May 2020 Advocate: Concerns about proprietary online education tools


Concerns are raised about proprietary online education tools as Instructure (owner of Canvas) is sold for $2 billion

In is important to be aware that most educational tools we use in our online courses (e.g. Canvas, Zoom) are proprietary products from profit-making corporations and this can impact our colleges in ways that are not always very obvious. Instructure, the corporation that created and runs Canvas, our District’s online learning management platform, was just sold in March to a private equity firm for about $2 billion. The valuation and sale of the company have led some concerned Canvas users to question how Instructure’s data collection practices may use students’ (and faculty’s) personal data for commercial purposes without consent and have sent an open letter to Instructure asking many questions about this issue. A research study published in the April 29, 2020 issue of the journal Teaching in Higher Education found that, “Institutions of higher education are currently ill-equipped to protect students and faculty required to use the Canvas Instructure LMS from data harvesting or exploitation.”  Colleges’ contracts with for-profit online ed. companies raise questions and concerns not only about student and faculty privacy, but also about shared governance, academic freedom, educational quality, and, ultimately, the privatization of U.S. higher education.