Canvas Network: Now More Open

At Canvas Network, we love making learning more creative and innovative as much as we love making it more accessible—and we strive to accomplish all three by making learning more open. That’s why in March 2016 we set out to shift from being passive to active promoters of open education by working toward three big goals.

2016 Goals

1. Increase the number of publicly-viewable Canvas Network courses to 60 percent as a way to lower the barrier to entry for learners.

2. Increase the number of Creative Commons-licensed course materials to 60 percent.

3. Contribute at least 300 courses and/or learning objects to Canvas Commons. 

2017 Results

1. More than 80 percent of Canvas Network courses now have publicly visible URLs.

2. Our institutional partners have shared 279 new courses and learning objects to Canvas Commons for a total of 300. 

3. The number of Creative Commons licenses for courses listed or started between March 1, 2016 and March 1, 2017 has increased to 61 percent.

Data table

The Year of Openness

We met or exceeded all of our openness goals for 2016, but we didn’t stop there. We took open education further with a whole year of activities to promote openness. Here’s the timeline:

Jan. 2016 – We conducted an openness audit. We wanted to envision the perfect open platform so we could develop a strategy for how to get there.

Mar. 2016 – We made de-identified Canvas Network datasets available to researchers and the public. With this data, we provided a snapshot of more than 230 Canvas Network courses offered from January 2014 to September 2015.

May 2016 – We implemented an Open Course Policy allowing students to retain access to content after course end dates and instructors to reuse content through Canvas Commons. This policy made it possible for learners to retain access to Canvas Network course content after: 1) a course concludes, 2) course URLs are made publicly visible, and 3) courses with Creative Commons license are shared to Canvas Commons. It was so well received by our institutional partners that we made it apply retroactively, giving partners the option to opt-out for concluded courses.

Jul. 2016 – We developed badging incentives to encourage participation by educators in courses focused on openness. Now, instructors who host courses on subjects like open badges, open content, open data, open ecosystems, open educational resources, or open policy are invited to use a Canvas Network Open Badge as part of their course. 

Oct. 2016 – We partnered with Badgr, an open badging platform, to help further “thin the walls” of the classroom. We deepened our partnership with Badgr to enable all of our institutional partners and instructors to use Badgr Pro at no cost. In addition to great badging services, Canvas Network partners now have elaborate dashboards, enabling instructors and instructional designers to easily monitor learner progression.   

Nov. 2016 – We created open courses for educators to learn more about open education. We launched our Educator Catalog to provide administrators, teachers, and instructional designers free professional development courses ranging from topics on open education to data privacy. We currently offer 25 courses with more to come.

As you can see, 2016 was a great year for openness at Canvas Network. Openness continues to be our core strategy as we plan for the future. We’d love to hear from you about how Canvas Network can further our commitment to become THE open platform for open online learning and to promote openness in education. Send me all your great ideas at

Keep Learning,

Hilary Melander
Manager of Canvas Network