CanvasCon Europe – 9th October 2018

Posted on: 24 October 2018 by Ben McGrae in Conference & Event Reports

CanvasCon Europe Event at the Barbican Centre in London

I attended the CanvasCon Europe Event at the Barbican Centre in London about implementing Canvas and the change in VLE's. This blog post documents my experiences from the day.

What is the event?

CanvasCon Europe, this was a one day event for education professionals from across Europe came together to discuss edtech and digital learning strategies.  It was focussed around the Canvas virtual learning environment, but there were a series of talks and workshops aimed at promoting innovation and to improve teaching.

An overview of the day:

The event was held in the Barbican Centre in London for a full day. After signing in, I was given a handful of goodies, which included a zipped up tote bag and trendy designed t shirt. The welcome and opening keynote took place in the main concert hall, where Canvas really did put on a show with props and special effects on stage. The opening keynote was from Jared Stein, who was Canvas’s Vice President of Higher Education Strategy.

Jared's talk was well balanced of talking of different learning and teaching problems people had, which showcased how Canvas supported the individual to carry out their teaching. It was a nice introduction into the new features Canvas has been developing, and it also showed how well they work alongside teaching staff to develop their product for our needs. Then the break out sessions took place. Canvas did a good job of categorising talks together, so my own interest were within “Higher Education experienced track” and “Higher Education learner track”.

The highlight morning session for me was “Adopting the Guided Learner Journey at Module and Programme Level” presentation by Greg Bowie and Karen Barton from the University of Hertfordshire. They talked about moving to Canvas from their in-house VLE StudyNet, and were honest about the pros and cons of phasing in a new VLE. This included gathering staff and student feedback in how they wanted to use the VLE, as well as their experiences in moving module content to Canvas. I liked their idea of getting schools to nominate their best module in Canvas and awarding the winners. I also liked that they had created programme level areas in Canvas, I look forward to hearing how Hertfordshire have developed this in the future.

After a tasty lunch and mingling with other attendees, the second keynote took place at the start of the afternoon. This was Alex Beard, Senior Director for Teach All and the author of Natural Born Learners. His talk was about how he traveled the world to learn of different learning and teaching experiences in different cultures. It was a fascinating presentation that was well paced, full of wonderful imagery on screen and interesting stories.

Then the afternoon break out sessions started. The highlight for me was the panel session titled “Digital Transformation in UK Higher Education: How a Modern VLE Can Drive Change & How to Maximise It”. This included four people, Phillip Rothwell from Liverpool John Moores, Ryan Metcalf from the University of Manchester, Richard Dudley from the University College Birmingham and Sharon Waller from Anglia Ruskin University. Each did a great presentation about how they either moved to a new VLE or implemented Canvas as a new system at their institutions. They talked about their own learning and teaching strategies driving the change in VLE and the challenges they faced in implementing Canvas across their institutions.

What did you get out of the conference?

I got two things from the conference, inspiration and knowledge. Both came from seeing what Canvas was capable of, to see new features that I haven’t experienced in other VLE’s that I have worked with. My highlights from the break out sessions were around institutions that carried out a VLE review, so I found it useful to hear their experiences of what we at Liverpool are about to go through.

It was nice to see that Canvas are willing to work alongside staff and students in either FE or HE institutions from across Europe, and to help them develop the product to their needs. You sense that Canvas has created a friendly and helpful community. I was made welcome from the moment I arrived and made some good contacts to add to my own network.

Final thoughts:

This was my first visit to CanvasCon and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It is a useful education conference with plenty of talks pitched at various levels of education so there is something for everyone.  It went beyond my expectations as I feel that I understand the product more and how Canvas as a company work alongside us.  The Canvas community were very welcoming and was a great networking opportunity.