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Posts Tagged ‘canvas

I received this automated reminder in Canvas. This should be familiar to anyone who uses just about any university learning management system (LMS).

Message from Canvas admin about course removal.

Sorry, no! I am not worried that “courses will be removed” because I only use Canvas for announcements and the submission of student assignments.

I take pride in my course design and resources, so I keep them off Canvas and house them in Google Sites instead. This allows me to make incremental improvements instead of removing and reloading them at the whim of Canvas administration. 

I also received this dubious message in my Canvas inbox. It was an admin message about Turnitin service not being able for “checking of plagiarism” due to service maintenance.

Message from Canvas admin about Turnitin service not being able for "checking of plagiarism".

Sorry, no! Plagiarism cannot be detected by a machine algorithm. It takes a person to decide whether or not a student has plagiarised work. At least, it should.

Simplistic algorithms still look for matching patterns, not intent. For example, Turnitin cannot distinguish between plagiarism and legitimate quoting of someone else’s work or reference to one’s own work. The latter two are still highlighted as matches. Lazy people might call this plagiarism.

Photo by Ksenia Chernaya on

Turnitin is a tool. It is not a decision maker of plagiarism any more than an allen key is an assembler of IKEA furniture. We should not relegate higher order thinking and a high stakes process to a service provider.

I am a champion of edtech. But I do not blindly support the slogans, claims, or practices of edtech vendors and systems administrators. If they put convoluted administration over critical pedagogy or effective learning, I call them out.

That is “Don’t friend you!” — an utterance echoed across generations of Singaporean children when one child feels offended by another. This is our way of expressing displeasure, but kids often forgive and forget.

Now here is something educators who are forced to use “learning management systems” (LMS) should note: Canvas is not your friend. Neither is Blackboard or any institutionalised tool that aims to standardise or unify.


In the link above, Lisa Lane highlighted several problems with Canvas. If I had to put what she said in a nutshell, I would offer that the LMS focuses the organisation of information at the expense of pedagogical flexibility (i.e., it is about types of material instead of the phase of learning). LMS are not designed for student-centric or student-led learning.

Canvas is not a pedagogue’s friend. A pedagogue should also say “Dun fren you!” to any LMS because going open and varied is better than limiting yourself to a closed and walled garden. The former mirrors what students already use and will face in every day life and work; the latter are an artificial construct built for control and profit.

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I read RRW’s article on Instructure’s Canvas, a cloud-and-browser-based LMS that claims to want to “get rid of the walled garden”. I could not have described LMS as a walled garden better:

That walled garden approach to learning management systems means that whatever content students and instructors upload – whether it’s handouts, homework assignments, discussions, tests, syllabi – is all trapped within a particular course. If you aren’t registered for a class, you can’t view it. When a course is over, you can’t view it. When you graduate, you can’t view it. As having a strong online portfolio is rapidly becoming far more important than a resume, that’s no good for students. It’s no good for education either, which despite the rising cost of tuition, should be about sharing, not restricting knowledge.

Canvas is something we’ll look into for stakeholders who share the same educational philosophies (the same stakeholders who are aware what century we are living in).

And if the claims about Canvas are true, I think it will gain enough critical mass so that it can resist being swallowed up by Blackboard.


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