BYU-Hawaii - Instructure
Canvas and Brigham Young
University - Hawaii
Canvas’ video features and flexibility power growth
of worldwide distance learning program
At a Glance
• The University needed an LMS to support
BYU-Hawaii’s distance learning program touches nearly every continent, with students from 27 countries. But, as is often
the case in distance education, retention was a challenge when students felt disconnected from peers and instructors. With
that in mind, BYU-Hawaii administrators hired Michael Griffiths and gave him a mandate to create new distance learning
courses that would provide an outstanding student experience and boost retention.
synchronous and asynchronous video.
• Instructors wanted an easy-to-use,
integrated grading interface for video
• Canvas-enabled video courses delivered
improved student learning.
• Increased flexibility supports different
• Simple, intuitive tools save teachers time
He began to implement a new model of online education that he had been developing for years. It employs asynchronous
video—think of it as “video mail”—for student presentations, teacher feedback and student discussions.
“It seems that there is something missing from the educational experience when you don’t see people and interact with
them,” Griffiths said. “It’s pretty cutting- edge to be doing video mail in education.”
Unfortunately, most of the platforms he had used didn’t work and were often challenging for users to understand. Griffiths
also had trouble managing and grading these video discussions.
“If the technology isn’t right, then the barriers become more powerful than the benefits,” Griffiths said. “For the educational
model to work, the technology has to work almost perfectly.”
and increase adoption.
• Integrated SpeedGrader
allow video/audio/text discussion.
When Griffiths was introduced to Canvas, he was thrilled. Its integrated video capabilities, open architecture and simple
user interface were exactly what he’d been looking for.
Canvas & BYU - Hawaii
“We find that if the technology isn’t
right, then the barriers become
more powerful than the benefits.
For the educational model to work
right, the technology has to work
— Michael Griffiths
“Wherever there is the ability to submit something, it can be done in traditional ways, but also in video,” he said. “Video is
fully integrated, which means I can do whatever I want with it.”
He also praised Canvas’ gradebook and proprietary SpeedGrader, which integrate the grading and feedback process.
Previous systems he had used didn’t show when instructors had responded to students. With Canvas, instructors can see a
student submission, the grade and tutors’ feedback.
Because Canvas is hosted in the cloud, Griffiths launched his program faster and more efficiently than if he had hosted an
LMS himself. Student learning has improved because BYU-Hawaii’s distance learning program can integrate video into
online courses, said instructor David Bybee.
“It allows students who wouldn't participate in the class discussion to express themselves in a less intimidating
environment. They can think about what they want to say and even practice,” Bybee said. “They learn and retain more of
the material and concepts by actually talking about them on video.”
“We are excited about the teaching
and learning possibilities that are
now available to us through
Canvas. We have greater latitude
in making pedagogical choices
and more tools in the system to
effectively adapt content for
In addition, course quality and instructors’ experience have improved. Gael Weberg, an instructional course designer, loves
Canvas’ flexibility and ease of use. She cites the preview function, which displays presentation slides or spreadsheets
within the system, and a drag-and-drop feature that speeds uploading and moving content.
“We are excited about the teaching and learning possibilities that are now available to us through Canvas,” she said. “We
have greater latitude in making pedagogical choices and more tools in the system to effectively adapt content for online
Instructors’ communication with students has been moving toward one-on-one from the traditional one-to-many lecture
hall or distance learning environments. Canvas’ video and voice integration has helped create and strengthen both
instructor-to-student and peer-to-peer relationships. According to Griffiths, using Canvas to provide this individualized
learning experience has been key to enhancing the quality of BYU-Hawaii’s online education.
— Gael Weberg
Instructional Course Designer
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