I’ve been using Instructure for several weeks for a course that I’m teaching with Tecnológico de Monterrey on networked and connected learning. I’ve used a large number of learning management systems over the last several years, and Instructure presents one of the more impressive educator and end-user experiences. It took me about two hours to setup and organize my first course in the platform.
Instructure is a newcomer to the LMS market, but they have done fairly well winning contracts over the past year or so. I can see why: setting up a course, adding content, assessment, etc. is a smooth process by the standars of any LMS. Moodle, an LMS with a low learning curve, feels very clunky in comparison. The interface is clean (image below is an administrator’s view) and adding/activating widgets is intuitive. The last time I’ve had a similar productive return on ability to do stuff with a new tool, with only limited time investment, was my first iphone. There may not be much new under the sun in the LMS space, but Instructure is a big leap forward in positive end user experience. My only complaint is the odd downtime. I had several minute downtimes twice over the first two weeks of the course. And even as I’m typing this looking for a link to a press release, their site is down.
I’ve had several interactions with Instructure and find that they are an organization that is fuelled by a combination of energy, ambition, and a touch of bravado/boldness/audacity. On the one hand, they are eager to learn from others…on the other hand, they are confident that they have the right answer.
Two illustrations of the dichotomy between “we know the answer” and “we are willing to learn”:
1. In response to a post on this site a few months ago looking at Blackboard’s entry into Moodle hosting, I received an email from Instructure offering to show me their product. After their presentation, I mentioned that I was considering using Instructure for a MOOC in fall – future of education (starting Oct 8, sponsored by Gates Foundation and, now, Desire2Learn) – but wanted to know if they could do some customizing to incorporate Stephen Downes’ grsshopper model. In my original blogpost, I stated: “btw, Instructure, if you’re really in a mood for something new, why not work with Stephen Downes and me in building the technical platform for MOOCs? We have ideas, but need good programmers!” I tried communicating what specifically we needed for MOOCs during our call based on our previous MOOCs. However, and this is a challenge I’ve had with other software vendors, the response was “oh, we can do that already”. In contrast, I received an email from John Baker (Desire2Learn) the next day saying, basically, “let us know what you want and we’ll assign programmers to it”. As a result, we are now running our fall MOOC with Desire2Learn. Young companies are often not that focused on listening because they have a vision that they feel others need to also adopt.
2. I met with a crew from Instructure when I was at Arizona State University for a conference. They were looking at rolling out a new analytics platform and wanted to chat about the kinds of analytics approaches that might be valuable. They started by presenting their vision of what they were doing and were very interested in finding ways to improve and extend planned functionality. We had a good conversation about the potential of analytics and the directions in which the field (if we can call it that) is moving. I left the meeting feeling that Instructure is an organization that knows its strengths and is willing to engage with others to address areas where it needs (wants) to learn.