From inside out to outside in

sushi-928894_960_720My adventure moving from Moodle to Canvas begins. And I’m thinking about sushi.

Yes, I often think about sushi (not as much as I think of chocolate, of course). But here there is a connection – inside out vs. outside in.

In Moodle I use the Weekly format, which essentially creates an interactive syllabus on the main page. Each week has links to that week’s work, and the weekly label can be customized with images and embeds (I use Voki). Here’s a sample Moodle week:


So it seemed logical to start in Canvas by using the Modules page. Let’s take a look at the same thing in Canvas Modules:


Oh, that’s lovely. And you can’t add any images. And it’s all the same color, sort of a sickly green.

canvasmenuNow, modules aren’t the only option; it’s just the option that organizes the material like an interactive syllabus, which fits my pedagogy. The other option is to group everything by type: all the discussions, pages, quizzes, etc., which is the default menu, just like Blackboard’s defaults. Yuck.

Want to change the titles of these? You can’t. You can only hide them. And, if you go into one of them (say, a quiz), the breadcrumbs will show even if you’ve hidden the category:



Ohhhh…kay. Well, I did try. I created a whole bunch of modules, and put them in order. But it was so ugly I couldn’t stand it. And all the lectures, since they’re on my own server, had to have the URL changed so they’d be SSL, otherwise they would not open inside the Canvas frame. And if I wanted an overlay for annotation, like, that had to be scripted outside Canvas too. After about 7 hours of this, I realized I was doing way too much work.

smoked-salmon-sushi-rollWhat I was doing I call working the LMS “from the inside out”. This is what I’ve done with Moodle. I’ve been using the LMS’s navigation system as the core (in this case, Moodle’s weekly format, the interactive syllabus). When working from the inside out, you put as much as you can inside the system and then link out for whatever you must. This is how most faculty seem to work. It’s the standard sushi roll, wrapped in nori.

However, I have partly fought this, if only to retain control over my own creations. I’ve always written my lectures on my own HTML pages, so I’ve always linked out to those. And I’ve always had this ideal that I should only use the LMS for the things I can’t do outside it (quizzes, gradebook, forum). I said to a faculty member just yesterday, “don’t build in the system!”. But in actual practice, I’ve designed a great many things inside Moodle. But with Canvas, many of these are lost anyway (my images, Vokis, textual instructions), and the Modules page is so ugly, I’ve decided to change the entire workflow to work “outside in” for Canvas.

Philly_rollOutside-in means that the front door of my class, the main page, what used to be the big first page in Moodle, will be outside Canvas (though I will go all SSL and try to embed it). Then from that HTML page, I will link in to each item I can’t do outside Canvas (quiz, discussion forum, gradebook).

I supposed you could also call this a shift from linking out to linking in. But I’m kind of liking a sushi analogy. An “inside out” roll has the rice on the outside instead of the inside. It’s messier but it tastes better.


2 thoughts on “From inside out to outside in

  1. I love this metaphor, Lisa! In part because I am crazy about sushi, and if I’m having rolls, I prefer inside out. 🙂

    But seriously, your frustrations here are exactly why I have taken the UT MINIME approach in Desire2Learn (where the interface is uglier by far than Canvas or, apparently, Moodle). Literally, the only thing I have in D2L is my blog announcements which appear in the lower frame on the homepage, plus the true-false quizzes I use as “Declarations” of work completed, which then automatically populate the Gradebook. I would like a happier Gradebook with motivational posters and such… will Canvas let me have random motivational posters on my Gradebook page? That’s really about the only question that I have. And if it doesn’t like javascript, that does not bode well for my random motivation posters.

    Anyway, in a sense I have two “ways in” … there’s the announcements blog which students do see now when they log in to D2L, but it’s a real blog that they can bookmark, subscribe to by email, RSS, whatever:

    And then there is a class wiki which contains some content of its own as well as links to other content; it’s the closest thing I guess to a “home page” for my classes I guess, and it’s also linked from the D2L navigation bar, along with the calendar page that is part of this wiki:

    Anyway, I hope you will end up happy with the results as you tame this new LMS beastie. I’m not interested in the LMS at all for myself, but I am still shamelessly hoping that our LMS transition (we’re taking it very slow BTW; it hasn’t even been officially announced yet, but the writing is on the proverbial wall) will be an occasion to talk about our GOALS for our classes… without assuming in advance that the LMS will be the best tool for all goals.

    And THANK YOU for sharing your efforts here. It is so helpful to see what people are actually doing with the LMS, and why, and how it is or is not working well.


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