the tl;dr by canvas lms

Bringing it All Together

July 22, 2020 Canvas Product Team Episode 8
the tl;dr by canvas lms
Bringing it All Together
MasteryConnect Benchmarking Improvements & Teasers—Ben Berte
CanvasCon Online: Keynote Speakers & Agenda
Virtual Leadership Series Update
the tl;dr by canvas lms
Bringing it All Together
Jul 22, 2020 Episode 8
Canvas Product Team

A focus on MasteryConnect updates and stronger integration with Canvas, CanvasCon Online agenda and speaker updates, and Virtual Leadership Series August openings. Visit show notes at


Press Release: Learning Innovators LeVar Burton and Sal Khan to speak at CanvasCon Online

Speakers | CanvasCon Online 2020

Agenda | CanvasCon Online 2020

The Center for Leadership and Learning

Virtual Leadership Series

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

A focus on MasteryConnect updates and stronger integration with Canvas, CanvasCon Online agenda and speaker updates, and Virtual Leadership Series August openings. Visit show notes at


Press Release: Learning Innovators LeVar Burton and Sal Khan to speak at CanvasCon Online

Speakers | CanvasCon Online 2020

Agenda | CanvasCon Online 2020

The Center for Leadership and Learning

Virtual Leadership Series

Matt Goodwin (00:07):
It's that time again for the Canvas TLDR podcast. I'm Matt Goodwin with product.

Jenn Mitchell (00:11):
I'm Jenn Mitchell with K-12 product marketing.

Ryan Lufkin (00:14):
I'm Ryan Lufkin with higher ed product marketing.

Jenn Mitchell (00:16):
We're here to share the latest and greatest in Canvas.

Ryan Lufkin (00:18):
We're talking about the why in what we build, because pandas can't.


Matt Goodwin (00:25):
Welcome to the July edition of the Canvas TLDR podcast. It's going to be an exciting episode—lots to go over this month. You know, everybody's dealing with COVID and we've got a lot of content in both our own products and in different groups and how they're dealing with this that hopefully are helpful. Jenn, what do we have lined up?

Jenn Mitchell (00:45):
Yeah, we have the MasteryConnect team joining us to talk about improvements around K-12 assessment. We have some big partnership news, and then we'll also give some updates around some events, including CanvasCon this October and our new virtual leadership series. So let's get episode eight started.

Matt Goodwin (01:03):
All right.

Matt Goodwin (01:03):
Let's welcome Ben Berte from the MasteryConnect team to the show.

Ben Berte (01:12):
Hey, thanks for having me again. Y'all, it's good to be here.

Jenn Mitchell (01:14):
Hey Ben, I love every time that you come and talk to us because as you know, I'm a big MasteryConnect fan and anything that talks K-12 is, is my world. So you were talking, we were talking about all the great things that your team was working on. Can you talk to us a little bit about...I know we're looking at improvements to benchmarking integration, student experience. So let's dive in a little bit around that. Can you talk to us about how the benchmarking experience is continuing to improve for our customers and MasteryConnect?

Ben Berte (01:48):
Sure. So, you know, within MasteryConnect, everything is focused on formative and benchmarking assessment, that's standards aligned. And this specific back to school, we focused on things we've been hearing from administrators with regards to security, as well as really tightening up the alignment.

Ben Berte (02:07):
So the first thing we have that's available now is a secure benchmarking mode. And this is for administrators to be able to deliver a benchmark, which maintains privacy of all of the content. So when a benchmark is created by the district, when they choose to manage it and deliver it to—for example, you know, a math benchmark to all of third grade—they have the ability for the secure benchmarking mode. What this will do is this will keep the content private to the district administrators and the item authors. And by item content, I'm referencing the question, then the assessment itself. It's very important that the benchmark that you create a valid and reliable testing experience, and by maintaining privacy of the content, the district's able to trust the results they receive at a higher level. So throughout the whole benchmarking experience, when the benchmark is scheduled and available and completed, the questions and the content will not be available to students, teachers, and principals. This has been a big ask for that particular benchmarking experience.

Ben Berte (03:07):
It's an optional add on. A lot of districts will choose to utilize it when they want it to be very valid and reliable. Maybe they are preparing for a state level assessment and really just want to see where they are. And in this, you know, COVID time of not understanding where we are in a blended or face to face, I think it's a great tool to use in August when you first come back, where you really want to know where your students are. You want to have pure trust in that question has not been seen by anyone and you have a first-time approach and a first-time student take on that content. So that's one piece we've done.

Ben Berte (03:41):
Another thing is, as I was mentioning about alignment, alignments are complicated. I mean, you have science, alignments, ELA, alignments, math alignment, social stays, alignments, and States are constantly updating their course. Within MasteryConnect, we have over a million standards that our users are able to align content to, but often will update the course when they might have had a ELA core built in 2017. And for the 2020 school year, they've rolled out a new set of standards. So what we've done, is we've built a series of tasks that our support team and our CSMs can do for that districts, where they can reset all of our default cores for the district. What this means is through a simple task, you can clear out all of what the cores, the teachers are pointing out right now.

Ben Berte (04:27):
They might have been auto creating content pointing at 2017. And we want to make sure that they're aligned to the 2020 core 'cause that's the district goal. So what this will do in a simple task, it will reset all four of the cores. What this will do is on a benchmarking authoring side of the house. It will make sure that the benchmark is being authored and aligned to the proper core for the 2021 school year. But it will also make sure that teachers are building their trackers, which they will manage student formative experience throughout the year, is also on that same core. So it's creating a pure alignment for when those cores evolve and it may choose to measure a different pathway or core for this upcoming year.

Matt Goodwin (05:06):
That is so awesome. One of the largest pieces of feedback or complaints that we hear is just problematic in general is tool management, right? Like teachers and admins. They already don't have extra time. And so you mentioned some of the complication around just aligning and how it can be not only complicated, but tedious this should hopefully catch a lot of those those human error types of misalignments that you always see—every year, you see it where somebody misaligned something or, or used an old version of something. And, and somebody's got to go fix it. So hopefully this will cut down on that.

Ben Berte (05:49):
It should help greatly. I mean, the intentionality is always positive, but the ability to have caught up on the email, amidst all of your back to school as a teacher and be as an administrator, to be confident that your whole staff is going to be building and producing on the right core is difficult. And this just makes it simple, a couple of tasks, identify it with our support team, and they can have you updated, and you know, that day without a problem. So that's what we're hoping for, for ease of back to school, those little phones, right.

Jenn Mitchell (06:19):
Well, and I think it really highlights what MasteryConnect does so well is connect the formative to the interim and benchmarking and having that alignment is key in making that work.

Ben Berte (06:30):
It is. It is one of our most beloved features is the benchmark compare. And what that does is it matches standards that the teacher has formatively assessed to how the students performed on a benchmark that came from the district. So having those scores aligned is pivotal in being able to compare the eight standards in a benchmark to how the students were tracking throughout their day to day formative. So once again, that ability for a teacher to manage the formative classroom and the district would be keeping an eye on it from a higher level to make larger kind of, you know, aircraft carrier style decisions that take a little more to move the ship.

Ryan Lufkin (07:08):

Jenn Mitchell (07:09):
All right. So I know your team has been working a lot on, on really improving the student experience. And as we've seen challenges over the last month you know, transitioned to remote learning, we just really highlight how important it is that we build all of our tools around the students. So what has your team been working on specifically in MasteryConnect?

Ben Berte (07:31)
:Yeah, this has been a main focus of us and we were focused on this really since the winter. Um and the student experience is, you know, the key to assessment—the student, coming into an interface and being able to easily navigate the interface that they may be familiar with or not familiar with. And they're taking the assessments in multiple locations. So what we've done is we've redesigned the layout. We've made it—we've really made an attempt at doing an audit of statewide systems, other formative systems, and trying to find best practices of where a student can look for certain elements of the interface so that they are easily able to focus on the content and not navigating the interface. So what we've done is we've, we've designed a very clean and new look for the student that's fully responsive. And as we talk about students being in a blended environment, students are going to be at home on all a whole plethora of devices that a teacher's going to be unaware of.

Ben Berte (08:26):
So making sure we're covering the iPad Mini up through the desktop and all of that, and have it be a really high quality experience regardless of what the student's utilizing has been a key priority, as well as adding in a lot of accessibility tools. So we've added in a color contrast, the ability to change font size—also zoom in on the content. This really addresses the needs of all our learners across the Canvas ecosystem. And we really want to make sure that everybody's having an equal opportunity to, as we always say, display your understanding and show what you know. The interface should not be a barrier to students letting us know how they know the content and to have clear understanding. So those are really the key priorities at that laying of the foundation of the item-based test experience

Matt Goodwin (09:10):
That's awesome. You totally nailed it when you said they're on a bunch of different devices. Like speaking from experience of having you know, four of my five kids being school age—and school age, and having them work from home. And we've got a couple of computers, but we've got some devices... Like there's not always the same screen available to the same student throughout the day necessarily. And I think responsive design is critical in the experience. Just looking at the data from Canvas usage as well, like seeing how people are engaging, just in learning in general—tons of devices, you know, smaller screen devices way more than we've ever seen before. Because that's, what's available to students who are no longer in the classroom or in a computer lab and, and they're just having to make do.

Ben Berte (10:07):
Right. I think that you were, you know, I got my first computer in college and I, you know, I'm old—but you know, when you take that and you manage that to the fact that students have all those devices, as you said, man, I mean, it's a, it's a very interesting thing. And from a formative perspective, the goal is to get quick, actionable data. It might just be three to five questions. So be able to pop out a cell phone or an iPod touch or a web-enabled device and be able to quickly assess and take that assessment. And then, like you said, maybe go onto a different device in the house if it's available to do different types of activities, you just want to be meeting students where they are, all the students, as much as you can. And the technology is, has improved a lot over the years that make a lot of this you know, more capable to us as we, as we build out product.

Ryan Lufkin (10:53):
Well, and great timing with, you know, the uncertainties around this fall and, and yeah. You know, trying to accommodate students, you know, In so many different ways, this is, this is great timing.

Matt Goodwin (11:03):
I think we're more behind in our return to normalcy than people had hoped, right? I remember having conversations back in March and April and people being very optimistic about fully back on campus in the fall. And I, I just, you know, we're not seeing that. We're seeing a very mixed bag of how people are going to engage moving forward. So...

Ben Berte (11:27):
Right. And we want a student to be able to choose to stay home. If the district has a policy such as that and has a web enabled device to still contribute and be able to move along their learning journey and have a teacher be able to understand where they are. I mean, I think to your point, Matt, it's going to be a really wide, wide display this year that we're going to see, we're going to see fallback. We're going to see two days a week. We're going to see parents opting in and out with their students, coming and going to November. And it's something, I mean, you know, we just don't know exactly what it looks like, but we want to make tools that fit all those scenarios.

Jenn Mitchell (12:02):
So as we talk about the uncertainty around fall we know Canvas LMS really helps connect that digital learning environment and MasteryConnect is an important part of the Canvas ecosystem. What are we doing to kind of streamline the processes between those two systems?

Ben Berte (12:20):
We've got a couple really, really nice additions to the offering of the integration between the platforms. You know, as an LMS, Canvas, it's important that students have a place to go and that's the place that they reliably log into and then are able to access other tools without having to be aware of other log-ins and have this kind of difficulty navigating the different experiences that the teacher wants them to have. So, the first thing we did was really simplify the authentication and the single sign on from Canvas to MasteryConnect. We made it very noticeable in the left navigation of the Canvas LMS that you can click on MasteryConnect right there, and it will take you in whether you're a teacher, an admin, or a student directly to a full view of your MasteryConnect experience, so that you can interact with that product with ease.

Ben Berte (13:10):
You don't have to worry about going to any new URL or anything like that. You can just quite simply embark upon the standards-based mastery journey. So that's the first piece is getting into the product with ease and giving students one stop to go to, which is a massive advantage of the Canvas LMS. Next we wanted to address how are teachers going to have a much more simplified process to create content and have it both inform the mastery tracker, our standards-based gradebook, as well as potentially be pushed into a gradebook within the LMS. So what we've done, we've reduced the time dramatically in order to align a MasteryConnect assessment to a Canvas assignment in just three clicks. Now you can choose, you can go into an assignment without leaving the assignment view. You can go in and go to your tracker and your assessment list and link it as a teacher in just a few clicks.

Ben Berte (14:04):
Then you will see the assignment title, and the points carried over from the assessment automatically populate the assignment interface for the teacher. So then all you have to do is double check. Then you click the right one, we all make mistakes. So we make it very clear in the assignment flow to show the assessment and with all the data that might help you identify it to just double check you hit the right button, and then quickly publish, and you're done—you're out the door. So now what that means is, as I said, for the simple single sign on experience of coming over to MasteryConnect through the assignment flow, there's an easy link now that allows students to get into the MasteryConnect assessment, have the grade pass back, have it feed the mastery gradebook, and all of that's done through just a couple setup clicks on the teacher side. We've reduced it on more than a dozen to about two.

Jenn Mitchell (14:54):
Yeah, I know when you preview—previewed it I think there was actual applause.

Ryan Lufkin (14:59):
That's huge, yeah.

Ben Berte (14:59):
So yeah, it's one of those things where we want to constantly evolve and perfection get in, can get in the way of really good work. And so we want to keep improving and making it better and better and better. So our goal is every quarter, we're always improving and simplifying and connecting these products for the main experiences that the users want to have together. And I think we've been really successful as a company overall in Canvas and MasteryConnect products unified. And this year we have a lot of great things we want to work on in order to make it completely seamless.

Matt Goodwin (15:35):
Yeah. I mean, that is one of the big challenges of products that aren't born in the same area, you know, in the same space being born from a different company and building that feature set up in MasteryConnect and then coming into the Instructure family and blending those two things together. There's a tremendous amount of work that has to go into that. I think you guys have done some really cool things to take some of those big kind of friction points or bottlenecks that are time suck for teachers and admins. That's awesome that you guys have chosen to focus on those.

Ben Berte (16:12):
So what are some other things that you're working on that we might see this fall that—that's really gonna make it better for our users as they plan for a back to school.

Ryan Lufkin (16:22):
Jenn wants the teasers, the sneak peek.

Ben Berte (16:23):
Ah you want to know the inside info. With product, we're always very careful with what we, what we share, right? Because nothing's real until it's live. That's what we always say, you know, but these things will be live and they will be live soon. I just really don't want to speak to them as being live right now because they're not. It's fact. So I think the most exciting bucket of work that's going to be coming out throughout August is our tool that accommodations being added onto that new student experience. So in addition to the responsive design, the accessibility, and a very familiar layout to the students that utilize is, you know, industry style familiar views, as well as has, you know, a nod to the Instructure design.

Ben Berte (17:12):
So it feels very much like a Canvas testing experience. We'll be adding things like strike through, highlight flagging for review dictionary, notepad, annotation, line masking, and line reader. And, I mean, without it written down I'm counting off all the fingers I have, so I'm sorry. I can't quite remember, but that's a lot, that's it? I feel like it's more than a teaser. That's like a meal, but it gives you a feel for what teachers should be able to start utilizing on both benchmark and formative assessments. So you'll be able to, when you're delivering a benchmark, at an admin level, choose which tools and accommodations you want the students to have. It's a very interesting decision for an administrator, because it can create an unfair advantage in certain situations. So from a benchmark perspective, those tools would be enabled at the admin level and not be affected by the teacher, except for those like text to speech, which we think are involved in individual education plans and things like that, that we want students to have to have an equal chance.

Ben Berte (18:16):
Then on the formative side, teachers will be able to utilize all of those tools to their whimsical desire and be able to mix and match and enjoy them and just, you know, have fun with it. Right. I mean, you know, it's a lot of new stuff.

Matt Goodwin (18:29):
Of course 'cause they're planned as whimsically, right

Ben Berte (18:32):
You know, a little strikethrough on a Thursday for fun, you know, you throw straight, you curve—you never know, but I mean, I know seriousness, I think what this does is this allows teachers to have more and administrators to have more choice in how they want to deliver those assessments to once again, and ensure students have the best chance to display what they know, which is the goal of assessment. What do students know and not know—that's the purpose. So we're always constantly thriving to help execute on that. So, yeah, I think that's it. I mean, it's a lot, we've been working really hard. I, all of us, I mean, we all have been, and I think it's just, you know, we're excited for back to school. It's like, you, you know, it's like a new Ford Bronco came out yesterday and it's been months of finding out what it's gonna look like, and back to school is like our big aha moment of showing off all this stuff. And we're always excited for the users to get in their hands and enjoy it.

Matt Goodwin (19:22):
That is a full meal. I'm like stuffed just listening to all the things you guys have been doing. But no, that wasn't an invitation to stop.

Ben Berte (19:30):
I'm going to pull back and make sure I don't—I want to get invited back.

Ryan Lufkin (19:37):
You'll be back, Ben. We promise.

Ben Berte (19:42):
Keep me on the list. I want to be in the rotation. So I got to keep some nuggets to myself, so right on.

Jenn Mitchell (19:47):
Well, thanks until next time. We're going to dig even deeper with Ben and see what else we can sneak out of him. So thank you. Appreciate it, Ben.

Ben Berte (19:58):
You got it.

Matt Goodwin (19:57):
So events as always, we like to talk about our events coming up.

Ryan Lufkin (20:02):
Yeah, well the, the big one obviously is CanvasCon Online 2020. We've talked about that a little bit here before, but we wanted to, if you didn't already know the LeVar Burton and Sal Khan are our big featured keynotes. We want you to know that that's pretty awesome. But then we also want to let you know that the speakers list and the agenda is available online. So Jenn where can people go to get more information on that?

Jenn Mitchell (20:31):
Yeah, just go to Okay. But if you don't want to remember that, which I don't think any of us do, just go to

Ryan Lufkin (20:45):
Go to and any of our social channels. And you'll, you'll be able to see who's presenting. And our registration is through the roof. People are super excited and we really are focused on you know, how do we, how do we try to create some of that virtual engagement? You know, the, the things that people love about InstructureCon coming together socializing and communicating. We're trying to put that in the virtual world. I think our event team's doing a pretty good job.

Jenn Mitchell (21:12):
Yeah. We got a sneak peek of that last week, and I'm really excited about that live portion where we can really connect with the people that you see year after year and InstructureCon.

Ryan Lufkin (21:20):
Yup. And there will be swag. Everybody loves their InstructureCon swag and it will still be there.

Matt Goodwin (21:29):
Hey Jenn, why don't you give us a quick reminder about the virtual leadership series? What that is, why our listeners should care about that and how they get involved?

Jenn Mitchell (21:39):
Yeah, so the virtual leadership series is held by our center for Leadership and Learning, and it's really cool. They, they built a program specifically for the challenges that a student leader—or school and district leaders are experiencing this year. And so this really, it's a really cool interactive cohort style event and we held it—we kicked off in July. It's awesome. We're getting great feedback, a ton of interaction. And so they've actually opened up an August session for that. And it's where we have four really veteran leaders from across the country, come together to think about some of the ways we need to rethink school and help the participants build a back to school plan, that ensures both equity and any contingencies that we see in the upcoming year.

Jenn Mitchell (22:26):
So there are still tickets available for August. There's a few seats left. So I encourage anyone who's, who's experiencing some of those challenges to check out our website so that they can learn about it and sign up for the August session. The seats are $800 per person, which is a bargain for all the, the expert consultant that you'll get with these coaches. You can learn more about the coaches on that site.

Matt Goodwin (22:28):
Awesome. Thanks. Go to the website, search for virtual leadership series and sign up. It sounds like there's a lot of good information by a lot of great experts out there. I.

Matt Goodwin (23:00):
I think that's it. We did it, right guys?

Ryan Lufkin (23:03):
That's July.

Matt Goodwin (23:04):
That's July. Jenn, Ryan, way to go.

Ryan Lufkin (23:07):
This is episode eight. The ocho. Pretty big landmark for us.

Jenn Mitchell (23:15):
It's like a Star Wars sequel.

Matt Goodwin (23:19):
All right. Well, it was fun. A lot of great information this month and we'll do it again next month.

Ryan Lufkin (23:25):
We'll see everybody next month, August...

Matt Goodwin (23:29):
Two-Thousand twenty, or 2020. That's right.

Ryan Lufkin (23:32):

Jenn Mitchell (23:35):
Well, enjoy the last of summer and say healthy everyone.

Thank you for joining us on the canvas tl;dr podcast. If you'd like to take a look at what's happening in our next release, please visit We'll see you next month. Bye!

MasteryConnect Benchmarking Improvements & Teasers—Ben Berte
CanvasCon Online: Keynote Speakers & Agenda
Virtual Leadership Series Update