas LMS.
The ‘marketing hook’ Canvas used in touting their product, “A Learning Object Repository That Actually Gets Used,” implies there are others out there that are not used, or perhaps not useful. In the early part of the webinar, Merlot and others were referenced as ‘ancient’ resources, dating all the way back to the early 2000’s. (I had mentioned Merlot in an earlier blog post.) The first half of the webinar was mostly a review of OERs (open educational resources, such as Merlot) and the educational history of LOs. Apparently (at least, based on looking up the number of ‘hits’ in web searches), the term ‘learning object’ has been falling out of favor in the U.S., although it is still quite popular in Australia. The suggestion was made that LOs are either hard to find, or perhaps just not very useful.
Of course, this webinar was general in nature, not specific to Anatomy & Physiology, so the excellence of the LifeSciTRC repository hosted by APS would not have been known to the Canvas developers. (And, the structure of the LifeSciTRC repository is very different from that of Canvas Commons.) During the Q&A period, questions of costs, access, and storage space were answered in pretty general terms, so it’s hard to envision how widely adopted this resource will be, in spite of the clear intent of the webinar title. Still, it’s interesting to imagine having a library of A&P LOs available to all HAPS members in an accessible format, organized into modules arranged by HAPS learning outcomes. I know Canvas question banks can be linked to specific course learning outcomes, so there is an analytical application there. At this point, I am formulating a goal of having my own courses in Canvas set up that way. Maybe, someday, I’ll be able to share, and perhaps others in HAPS will similarly have LOs in compatible formats, whether in Canvas, or in whatever form comes next, when Canvas is considered ‘ancient,’ maybe 10 years from now.
…On a separate note, I became aware of the “badges” available to the users of the LifeSciTRC repository. You can check them out at http://www.lifescitrc.org/help-my.cfm#badges. I’m not sure if badges are useful in a professional sense, so I thought I’d ask…
– Betsy Ott