In Fall 2017, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania piloted the Canvas feature Blueprint Courses as a way to meet the needs of teaching teams that need to maintain consistency across course sections and Canvas sites. When Blueprint Courses were introduced during the summer of 2017, our Courseware Team was immediately excited, and we identified several courses that would greatly benefit from the capabilities offered by Blueprint.
We rolled out Blueprint in four courses during Q1 of Fall 2017. All were multi-section, large-enrollment courses that needed consistent content. Each course represented a slightly different use case. Our Blueprint pilot was a resounding success by just about every measure, but it was a journey. Blueprint Courses offers functionality by being able to automatically update or add new content across multiple associated Canvas sites at the same time, making it faster and easier.
I gave an overview of what we did in this introductory blog post in the Canvas Community. Through the process, we learned lessons of what worked well, what worked less well, and where we encountered unexpected challenges with this new feature. Here are key takeaways:
BE UPFRONT ABOUT CHALLENGES
Blueprint is a newly introduced feature, and it will mean new processes (and challenges) for teaching and administrative teams. Like any new feature, there can be a learning curve. Various types of buy-in may be necessary so be upfront about the potential challenges and payoffs. (Related: Lessons Learned About Blueprint Courses: Getting Buy-In)
CONSIDER ALL OPTIONS
We can and should recommend the best technology to meet specific needs. In one pilot course, the teaching team realized that what they needed was simply an initial shared starting point, and that they didn't really need the ability to keep content, assignments, files, etc. in sync. Faculty members appreciated the ability to make changes and updates. We still count this as a win, though: This teaching team would not have arrived at their current configuration without first trying Blueprint. Blueprint ended up being a way to ease them into having separate Canvas sites. (Related: Lessons Learned About Blueprint Courses: When Blueprint Wasn't the Solution)
Blueprint was an easy sell because of our long-desired goal of maintaining consistency in course content. The feature has saved time that our team used to spend manually updating sites. The replication workflow we now use is much simpler and faster with the ability to update late in the process if necessary:
Above: Syncing content across all 56 Canvas sites at the same time saves a lot of time compared to performing 56 separate course copies!
Overall, this was a huge productivity win for our Courseware Team and for the Wharton instructors. (Related: Lessons Learned About Blueprint Courses: Replacing Course Copy Workflows)
If you are thinking about using Blueprint, I urge you to read Ken Black's encyclopedic post Tips for Designing and Maintaining Blueprint Courses found in the Canvas Community. And then read it again. And maybe a third time. Ken provides outstanding advice for planning and getting started. If there are topics from our experience that you'd like to hear about, please let me know!
Linda J. Lee
Instructional Design Project Leader, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
*For updates on Canvas Blueprint Courses, to share ideas, join discussions, and find out networking opportunities, check out our Canvas Community.