Instructure Canvas

Instructure Canvas – The next Dominant Education Platform?

Instructure Canvas is quietly building what could become one of the dominant platforms in online education, from academic to vocational and lifelong learning. In this post I want to focus on three indicators that show Instructure’s growth in different verticals of the market and the overall potential the Canvas Network has for institutions and for-profit education.

1) Canvas nibbles away on other LMS’ market-share

According to edutechnica, Instructure managed to attract several institutions to switch their LMS platform from Moodle and Sakai to Canvas which had rarely been the case before. Canvas has also overtaken Desire2Learn in terms of number of enrollments. ⅕ of institutions that currently run Sakai seem to be willing to switch their LMS and have set up tests with either Blackboard Learn or Canvas.

2) Instructure Canvas would be the backbone for Indiana University’s “edX Killer”

Michael Feldstein and Phil Hill gathered and analyzed very interesting information about Unizin, a new learning ecosystem planned by Indiana University under the management of its CIO Brad Wheeler. These are as always fascinating reads and I recommend you to check them out over at e-Literate.

The interesting part for today’s post is that Unizin chose Canvas as mean of distribution for its consortium. Most universities who are on the list of potential partners in the consortium currently use Blackboard and Sakai. Only two institutions on the Unizin consortium list are currently using Canvas, the University of Utah and the University of Maryland, with a third, the University of Texas, currently moving on from Blackboard.

Through Unizin, Canvas could add Colorado State University (Blackboard), Indiana University (Sakai), Oregon State University (Blackboard), Purdue University (Blackboard), University of Florida (Sakai, with some use of Canvas), University of Michigan (Sakai) and University of Wisconsin (Desire2Learn) to its customers.

In his second post on Unizin, Michael Feldstein explains why Unizin could become a threat to edX.

“So if the medium-term ambition of Unizin is to create a MOOC portal, who is threatened by that? I don’t think it hurts Coursera too badly. They now have enough eyeballs that I think even schools in other coalitions are likely to hedge their bets and put a course or two on that platform. edX is another matter, though. Assuming that Unizin could succeed in making a big media splash and attract students to their course catalog, I don’t see what edX offers that Unizin on Canvas couldn’t do better, and the value to administrators of getting all MOOC and non-MOOC courses on the same supported platform shouldn’t be underestimated. If I were Anant Agrawal, I would be very worried about Unizin poaching my customers.”

Instructure latest announcement fits snugly into this storyline.

3) Instructure announces Canvas Catalog

The latest product by Instructure is Canvas Catalog, or as the team calls it on the company blog “brilliance struck”.

Canvas Catalog is based on Canvas Network, the company’s answer to the MOOC hype, launched in late 2012. Canvas Catalog adds a whitelabel storefront solution to Canvas Network, enabling its customers to add registration, enrollment and payment features to a individually branded web portal.

The potential for such a platform is quite big. Based on Canvas Catalog and Canvas Network someone could create the next or Udemy and the product is of course also relevant to projects in academia like the aforementioned Unizin.

We also need to take into consideration that Canvas, like Open edX, is an open source project which enables institutions as well as edtech entrepreneurs to modify, add and build upon the Canvas source code. All of these factors make Instructure Canvas one of the edtech startups to keep an eye on constantly.

Kirsten Winkler is the founder and editor of EDUKWEST. She also writes about Social Media, Digital Society and Startups at