Canvas vs Open edX

I’ve been asked a few times what the arguments are for using OpenEdX over Instructure’s Canvas product, and I’ve got a rough-and-ready answer, but not one that’s super-detailed, since I haven’t spent a lot of time looking at Canvas.

The differences that come to mind for me are:

Structural:

Canvas is the product of a for-profit rather than a non-profit, and keep some features (e.g. analytics) out of the open source version.

I don’t have a sense for how realistic it is for people outside of Instructure to expect to have their pull requests accepted – looking at their top 10 contributors at https://github.com/instructure/canvas-lms/graphs/contributors it looks like there are two who don’t list themselves as instructure employees, so perhaps it’s possible (or maybe these people are contractors working for instructure – I just don’t know).

Canvas doesn’t seem to actively use github issues or some other public location as the place where instructure employees do bug-tracking. (OpenEdX doesn’t either, but it’s early enough days that there’s hope that that may change.)

There’s a single provider of commercial hosting and support for the platform for people who don’t want to run it themselves: Instructure.

Feature-wise:

Canvas seems much weaker on features that are important for MOOCs – e.g. it doesn’t have anything like the OpenEdX video player, its range of auto-gradeable assessment types is much weaker, and its discussion forums don’t seem to allow any sub-forum structure, or be able to be included on a particular course page like OpenEdX discussions can.

On the flip side, Canvas has strong on-campus LMS features – gradebooks that are downloadable / uploadable, strong support for manual grading by instructors, ability for students to turn in work as a group, etc.

So my guess is that it’s the suitability for the MOOC use cases, and perhaps the desire to use an open source product that isn’t controlled by a for-profit, that have driven most of the OpenEdX adopters, and most either don’t have on-campus classes, are using something different on-campus, or are using OpenEdX in conjunction with other tools on-campus.

Can someone who’s looked into this in more detail than I have either verify that I’ve got it roughly right on the differences, or let me know what I’m missing / misunderstanding?

thanks a lot –

Jane

(2014)

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