the tl;dr by canvas lms

It's a Mad COVID-19 World

April 22, 2020 Canvas Product Team Episode 5
the tl;dr by canvas lms
It's a Mad COVID-19 World
Chapters
0:25
Introduction
3:08
Conferences Update—Shaun Moon
20:45
Commons Video Access & Sharing—Zsofi Goreczky, Peter Tircsi
34:11
In-Product Tours & Instructor Tutorials—Katrina Hess, Jody Sailor
51:59
Canvas Social Media Activities—Mark Boothe
1:00:54
Events Updates
the tl;dr by canvas lms
It's a Mad COVID-19 World
Apr 22, 2020 Episode 5
Canvas Product Team

A discussion about all the features that have been created by Canvas engineering and product teams to help institutions respond to COVID-19. 

Features

COVID-19

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

A discussion about all the features that have been created by Canvas engineering and product teams to help institutions respond to COVID-19. 

Features

COVID-19

Matt Goodwin:

It's that time again for the Canvas TLDR podcast. I'm Matt Goodwin with product.

Jenn Mitchell:

I'm Jenn Mitchell with K-12 product marketing.

Ryan Lufkin:

I'm Ryan Lufkin with higher ed product marketing.

Jenn Mitchell:

We're here to share the latest and greatest in Canvas.

Ryan Lufkin:

We're talking about the why in what we build, because pandas can't.

Jenn Mitchell:

Welcome Canvas fans. This is episode five of the TLDR podcast. And , uh , I'm here with Matt and Ryan, and, hey Ryan. Anything new in the world lately?

Ryan Lufkin:

I mean, yeah, like there's, there's a lot going on. I think a lot has changed I think since our last , uh , TLDR podcast. Uh , and we're gonna, we're gonna spend some time covering that today and how it affects the product Canvas, and our community, and everybody involved. So yeah, a lot going on in the world.

Matt Goodwin:

I just want to know how long your beard is getting and kind of remote work space.

Ryan Lufkin:

I, I've, I vowed not to trim it until , uh , the crisis has passed. And so, you know, it's getting longer. Maybe I'll post a picture in the notes, but, and if you know me, I'm bald, so I don't really have to worry about the hair on top. It's really just the hair on my face. So.

Matt Goodwin:

All right , well , uh, and I'm , I'm interested to see that photo, so you know, if we don't post it there, I need to see that. But , um , today , uh , in this podcast, in this episode, I think we've got some awesome guests lined up to talk through, you know, what does COVID mean and how have we adjusted as a company to get through that and to help our users get through that in better ways. Um , so I know we've, we've done a lot in way of , um, additional conference resources and tools to help, you know , bring people together that normally are together, but now having to do that virtually as well as , um, making resources available through Commons and , uh , better sharing and awareness of content that could help , uh, teachers and students throughout this transition. Um, as well as in-product help—you know, better surfacing, surfacing of guides and help menu systems and connecting to support. Um, and in these transitions. And , uh, I know from a community perspective we're adding a lot of resources , uh, to our websites, you know, not only community but also , um , marketing space and Canvas in general or Instructure in general, helping , um, make people aware of, you know, how, how we can help them through this transition and how they can help.

Ryan Lufkin:

Yeah, it's a, it's a disruptive and scary time, but I think some of the innovation that our team has been able to do and some of the, you know, accelerated development of, of integrations and um, you know, really focus on helping our end users is , is exciting. I think that for us , um, there's a, there really is an excitement in a, in a pride in being able to serve our community and watch everybody come together.

Jenn Mitchell:

Well, I would like to welcome Shaun Moon to our podcast this week. We're going to talk about some of the great work he's been doing around conferencing , um, in this COVID world and some of the challenges that his team has been working on to address for our customers. So, welcome, Shaun.

Shaun Moon:

Thanks Jenn. It's great to be here. Good to hang out with everybody.

Jenn Mitchell:

So, so this is your first time on the show. Do you want to tell us a little bit about you and your role here with Canvas and Instructure?

Shaun Moon:

You bet. Thanks. So six months ago I came back to Instructure. Um, I had a , uh , first rodeo with Instructure , um, five years ago, started as a product manager on Bridge. And so it's really cool to come back to Instructure and be working on the EDU side. Uh , I've been focused for the last few months on quizzes and standards and outcomes with the assessments group. And then in the wake of the rapid response to COVID-19 I got an opportunity to work with a group that's focusing on collaboration and especially on conferencing solutions. So I'm a product manager and I've been doing product and design work for almost two decades.

Jenn Mitchell:

Very cool. So can you give us an overview, I mean obviously this kind of came out of nowhere where we need to really step up the conferencing options for our students and teachers. So can you tell us kind of how you addressed it and some of the initiatives you took at the first?

Shaun Moon:

Yeah, the very first thing that we did was created an integration for Microsoft teams. Um, so what we really wanted to do as the very first order of business was provide options and Microsoft teams , um, had been building an app to allow us to integrate with Canvas. And I believe it was March 12th—was the Friday before things went bizarre—on Friday the 13th. So March 12th, we got in touch with them and uh, they let us know that their app was ready. And so we got together , uh , uh, I'd say a tiger team of engineers to figure out how we could integrate the Microsoft teams app as quickly as we could. We met with Microsoft on Friday the 13th and less than really 40 hours later over the weekend, the team put together an integration that uses an LTI wrapper of the Microsoft teams and inserted it into Rich Content Editor so that we had an option for any institutions that wanted to be able to , um , use Microsoft teams in Canvas. Uh , so that was a really, really awesome , uh , outcome from that collaboration with Microsoft so that the following Monday people could really start using that. And then , uh, and then we've been working to try and streamline the experience of using a conferencing solutions, live video meeting solutions. And so we've been working with a separate team , um, to put together a means whereby when users are creating calendar events, be that ski trip—teachers or students—they can really easily just pick from the tools that they have integrated in their Canvas account and have those added to calendar events. Um, so that's one thing that we've been doing to streamline and in parallel at the same time, we also , uh , integrated Google Meet into the suite of options in a much more elegant way. I mean, up until very recently, folks would have to create a manual URL or copy URL from their Google Meet instance and paste that into the places where students were going to need to access it. Um, we created a similar LTI wrapper for Google Meet to integrate that into Canvas.

Matt Goodwin:

Awesome.

Jenn Mitchell:

That is really cool.

Matt Goodwin:

Um , so Shaun, I know you've got kids and, and uh , you definitely have been talking to some of our customers since, you know, all of this has been unraveling. Um, what's been like your observations as people start trying to use these tools? Uh, you know , it was funny—I watched my second grader try to jump on a zoom conference with uh, all of his class. And you know how sometimes you're sitting in a, in like a conference room meeting or something and the audio is weird and you get all the feedback. It was like a half-hour straight of a bunch of second graders trying to figure out , uh, the audio situation. So , um, what have you been seeing since we've introduced some of these tools?

Shaun Moon:

Yeah, it is all across the board. Um, this was the first time for a lot of people using video conferencing solutions. And I have been able to see it really from even the earliest grades up. My, my , uh, my wife is a preschool teacher and they started doing Zoom meetings with three-year olds. Um, and , uh, it's been really interesting to see and hear stories about very young kids who are a little bit overwhelmed , um, being dropped into a completely new social situation that's all digitized. Um, and so I think that teachers have had to—have had to grapple with some of the emotional, social aspects of it. In addition to, like you were saying, the technical difficulties. Um , and , and I , we, we've learned a lot from talking to districts, had a really good conversation with Virtual Arkansas , um, which is an organization—a district that serves remote learners—in the state of Arkansas. And they've had a lot of practice with this kind of experience and they have a lot of best practices, design principles for how to do this that I think others have had to learn the hard way. Um , you know, now the home is a shared learning environment and what goes on in the background of a video scene can be distracting or it can be conducive to learning. So that's something that all of us have had to be sensitive to. And, and in some cases, having a seventh grader and a ninth grader sitting next to each other at the same table, figuring out who's gonna have audio on when is is even , uh, you know, one of those things that parents and students are having to figure out together. Um , another thing that I think has been really interesting is to see how the tools are being used in maybe unexpected ways. We , um, had some, some data on , uh , meetings we were watching. Um, and there were, there was a group of—I think it was 10 or 12 participants in a meeting that had been going on for six hours that we looked into and saw that it was a group of students and none of them were teachers—group of students that had got together and just left the meeting running so that they could check in with each other. And at an ad hoc basis without having, have any friction to getting together, which I think was probably good for them. Uh, from [a] mental health point of view, to feel like they had that sense of connection and that vehicle, the conduit for that connection, but also was, was there as a , uh , vehicle for them to learn together.

Matt Goodwin:

Yeah, that's a great point. I think , um, you know, we, sometimes we look at education and the process of education strictly from a , um, uh , like a, a knowledge and skill development perspective and curriculum. Um, but there's so much that goes on in the social learning aspect of , of school and education that , um, you know, has now become a tremendous challenge for people. So I, you know , I see , uh, the strides that you and this team has taken towards , um, better connecting those , uh, all of the users, you know , teachers, students , um, socially through , uh, through our conferencing tools as extremely critical right now. So, yeah. Thank you.

Shaun Moon:

Yeah. The way it is. Yeah, for sure. It is important. And you know, I think that that the, the phrase social learning is certainly , uh, getting its status elevated in the, in the conversations that people are having. But one thing that is a good reminder is that social learning isn't a new concept. It's just a fundamental psychological reality, especially for young people , um, who learned from each other and learn from adults. And it's one of the things that is a characteristic of our biology is that , um, learning is a social phenomenon and, and concepts and wisdom and technology and processes are handed down from generation to generation, but they're also validated within a generation. And I think that if we don't provide ways for , especially the adolescent learners to have, have that connection to understand what's being shared with them from adults and others in, in their generation, then we're gonna, we're gonna miss a real opportunity for them to progress.

Jenn Mitchell:

Yeah. And it's interesting just how the video, just of being able to see each other kind of changes that conversation and that human connection that I think we're all struggling with, whether we're adults or the littlest of humans at home trying to connect. So I think that's great. Um , I did see some stats and I don't know if you have them at the ready of, of kind of the usage that video conferencing has gone through. I mean it has gone through the roof. Do you happen to have any of those at hand?

Shaun Moon:

I don't have anything right off hand. I do remember there's, there are the handful of school districts , um , here in the United States that went from zero to 60. Um, really they went from zero to 600. There were 600 meetings going on at the same time, and even more in some school districts. Um, and, and I think that it's, I think that everybody , um, teachers , uh , parents, students need to be really considerate of the dynamics of what we're all going through. Um, it's, it's, and I'm just saying in terms of like trying to switch from the , uh, co-located , um , in the classroom processes, the rhythm of teaching and learning and trying to copy-paste that into a purely online forum . Um, obviously there's, there's some challenges there. Um, there can be a lot of lossiness to use kind of a technical term, but, but it was really awesome to be able to provide infrastructure. Um, and I know that our partners at Google, Zoom , um, Microsoft all really felt a sense of pride in being able to provide the infrastructure for , for schools, universities, to be able to do the things that they were able to do as they figured out how to , uh , make a transition to , uh , a better kind of hybridized solution. Um, so yeah, the, the usage of video conferencing—really, it went through the roof. Um, and it was, it was really great to have those partners and other partners, a Blindside Network that hosts the big blue button instances for Canvas , um, to see everything that they did to be able to handle the load that, that was , um, leveled on them. Uh, I was in a conversation just yesterday where one of one of the big universities was talking about tools that, that struggled under the load. And, and it is really great to be a part of an organization here at Canvas and with those partners as well, that prepared for and were able to handle it.

Matt Goodwin:

So, you know, you talk about everybody shifting the way that they're doing things , uh , shifting to online or, or remote learning and teaching by no means are we have, we solved all of these gaps and these problems and we're not perfect at it. Um, you know, we're not—from a technology perspective—our institutions, our universities and school districts, they're definitely—you know—they're not perfect at it either. Right now. What do you see as the next step for us , uh, progressing along this line knowing that, you know, probably , uh , we will get back to some sense of normalcy, but I don't know that we'll default back to exactly where we were.

Shaun Moon:

I'm sure we won't. I think that looking at the, this evolution, there are a couple of things that we ought to bear in mind. First thing that I think of is we should probably be careful to use some precision with our language. Um , and this is something I learned from our customers is not something I had in my back pocket. Um, and in terms of being precise and careful with the language that we use, the distinction between a remote learning and online learning or remote teaching and online teaching I think is really important. Where online teaching and learning has been very carefully constructed, designed, and implemented for that type of a situation, or students who are doing this online, teachers who are providing content online, where remote learning is kind of an adaptation of the previously co located and synchronized experience. I think, you know, like so much, this is—I'm not trying to beg off of a real precise answer—but the responses to this are going to be really varied. The adaptations are going to be really varied. I think they're going to be some institutions , um , and individuals who will be really—for lack of a better word—traumatized by how hard it was to do remote learning and they're gonna never want to touch it again. I think that other institutions are going to kind of see this as something that they're going to have to add to contingency plans. And so they're going to start building in flexible learning days, flexible instruction days, as a regular kind of fire drill, if you will.

Jenn Mitchell:

You know, I have heard that from the districts that I've [been] talking to is, you know, how do they build that in one day, a quarter. So whether it's just a simple snow day, which some districts and states have regulations against that. But for some of those , uh, customers who were caught completely unprepared, like how do we build that into, to our regular curriculum so that students are used to it, parents are used to it. And, and I think most importantly teachers are use to teaching remotely , um, when the need may rise .

Shaun Moon:

Yup. Yup. So I think there's going to be an evolution in terms of the, what I would call the, the operations of teaching and learning. I think there's also going to be an interest in a maturation and innovation when it comes to the kind of content , um, that's available and ready at hand. And I think that there's really gonna be a big push or some really significant catalysts toward group oriented activities , um , that translate into online learning better or into remote learning better if it is kind of a contingency thing where um, students are more easily able to work together on achievable , uh , activities and tasks and projects.

Matt Goodwin:

Yeah, I think, I think it'll be interesting to see how we evolve in education in general , uh, dealing with some of this stuff. And again, I wanted to say thank you to you and your team for , um, the tremendous speed and hard work that has gone into essentially making these solutions available overnight so that everybody can adjust and deal with this in a much better way , um, than, than if had we not responded. So thanks again. Thanks for joining our show and we look forward to having you back.

Shaun Moon:

For sure. Thanks for having me gang.

Jenn Mitchell:

We're excited to a little bit more about some updates to Commons that we've been working hard on to prepare for the new shift to remote learning.

Matt Goodwin:

We've brought in a couple of , uh, our product and engineering folks , um, that have been working on Commons for the last little bit. Uh, Zsofi, who is the product manager and she's been on our show before. Welcome back Zsofi, and then we've got—

Zsofi Goreczky:

Hello Matt, hello Jenn—

Matt Goodwin:

—Hello! Uh , we've also got Peter. I—there's no way I'm going to get this pronunciation right.

Peter Tircsi:

No problem.

Matt Goodwin:

He can introduce himself a little bit as this is his first appearance on our TLDR podcast. He can, you know, give a little bit of background and , and tell us what he does here for a second. Um , and then we'll get into the fun, exciting things that they've been working on. Uh, Zsofi, welcome Peter, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Peter Tircsi:

Hi Matt, Hi Jenn. I'm in the engineering team lead of the Phoenix team who is responsible for the product Commons. I'm , uh , [been] at Instructure since last summer. And I am responsible for the planning, delivery and everything what is in connection with the implementation and delivery of the, of the product , uh, for Commons.

Matt Goodwin:

Awesome. Well, welcome to the show. Um, Zsofi, why don't you tell us—

Peter Tircsi:

Nice to be here.

Matt Goodwin:

—yeah, this is pretty fun.

Zsofi Goreczky:

Nice to be back, Matt—

Matt Goodwin:

Yeah, of course.

Zsofi Goreczky:

I get to talk about Commons, a little bit again.

Matt Goodwin:

Yeah, of course. You're always welcome here. Why don't you tell us a little bit about , uh , some of the challenges that we've been seeing, especially in response to COVID-19 pandemic and how we've kind of approached some of those problems.

Zsofi Goreczky:

So from the first moment when COVID hit the entire world, we, saw that sharing information and its significance has increased. I mean, like, right now people are supposed to communicate even more as they used to and when it comes to Canvas and creating content, now it's even more important to share information, to share content with each other and uh , encourage and provide support for those teachers who are supposed to , to teach only like 100% online. And this is a major shift for most of the instructors all over the world as previous that they could teach their students in a classroom environment and they didn't need to face such challenges that they're supposed to face now. So we started thinking about like how Commons could serve , uh, these new needs of our instructors and how we could ensure that they do find valuable and have for content when they , uh, when they open Commons.

Matt Goodwin:

One of the things , uh, that we've seen emerging through Canvas , um, as everybody's making this transition is a dramatic increase in the use of video inside the classroom. You guys saw that as well and responded. Why don't you tell us a little bit about , um, what you did.

Peter Tircsi:

Yeah, there were , there were many challenges regarding that. So we , uh, when we monitored our system, we saw that , uh , the users had already quadrupled in the last three weeks and we have now like 30% more resources in our Commons library as before, which means like 13-terabytes-of-data more in our systems. So we thought about how we can , uh , make it easier for the users to find resources. That's why we, we , uh , developed the , the newest features, what we will be talking about.

Zsofi Goreczky:

So as just Peter mentioned it like we, so a huge increase when it comes to sharing resources to come us . And that—Matt, you said it correctly—like a lot of those resources are videos. It's really important for instructors to record some of their either classes or you know , uh, like best practices and share those with each others. And previously, like unfortunately , Commons, you couldn't share an audio or video resource outside of the US and we felt really bad for our international users, especially now. So we thought that as one of our first steps and responses to the new situation, uh , we would allow our international , uh , uh, instructors to share audio and video resources to Commons. And so this is the first kind of new feature that we just released a couple of weeks ago and sharing audio and video files should happen just in the same way as it , uh, works for other resource types as well.

Jenn Mitchell:

That's really exciting. I just want to talk about like how does it make it easier for them to share? What features have we released? What would allow them to share that easily and quickly with their students and their peers?

Zsofi Goreczky:

Like sharing, how it works, just like how it used to work. Like if you are in Canvas, like you can with one click, you can pull up Commons and you can just share that resource to Commons with a couple of clicks. And right after that, like the resource is supposed to show up in Commons, and you can search for it either by based on resource type. So if you're interested in only video resources, for instance, you can just filter down your search to videos or you can just check out the latest resources that have gotten shared there.

Matt Goodwin:

So Jenn , um , being kind of , uh , deeply connected to our K-12 arena , um, how would you say, how prepared really were our teachers all over the world? Uh, moving from, you know, maybe more of a traditional face to face classroom into a digital world where, you know, all teaching is done remote? Um, I wouldn't even call it online teaching. It's , it's more of remote teaching for most instructors right there . They're trying to transform or take their classroom and present it digitally. Um , I wouldn't expect , uh , many of those instructors or course designers if they even have course designers at some of these schools to really know where to start. Have you heard that or have you seen that in this kind of new world that we're facing?

Jenn Mitchell:

Yeah, of course. I think K-12 is, this is really, I know the issue's—this word is overused right now, but unprecedented times for K12 teachers. K-12 teachers are used to operating in the classroom for the majority of seeing their students face to face, interacting with them kind of on the fly and being able to adjust that instruction. We have issues where , um, not only are the students having the challenges around learning online, but all the parents that are also involved with that and understanding what those, the, the accesses for , uh, students at home to access resources online for remote learning. So, for example , um , I know some of you here probably have kids at home learning. And so if you have three or four kids at home learning with one device , um, the idea of asynchronous or synchronous learning of having everybody in the same , uh , conference call is just not the same for K-12 . They are working and need to adapt and have time to , uh, reach all work with all their children or, or may not have , um , as they're working at home themselves, not be able to assist students. So teachers are faced with that challenge of, of the classroom resources and converting that online. So they're really struggling and scrambling to find engaging content that their students can consume at home , um, based on the standards that they're teaching in the classroom. So how, how does it make it easier for a teacher find—a classroom teacher to find something like that online and then share it with , with my students and my other colleagues.

Zsofi Goreczky:

So this is another problem that we wanted to address in commons . And what you have to know is that in Commons, every single resource has a unique URL. And this is how it has been working for awhile now. But this URL was really, really hard to access and like almost nobody knew that every resource has a unique URL, and for this reason like our customers didn't really use them. And we thought that if we make it be much easier to access this unique URL , they could just send out a link to a really good resource that they would be willing to share with their colleagues or somebody else. And the person who gets the URL just clicks it and opens it and can see if that resource is good for them as well or not. So right now it's just like one click and then we copy this unique URL of the, and then you can just, it gets to the clipboard and then you can just paste it into an email, like a chat message. Anywhere else that you would like to like any communication , uh , mean that you would like to use for sharing the resource.

Matt Goodwin:

Yeah, I can see that being extremely valuable as people are hunting for those well structured activities that can happen outside of the classroom. That's awesome. I think , uh , that's a problem for administrators as well, right? Like all of the sudden you've got all of your teachers doing remote learning and uh , maybe, maybe the administrative body's decided, you know, here's a good set of resources or here's something where we can kind of keep some, some cohesion at our district or institution if they, you know, if we could only get these resources to , uh, all of our teachers or our designers. Um, I know you guys thought about that problem too and , and tried to address that.

Zsofi Goreczky:

You are right, Matt. Like previously admins who couldn't really highlight any resources incomers and without the unique URL, they couldn't even draw their colleagues' attention to like, which resources are kind of better or would fit more to their needs. So we thought about how about allowing admins to feature some of the resources within their institution or within their Canvas instance. And this is something that we started to do. I mean by we , I mean Instructure started to do almost a year ago. Like we had some nice resources that we featured in Commons, and those resources have been showing up on the main page on the search page of Commons since then. But these resources are featured by Instructure, and obviously they don't serve everybody's needs as like each instance might have different needs. They might find different resources helpful and valuable. So from now we allow admins to feature resources for their instances. It's works just in the same way as editing a resource. I mean each admin has editing access to all the resources that are shared by their instance and they can feature that. And from that point, these resources show up as like the first resources on the main page of Commons.

Matt Goodwin:

How does that work exactly? Am I selecting , um, you know, if I'm an administrator, am I selecting one specific piece of content or is it a bunch of content? How do I, how do I do that?

Zsofi Goreczky:

AbsolutelyIt's absolutely up to the administrators. So if they prefer featuring 20 resources, they can do that. There is no set limit number for this. Um , and uh , they can also decide if they would like to see those resources that we Instructure recommend or highlight as featured resources. It's up to them if they allow those, those featured resources or not. It's that easy.

Matt Goodwin:

Awesome. I see that as being incredibly powerful right now. Right? Like if I'm an institution or a school district or maybe even a department, you know—English department or something—and um, I want those resources to be used throughout my account throughout my institution. Uh, I can see that being incredibly powerful.

Zsofi Goreczky:

Exactly. Especially if they would like to share some tips for instance, for like remote education. Like how they can make their instructors life easier. Like they don't have to share that resource like one by one, you know, they just feature it in Commons. They ask their instructors that go to come and check it out. And in this way it reaches everybody.

Matt Goodwin:

Thanks for—I want to say thanks for all the hard work that has gone into building out commons. Um, I know it's a great tool in terms of trying to find resources and sharing, you know, if I've created something, I can put it up there. So again, thank you. I'm sure all of , uh , the teachers out there and administrators. Thank you as well. Um, I'll do it on their behalf. Thanks guys.

Zsofi Goreczky:

It's our pleasure!

Matt Goodwin:

And thanks for joining us this week or this , uh , episode. We'll see you guys in the future, I'm sure.

Zsofi Goreczky:

Thank you.

Peter Tircsi:

Thank you very much.

Matt Goodwin:

We want to welcome with us, Katrina and Jody , um, both of whom are fantastic product managers—product folks here at Instructure. Two of my favorites. And yeah, of course. They're awesome. Um, we've kind of like everybody in the world right now, we've kind of shifted gears into disaster recovery or just short of, right? We're , we're kind of in emergency mode, so we're all pitching in and helping inside of Canvas where there's the most emergent needs. And , um, recently we've discovered that tons of our Canvas users are going deeper in canvas, maybe for the first time in their careers of using canvas. Uh, they're really having to rely on, on it as kind of the center point in a lot of cases for school to happen. So we've identified some real need of helping guide those users through that new user experience. And both Katrina and Jody have been working on tremendous efforts , um, around centering and guiding our, our users through that experience. So I'll let them , um, you know, fill us in a little bit more as to the specific things that they built and, and why they did. And , uh, we can get into it. Welcome to the show.

Katrina Hess:

Hi guys. Thank you for having us.

Jody Sailor:

Thank you.

Matt Goodwin:

And maybe since , uh , Katrina, this is your first time on the, on the podcast. Why don't you give us like a 32nd TLDR of who you are and , uh , and why you're here at Instructure and then we can get into some of the features.

Katrina Hess:

Hi. So I am, I'm a product manager on the analytics side of Canvas. Um , and I've been here for about three years and I've worked on analytics the entire time. And so , uh, what is really exciting to me about the work that we do is that we're building analytics tools for , um , non technical users as well as, you know , uh, good enough to, for, for VI teams to be able to build their own analytics. And so , um, so when we were talking about how we can help new users come onto canvas, it, it was, there was a direct parallel in how we're training , um, users in , in the analytics tools as well. Oh, that was kind of an intro and what I'm, what I'm working on.

Matt Goodwin:

Well I will say this. Katrina Hess brings a very unique perspective in that she was actually started at Instructure as a product designer , um, which is, you know, definitely in the product realm, but it has a whole different set of , uh , lens, right? Like a whole different way of looking at problems and designing good solutions with good usability and in stuff that's beautiful. And , um, it definitely comes through in her projects. Yeah.

Katrina Hess:

Thanks guys. I mean, that's one of the things that I loved when I first started here as a designer was I didn't have to convince anyone that we had to do usability testing to validate , um, a certain workflow or ideas. Like everyone wanted that step to happen. And it just made the work so much easier and it made us really confident in what we were building. You know, it's like, Oh yeah, that likes—I, you know, as a designer you could think something is so obvious to a user. Like, of course you're going to click that button and then you put it in front of them and nobody sees it. So, so it was really, it was really cool. And so as , um , yeah, so as I transitioned over to the , to the product management side of the house , um, you know, it's just obsessing about user experience is just not something I can shake. And so it's trying to have hands on everything.

Matt Goodwin:

Well, we totally lucked out with that skillset that you, that you bring to the projects for sure. Um , and you know, equally in different ways, Jody Sailor, um, she has a very different background from most of our product folks as well in that she's been like all throughout education, particularly in the K-12 space, but as a teacher, as an administrator, she's taught higher ed. Jody , is this your second time?

Jody Sailor:

This is actually my first as well.

Matt Goodwin:

Oh this is your first as well!

Jody Sailor:

Thanks Matt. Yeah, my name is Jody Sailor and as mentioned, I'm a product manager here at Instructure. Um, prior to moving to product I was actually a strategic CSM on our client success team. And then prior to that I was a K-12 educator and administrator and I'm also a current , um, adjunct professor at a college here in Salt Lake City. Uh, so my reason for being here at Instructure and wanting to be part of the product team is just my passion for education and bringing the tools to our teachers and our students to really enhance student outcomes and move forward in education. Um, and with I just said, student outcomes. I actually am the product manager over outcomes currently, but have had the awesome privilege of doing some other things as we've been doing this COVID response.

Matt Goodwin:

Um , yeah. So what are some of those, those COVID response things , uh, that you've been tackling, you and Katrina? I know you've been working separately in different streams, kind of in the same like how do we send our use new users to Canvas? Um, but you've had a lot of overlap, too, and collaboration.

Jody Sailor:

Yeah, absolutely. So Katrina and I have been working together on what we were calling in-product , um, professional development and really making sure that that in-product training, I guess is what we've said is, is exactly what our new users need to really get up and running pretty quickly. Um, we've, you've mentioned it already. We've needed to provide better guidance to our new users. And the COVID-19 pandemic has just really pushed us to move forward as quickly as we could to help our new users be able to provide the best opportunity for learning to continue in these remote or online , uh, experiences that now they've been pushed to have to do, especially for our users who are traditionally in a regular classroom and are now doing online learning for their first time.

Katrina Hess:

I do want to just say we took lead in , um, what kind of support calls , uh , we were receiving. And so that's actually how we ended up prioritizing , um, what, what , uh , pieces of information people were getting stuck on. And so we're hoping that , uh, the, this training scaffolding that we , uh, built for canvas will, will help alleviate , um, some of those pain points for new users.

Matt Goodwin:

So what were those kind of snag points that we were seeing through customer support? Or were they recorded ?

Katrina Hess:

Uh , the past two weeks—It was always in the top one or three spot was how do I use Zoom? That was literally the most important thing.

Matt Goodwin:

Which by the way, we didn't even have a zoom integration really a few weeks ago. Right. Like that project kicked off and was, was done incredibly fast. And in response to this as well, you know, for all of our users kind of running online.

Ryan Lufkin:

Along with Microsoft teams and the Google integrations, those were all pulled out of schedule.

Katrina Hess:

Yeah. And it's, it's cool. It's like, it's stuff that we definitely knew we always needed and wanted and um, and now we, it just got expedited, prioritized to the top of the list. Um, and another thing was really , um, the Help tray . We reorganized some of that information , um , because the current design of it, people just weren't seeing the—like where to find resources in the community. And so just with slight design tweaks , um, it's like super cute and it's easy to, it's easy to parse the information. So we're hoping that it's easier for people to , to find , um, in a self-service kind of way where, where some of these guides are.

Matt Goodwin:

Well as long as it's super cute.

Jody Sailor:

I think we nailed it on that one.

Matt Goodwin:

So why don't we, like, why don't we tell the listeners a little bit how they can actually start using these helps in these guides. Where do they find , uh , you know, the help menu—like, exactly what changed in the help menu that's going to be noticeable for them as well as the product tour stuff. Like where do they find that?

Katrina Hess:

Um, well I'll, I'll start with this one, Jody. So the , the product tours start immediately. So as soon as a user logs in , um, whether , so right now we have this , uh , overlap of , um, existing users and new users, but , um, as soon as people , um , open their Canvas instance, they will see , uh , uh , well like a product tour welcome screen with a cute little star. Um, and depending on your role, it will guide you through the different areas on the global map. It'll orient you , um, on what, like what do you need to know right now and where to find it. Um, and when you get into actual like actual pages of Canvas, that's where Jody's tutorial trays kick in. Um, and you'll, you'll see , uh, it's always been there, but like, I love the new design that you guys made . Like I feel like the information elevated is , um , it'll really help people , um, know how to do a certain thing.

Jody Sailor:

Yeah, yeah. Thanks Katrina. We, we definitely were trying to make sure that not only were they more meaningful, so the tutorial trays actually already existed, but they were just a quick snippet of here is what each of those course navigation index pages do for the user. And so we wanted to make those more meaningful. So we recently updated those trays to have more meaningful descriptions of what each of those index pages are. They have a call to action for the teacher. So these are specific to teachers, TAs, and designers. They are not for students , uh, but it provides a call to action to really help them to understand how they can use those different items within their courses to really meet the need of students. And then also to organize their content in a meaningful manner. Um, and then within each of those also, as Katrina mentioned, we wanted to surface some of the documentation that really helps our users. So instead of just being that description, we've also included specific help articles that they can just link straight to, so that they can see exactly what they're doing. So for example, if I'm on a the modules page, it'll explain what modules are used for. It provides that call to action. And then there's multiple links to the documentation and guides to walk the teacher through how to create their first module, how to add different content into their module. And then we also have a link there that uh , just pushes them to all of the documentation that is specific to modules that is within that Instructor guide. And as Katrina mentioned, we'd brought the cuteness again because each of them do have just a nice little image and it just kind of adds some fun.

Ryan Lufkin:

Other Pandas .

Matt Goodwin:

It is nice when your software is a little bit friendly, right?

Jody Sailor:

Right? Sure. Especially during these COVID times.

Ryan Lufkin:

Are there pandas?

Jody Sailor:

They are all pandas. Yes.

Ryan Lufkin:

Yeah. Sorry. I think when one of the cool things is, one of our first reactions to the response was to pull a lot of the materials that we had already in the Community , um, and create a COVID-19 landing page for our customers so they could actually go find that stuff. And one of the things I love about the effort you've done is you've made it just, you know, woven it into the product intrinsically, right? It's, it's everywhere you go in the product—there's those, those little nudges and those little helps, I think that makes it so much more user friendly.

Jody Sailor:

Absolutely. And one thing that I do want to point out, mine is a little bit different than Katrina's in that it is not automatically started for every single user. It is a feature option for admins to enable and then it is for any new teachers.

Ryan Lufkin:

Oh, that's a good point.

Matt Goodwin:

So how pervasive is this? I mean obviously Canvas is huge and I don't think we've got tour points or guides like a surfaced on every single page in Canvas. Where did we—where did we start and what's kind of the plan forward? Is it going to continue to be more and more pervasive?

Katrina Hess:

Great question. Um, so for the product tours , uh, we were , we're going to have product tours surface up for new users just to help them orient to the, to the global nav right away. And I think that is going to persist , um, for all new users that first come onto Canvas. Um, but the vision of this, of this product or this feature is that, now we can actually help walk people through features that are a bit more complicated. And so , um, so again, we're going to take lead from requests that we get from Community or our CSMs or our support team. Um, if people are finding, having a hard time knowing how to use a certain feature, we can now leverage this new tool , um, and, and insert that. But it'll be very intentional.

Ryan Lufkin:

So in Katrina, you actually kind of started telling the origin and , um, I actually want you to tell that story because I think it's kind of cool. But the , um , this is something we knew we wanted to do for awhile. It just, you know, hadn't made it to the top of the priority list. Uh , and then we had this influx of support calls. We knew that we needed to do something. Um , kind of explain how this, the tutorial specifically or the, the product tutorials came to be.

Katrina Hess:

Yeah. So , um, as we were talking through , um, this, this new COVID times and all of , uh , like how do we support , um, how do we support all of the new users that are coming on to Canvas? We were, we had a , we had a bunch of ideas and I actually really loved the process and how we determined , uh, which, which ideas were going to make it through to actually get built. Um, and one of the things was , um, helping orient new users and something that we have been building in the analytics product. Um, you might've heard of it called Canvas Insights. Um, is this training, scaffolding , uh , lightweight training, scaffolding to help people not only orient themselves with this new tool, but how do you use analytics responsibly? And so we'd already done a bunch of research and , um, as I saw this issue, I was like, oh man, like we could totally just use what we have been doing for Insights. Um, and so , uh, so it was actually our engineer from the Insights team that , um, that went ahead and built it. It was our designer that from the Insights team that , um, just went ahead and put it together. And so for me, I knew that the technology piece of this wasn't going to be the most difficult part. It was going to be , um , making sure we surface the right kind of content. Because the thing about these training—in-product like training things, they can be annoying so quickly, right? It's like, so , uh , so we spent a lot of time thinking about how do we make this feel very simple, very lightweight , uh , surface up information like, information when it's useful. And so where we started with, I mean—it's really short. I mean, I think there's like four screens that people go through of just like showing them what four—what are the top three things—three or four things that you need to know about the global nav. Um, and just setting—we were just planting the seed that, okay , so when you're a new new user, the most important thing to know is where to find things on the global nav. And the spoiler alert is look at the Help tray. That's where, that's where all of them end . Um, and so as, as this feature will grow though—as we embedded into more Canvas products and features and tools, it's going to be some, it's going to offer like a similar thing of like, well, what are the top, you know , three things that they need to know about this thing. So, so we're, we're creating our, like, content strategy around it at the same time and , and, and we're gonna learn, you know, we'll see is this the right approach? We'll see how people are using it and the next couple of weeks and adjust accordingly.

Matt Goodwin:

Yeah, we're kind of flying the plane as we build it on this one. Right. Some things that you said that I really liked. Um, like you said, it can get super annoying super quickly if it's not done well. But the other thing that I think is important is it can be permanently dismissed. Right. And then you can bring that back if you decide that you want that back on.

Katrina Hess:

Totally. Example.

Matt Goodwin:

It gets out of the way if you don't really need it.

Katrina Hess:

And on the admin level, if you don't want the product tours it all, you can turn it off. But um , I'm being a little selfish and I'm saying all of the new users should how to use the Global Nav.

Ryan Lufkin:

Well, I've been in doing support tickets as we've been in the middle of this and there are a lot of people, asking the very basic questions and I, so I think this, this will help a lot of our end users.

Katrina Hess:

Yeah. We really hope so. We're so excited and are—like, seeing how the teams rallied so quickly to push this stuff out for the benefit of our users and only, and also, sorry, also supporting our support team so that we can maybe alleviate some of those calls. Like it's just, it was a really feel-good project and, and uh , we're just really honored that we got to work on it during, during this crisis time.

Matt Goodwin:

Well, we're glad you did too. So, Jody, Katrina, thanks for , uh, thanks for joining the podcast this month and for helping our users out.

Katrina Hess:

Yeah , thanks.

Jody Sailor:

Thank you for having us.

Ryan Lufkin:

I'm sure we'll talk to you both again soon.

Katrina Hess:

Right on.

Matt Goodwin:

Want to welcome to our show Mark Booth, who is director of social and customer marketing. Since it's the first time on the show for you, welcome to the show by the way.

Mark Boothe:

Thank you.

Matt Goodwin:

Um , why don't you tell all of our listeners a little bit about what that means. What is your responsibility as director of social and customer marketing?

Mark Boothe:

I think I'm still trying to figure that out. Uh, the past five months at Instructure have been pretty crazy as everybody knows. And , and I've had a good time getting to know all the customer base and, and why not . But I work heavily with customers to tell their story about how they're successfully using canvas. So we work with a big, big group of social influencers that we—people that are users and administrators and teachers today to be able to tell stories, whether that's through Twitter or through live streams or through case studies or videos or whatever else. That's what I, that's what I do on a daily basis.

Ryan Lufkin:

Nice. Well, Mark, we've talked a little bit about , um, you know, the initial , uh , standing up of a lot of the resources to help our community and some of the improvements of the product. I think we're talking about around , um, you know, what we've done to actually make the product easier to use and some of the changes in response to, you've kind of been at the front of a lot of the customer communication , um , and , and actually opening up some new kind of channels for that. So tell us a little bit more about , um, kind of what you've been working on with that.

Mark Boothe:

Yeah. So you guys are well aware that we have a couple of big segments that we care a lot about. Uh , Ryan of course focuses on higher ed and then Jenn on, on the K-12 side. And we've got a group of influencers who are really engaged in what happens with Canvas. What happens with the product. Uh, what happens with, with other people using the solution. And right as this was hitting, we had a group that came together and said, hey, we want to create some kind of video assets to help people really get up and moving on canvas quickly. Um, that was a weekend, about three weeks ago, and we decided, well, it's a cool idea. Let's see what we could do. So this group of, you know, a lot of people that , that many of you listening would know the Chris Giles of the world , uh, the Cat Flippens of the world. Um, Brad Moser, and on, and on and on and on and on. These people who have just been rock stars in the community for so long decided that they wanted to do something to give back. So we started , uh , we started a program where we're live streaming on almost a daily basis. We've done 20 live streams now raging ranging from anything from How do I use SpeedGrader , uh , to what about the new Microsoft integration that we just put up , um, you know, how do you, how do you really prepare to launch with Canvas? Uh , how do you communicate with your students? You know, let's give an overview for the instructors of how to use things like Respondus or , um, or a whole bunch of other partners. So you had a really good opportunity to record 20 of those thus far and a lot more to come , um, where there's been experts getting on and just showing screen-sharing . This is exactly how I do it. Here's some tips and tricks. Here's some keys that you ought to be aware of when you're using SpeedGrader . For example, they range in time from probably 15 minutes to 45 minutes. Um , we've also done some deeper and really thought-leadership-focused stuff. So when you look at leadership and learning or leadership and communication , um, we did a fun one yesterday with some educators who are also mothers trying to now balance the idea of, you know, I've got to work full time and I'm also trying to teach my, teach my kids full time. Um, so it's been a really cool experience to see the community come together and share tips and tricks to help them use canvas better.

Ryan Lufkin:

Well, and so we set up the COVID page that's available at Instructure.com/Canvas. Um , but how do, how do our listeners actually access those recorded podcasts ? Are they recorded Facebook Live?

Matt Goodwin:

Correct. Yeah. So they , they go out on, on normal social channels. They're on Facebook, on YouTube, on Twitter. However, the , the coolest part is that COVID page that Ryan was just talking about. You can see a button on there that's for live streams. You can access those recorded sessions right through that culvert page.

Jenn Mitchell:

No , I really like what you said about putting out some information on thought leadership. Obviously this is a challenging time, but it goes beyond the product. Um , what was your thought around kind of connecting with the community through those leadership pieces and how has that response been?

Mark Boothe:

Yeah, the response has been really good. Obviously we've had some cool experiences as we've as Jenn's well aware of the acquisition. We did a MasteryConnect and Portfolium over the past little bit. These audiences are , are a little bit still separate to be honest, and hopefully we'll do a much better job over time of bringing those two groups of communities together. Um , but the leadership things that we've been doing around consistency and , and whatnot have really been driven from the mastery connect part of our business. Um, but I think it's , it's a great opportunity for all of these different people and communities to come together understand to a certain degree maybe some stuff that's happening in product, but more importantly, talk about big themes and key things around education that everybody cares about.

Jenn Mitchell:

Yeah, I really liked that building that community up and letting educators connect with each other to see how they're surviving and how they can encourage each other to succeed. And I love that social aspect of how people can interact and submit their questions and you can see those online. So I think that's great work. And if anybody hasn't seen them, I would definitely jump over there. Not just for the K-12 side, but all of these kind of leadership tactics apply just as much to higher ed. Wouldn't you say Mark?

Mark Boothe:

Totally. That's the way that we focused all of them. Um , it hasn't been necessarily a focus of this is a K-12 segment. No, this is something about how to use assignments or this is something about leadership that wouldn't—for the most part out of those 20 sessions, almost all of them will be relevant whether you're K-12 or higher ed person.

Ryan Lufkin:

Yeah. And , and we talk about the community and our users kind of monolithically sometimes, but we do understand that there's different roles and different , um, challenges faced by the different segments and different, the different , um, users, I guess, end users within those segments. How do we make it easy to find what they need, you know , uh , to, to support what they're doing?

Mark Boothe:

Great question. And to be honest, I think that we have, we have some more work to do on the Instructure side to make these things easier to access. The best place right now is without question that COVID page on Instructure.com/Canvas um, but in the coming weeks I'm hoping we do an even better job at making sure that all this information is going out through your CSMs or through your sales person . Um , but the best place right now is definitely on Instructure.com /Canvas or any of our Canvas-specific social platforms .

Ryan Lufkin:

And that page has evolved right since we launched it. I mean it's kind of a living thing. So how has that evolved over the last couple of weeks?

Mark Boothe:

Yeah, I mean I think one of the big things, and Ryan and Jenn, I'd probably point that one back to you, is just the fact that you can, that you can look at the content now based on if you're a K-12 or a higher ed specific person. Right?

Jenn Mitchell:

Yeah. And I also like how I noticed today, and again I'm another evolution is how, how it's defined by role. So if I'm a school or university leader, I can go in and look at sources that are geared directly towards me. Um , and that same for teachers and for students. And so I think those passive , um, kind of organizing that information together gives me a one-stop kind of overview where I can get to what I need quickly.

Mark Boothe:

and we are continually looking if there's specific things that you need, if you're a teacher and you're really having trouble with whatever solution or feature, tell us, reach out to Ryan, reach out to Matt, reach out to Jenn, reach out to myself and tell us, Hey, we really need some help with this. And it's a fast enough turn on a big enough priority for us that we could make it happen tomorrow. And as long as we have somebody that can train. So you're gonna see more and more like on that student side, from a role perspective, we're recording on here, coming up here very soon, a session that is going to be with a whole family that relies pretty heavily on canvas. So we've got two parents that use canvas. We've got two , two individuals. This is really from a higher ed standpoint, sorry, Jenn, but two individuals that are both in university, one at the university of Iowa, and another one that I don't remember. The Timms family, who's going to be joining us here soon to be able to chat about how the relying on Canvas as a family. Um, so you'll have some cool opportunities there, whether you're a teacher or you're an admin, your student, to be able to see how people are effectively using it.

Ryan Lufkin:

That's awesome. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I'm so proud of how our community has come together to support each other and support just teaching and learning in general. And I really love, Mark, the work you've done, surfacing some of those stories and helping make it easy. Email even easier to find resources. So awesome work. Nice work.

Mark Boothe:

Thank you.

Matt Goodwin:

Yeah. You know, you said before you're still trying to figure out what the director of social and customer marketing does. It sounds like you figured it out. You're doing a pretty good job.

Mark Boothe:

Yeah, I think we're filtering it out as we go.

Matt Goodwin:

Yeah. Well aren't we all right now, especially. Hey, really appreciate your time, Mark. Thanks for joining the show and we look forward to having you back. Hey Jenn and Ryan. Um, it's time to talk about events like we do in this podcast. Um, I know it's a weird world for everybody right now. Um , why don't you talk to us a little bit about how that impacts our events and other industry events around the community.

Ryan Lufkin:

Matt, that's what we'd like to call a fluid situation , uh, in that it's changing all the time. Um, so we can give you an update as of the recording of this podcast. Uh, and , and Jen, do you wanna do you want to start by talking about the world of K-12 'cause I think a lot of your events are usually right now.

Jenn Mitchell:

Yeah. So summer is the hot time for K-12 events, as you know, and , and we see that this is the COVID thing is actually impacting a lot of our events throughout the summer. Um, as far as industry events. So ISTE was rescheduled over Thanksgiving weekend, which was met with some interesting responses on the Twitter . We'd love to hear what you guys think about that. Um, so ISTE will not be held in , uh , Anaheim this June, but actually in November. So we see that all the small regional events are also either moving later in the summer, in August , uh , going virtual or just being canceled altogether.

Ryan Lufkin:

Yeah. And I think most of our higher ed events are generally in the fall already. Um , and so I think a lot of them are , uh, kind of TBD at this point, but they're still on. So we'll see how that evolves. And then the other news I think everybody probably wants to hear about is InstructureCon , uh, as well as the regional Canvas cons and our California canvas con. Um, and those , as of right now, we're moving forward , uh, as planned. So that again, is, is a , a day by day—we are, we're exploring our , um, contingency plans and , uh , uh , online version of that would look like. But as of right now , uh, we're moving forward.

Jenn Mitchell:

Yeah, we're really hoping to see you all in Nashville, so let's keep our fingers crossed that we can all get together in person, have the fun that InstructureCon is every year.

Ryan Lufkin:

Well, yeah, especially in Nashville, that'd be great. But if not, we'll figure out how to do it online. So stay tuned for more info—

Matt Goodwin:

Safety and responsibility first, right?

Ryan Lufkin:

Yes, exactly.

Matt Goodwin:

But if we're in the clear, we'd love to get together.

Ryan Lufkin:

And we appreciate everybody kind of everybody's understanding and patience as we kind of work through that.

Matt Goodwin:

Awesome. Thanks you guys. Thanks for the update and I'm sure everybody's going to be on pins and needles waiting to see how this unfolds .

Ryan Lufkin:

We definitely are. So I hope everyone else is too.

Outro:

Thank you for joining us on the canvas TLDR podcast. If you'd like to take a look at what's happening in our next release, please visit releases.instructure.com and we'll see you next month. Bye. Bye.

Introduction
Conferences Update—Shaun Moon
Commons Video Access & Sharing—Zsofi Goreczky, Peter Tircsi
In-Product Tours & Instructor Tutorials—Katrina Hess, Jody Sailor
Canvas Social Media Activities—Mark Boothe
Events Updates