Open Letter to Instructure / Canvas LMS

Instructure recently announced that their Canvas LMS will be open source for a basic edition.

We see this announcement in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Here is the page where they talk about open source. They made an awesome Viral Video with homage to the Apple 1984 commercial. My SI124 students should take note of this video and what it means for idea diffusion when a market is locked in on a seemingly obvious market solution. I may use this video as a final exam question :).

Here is my open letter to Instructure that I also posted on the Chronicle article.

This is a very cool development. Even though I was one of the founders of Sakai, through IMS I work with virtually everyone in the market place, commercial and otherwise. One more participant in the open source area is purely a great idea. Open Source is not Moodle or Sakai and commercial is not just Desire2Learn and Blackboard. There is a rich ecosystem of choices. Products like LearningObjects, Jenzabar, OLAT, and ATutor are all real players in the space and each brings their own wonderful creativity to bear on the problems of teaching with technology.

For me, this is about teachers and students and giving those teachers and students choices. What I really want to see as the next evolution of the LMS marketplace is a situation where teachers can increasingly choose amongst a wide range of outstanding (and well-integrated) choices. So the market can become more heterogeneous and a campus population will no longer be held hostage by an single enterprise choice made mostly by IT folks thinking about system maintainability. I would encourage you to think about ways to provide your services to faculty members without forcing wholesale LMS replacement.

Think about infiltrating campuses virally and then when they wake up and 5 percent of the faculty members on a particular campus are choosing your solution then start charging the campus. And when 70 percent of the faculty are choosing your product – take over as the enterprise default. This is not as far-fetched as it might seem.

I will be in the Salt Lake City Airport in a few hours in between flights. Too bad we could not have coffee to talk about this and draw some pictures on coffee-stained napkins.

Welcome to the Jungle.

8 thoughts on “Open Letter to Instructure / Canvas LMS

  1. Durr

    I installed the open source version of Canvas on AWS last night. It’s not a bad install, the administration is easy for anyone who has dealt with another LMS, and I think it could easily compete with Sakai and Moodle in the open source space.

    Sadly, some of the most intriguing features of Canvas like those related to video and web conferencing are not available, nor is integration with Facebook and some othe social media. I wonder about the future of the Conferencing utility as it is based on DimDim which was bought out by Salesforce recently.

    Still, open source Canvas is exciting and well worth some careful thought and evaluation.

  2. Zach Wily


    Actually, the video, web conferencing, facebook, and other integrations _are_ included with the open source version of Canvas. You can find documentation on the integrations available on this page:

    There are other integrations we support as well that have not been documented on that page yet.

    As for DimDim, while we will be continuing support for it, we are also adding other conferencing integration options (like Wimba) as well.

  3. Pingback: Canvas LMS | Alex Chapin

  4. Travis


    I recently installed the open-source version of Canvas for testing and I may be missing something but I cannot find an admin web interface. Am I missing something? My school is starting an RFP to replace Angel at the end of our contract. I want to make sure Canvas is in the mix. The installation was a breeze on Ubuntu and the everything else is working great.

  5. Travis

    Duh! I found it under courses. Looks nice and straightforward though I hope their are plans for enterprise integration for accounts and enrollments. It may be there just not immediately apparent.

  6. Luke Fernandez

    Any more clarity on whether Canvas will support LTI? And when? If they will in the future how viable would it be to do an integration with an existing LMS that uses LTI? Like Moodle or Sakai (if they support it)? Is LTI standardized enough that one could count on a working LTI integration between an external tool and an existing LMS to transfer seamlessly to Canvas when their LTI API is ready?

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