InstructureCon 2022: Inspiring students and sparking curiosity

by Julian Yballe


InstructureCon 2022: Inspiring students and sparking curiosity

~ Higher Education ~

JULY 19th 2022· by Julian Yballe


July saw Instructure, the maker of Canvas, hold its popular annual conference, InstructureCon 2022 for North America. This is the first year they’ve held regional versions of these virtual education technology and digital learning events, and there was plenty of insight to be had into what’s ahead in the world of enterprise-scale educational technology. In this blog post, our latest star PebblePad recruit, Julian Yballe, Director of Business Development for North Americashares key highlights and notes the synergies of what we heard about at InstructureCon with our thinking here at PebblePad.

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How to encourage student-centered learning journeys

The conference focused firmly on the importance of STEM education across the US and beyond. The tone was set in an interview with Simone Giertz, a passion-provoking educator, inventor and scientist, who shared her unique perspective on how educators can inspire students and spark curiosity through the journey of creation and discovery.

Just as Simone promoted the idea of encouraging young people and adults to ask questions and to be curious, bestselling author and professor at Wharton, Adam Grant, also looked at the routes to ensuring motivation and original thinking in his fascinating session.

Part of the secret, according to these speakers, and many others throughout the conference, is the ability for students to engage with experiential learning – where they can be creative, experiment and get hands-on with often complex concepts and tasks.

This sentiment also chimes with our recent research where we asked teaching and learning staff in Higher Education about their priorities for the next three years. In our study, 92 per cent of respondents said that student-centred learning will be a critical focus for the years ahead, helping empower students to influence what, how and where they learn. (You can download the Teaching and Learning Priortities 2025 report here)

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A recurring theme was the idea of enabling students to engage with experiential learning – where they can be creative, experiment and get hands-on with often complex concepts and tasks.

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How to support student-centered learning journeys

This idea is a central tenet of PebblePad’s mission too, and it was heartening to see so many educators and experts agreeing that student-centred, experiential learning would be the order of the day in the year ahead. One of the things people are curious about when we speak with them is how PebblePad’s Learning Journey Platform brings value to universities who are already using a powerful LMS like Canvas.

In short, student-centred, experiential learning initiatives are difficult to support and assess, especially at scale. Even the best LMS platforms, which are typically designed to support content delivery, don’t allow the freedom, creativity and independence that learners need to make the most of planning, recording and evidencing their individual learning journeys. The flexibility and versatility of PebblePad to adapt to multiple-use cases allows support of student-centred learning at scale – from enterprise-wide initiatives to supporting students in work integrated learning opportunities to integrative learning across a program of study.

During the conference we also heard about the need for students to be able to properly reflect on what they’ve learned – making connections between different episodes of learning, and between theory and practice; planning for future learning, and ultimately building and improving their knowledge and skillsets as they go. 

Providing a private and safe place for reflection is essential if students are to engage honestly and deeply with their learning experiences. Striking the right balance between the privacy and security of a personal space for learning and your organisation’s own assessment agenda is key to student engagement with a learner-centred strategy.

Learners experience better outcomes if they feel a sense of ownership or control over their learning. PebblePad allows students to reflect in private – across their entire program of learning, not just in individual courses – bring together their key takeaways, and selectively share for feedback.

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Feedback and Assessment for Learning

The ultimate reward of student-centredness is learner autonomy and independence, which is why it needs to include more formative assessment, including peer and self-review, leading to motivated and self-regulating learners. Post-Covid, as universities begin to adopt as standard ongoing hybrid models of teaching and assessment, the need for robust and flexible digital solutions for providing feedback and managing assessment is becoming more prevalent, and it was great to see so many educators looking to improve their approach to this important area too. Attendees at InstructureCon included the University of Michigan, Baylor University and the University of Pennsylvania - all renowned for pioneering new and innovative approaches to assessment.

Feedback and assessment are areas in which PebblePad really comes into its own – our powerful assessment engine helps educators provide formative and summative assessment of individual assets, portfolios, and their component parts. PebblePad provides alternative assessment & feedback workflows, particularly for complex or individualized assessment activity. Viewing student work in real-time makes it easy for educators to provide formative feedback, and the integration with Canvas seamlessly sends grades back to Gradebook. Indeed, this is part of the reason why we’re seeing so many higher education institutions in the US now choosing PebblePad as a core component of their digital learning ecosystems, to bolster the capacity of their LMS.

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The pairing of great technologies like Canvas and PebblePad is enabling universities to support student-centred learning and authentic assessment in any context, both on and off-campus, across the entire student learning journey.

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Pairing great educational technologies = student success

It was great to be back at InstructureCon this year. I’ve now seen it from both sides of the fence, having led the American business for Instructure, and now as the new Director of Business Development for the Americas at PebblePad.

I’ve been lucky enough to see the tremendous dedication and innovation educators demonstrated over these past couple of years, as institutions everywhere faced unparalleled challenges and developed entirely new and exciting solutions to tackle the shifting ways students are learning. And it’s the pairing of great technologies like Canvas and PebblePad that is enabling universities to support student-centred learning and authentic assessment in any context, both on and off-campus, across the entire student life-cycle.

Community is at the heart of both PebblePad and Instructure, and through events like this we see significant potential for more collaboration in the industry, as the brightest minds work together to solve challenges and improve teaching and learning across the US and beyond.

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PebblePad & Canvas Integration Guide

Canvas LMS, powered by Instructure, arguably becomes even better when working in partnership with PebblePad.

Download our free guide to how the PebblePad and Canvas integration works to advance student-centered learning.

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Julian is the Director of Business Development for North America here at PebblePad. Julian has more than two decades of experience in education and technology, most notably at Instructure where he held the position of Senior Regional Director.

Based in Vancouver with his wife and 3 children, Julian is a pandemically-reformed road warrior and an avid reader. He also picked up recreational cycling in the past year and enjoys getting out for a ride with family and friends.