Designing on the LMS Canvas

I had the opportunity to build several professional development courses for K-12 teachers on the Canvas LMS. This is an example of how I worked with content developed by faculty at the University of Colorado (the wonderful Dr. Cheryl Matias and Naomi Nishi) for the eCALLMS project. eCALLMS was a grant-funded project to help provide education for teachers of multilingual students.

In developing this course in the learning management system, I  built it for busy working teachers who needed optimal usability and clarity in the course layout. Often working on their own during late night or early morning hours, the course needed both targeted content and an uncluttered interface that also made their efforts enjoyable and engaging.

Each week had an easy to follow information block that covered First Steps, Weeks One through Six and Final Steps. The hands in the graphic design came from the grant’s promotional materials.

Eight blocks for navigation for K-12 professional development

Each week (or unit) was divided into three parts: learn (explore), make it work (use what you learned) and share (exchange your learning with other teachers). Clicking on the blocks took you where you needed to go,


Content included articles, websites and videos. Images were used to illuminate content, in this case race and education. Teachers are asked to examine their cultural background and beliefs more carefully and reflect on what they bring to the classroom and how they perceive students from backgrounds very different from their own. The images below explain the video content, where teenage girls of color discuss the different shades of their skin color.

The power of some of the new learning management systems and learning platforms is that they make enriching content with imagery possible and teaching concepts and content with reinforcing visuals.


Each week also contained a choice of activities, usually three or four options. In this week’s option 1 you are asked to interview a fellow teacher with a different racial background and reflect on their input and perceptions.


Below is one of the discussion boards at the end of each week or unit. Teachers are encouraged to share what they learn each week and compare experiences. The powerful aspect of Canvas is that it allows both podcast and video response in the discussion board.


Canvas as a platform also allows for imagery and video, making content more like a webpage than a document repository. Below are some of the images used to reinforce, illuminate and explain content.


In addition it was possible to shoot short custom videos of Dr. Matias, for inclusion in the course and to tell a narrative story to help teachers reflect on the issues in education that are not always raised in their teacher training.



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