Academic Curation in Canvas

Website CurationAcademic curation is a new way of looking at a familiar concept. What is familiar is the aggregation of different content types (text, links, images, video, etc.) into what we typically see on a webpage.

What is different is the intentional design of the content specifically for students and for the purpose of creating interactions between students and content.

Faculty often think of these types of webpages as mini-lectures but the term limits the imagination to just telling and typically abdicates the learning design to other sources like a textbook.

I personally find academic curation liberating because I no longer rely on a publisher’s instructional design which is embedded in their textbook. I can instead select the latest literature on the topic, create learning activities within Canvas, and use academic curation to bring it all together into an intentional learning environment that I think is important for my students in a given situation. If you think about it, this combination essentially creates a living multi-dimensional textbook for your students.


  •  Web curation requires a certain level of digital literacy. A learning management system like Canvas helps. Your digital literacy increases with experience in Canvas. You can begin curating at a fundamental level and grow in skill with use.
  • Academic curation requires some understanding of instructional design theory. The Center for Transformational Learning can help with instructional design services.
  • Students require a certain level of digital literacy but this is generational. So using a learning management system like Canvas that is built on a open web standard makes it fairly easy for students to adapt to the learning environment.

Learning Outcomes

Academic curation like most aggregation methods generally uses a backward design approach. You have an understanding of all the components (e.g. the various Canvas learning assignments you will require) before you actually start curating. It all starts with learning outcomes and a common approach is to state the outcome in terms of levels of learning like Bloom’s taxonomy of learning.

Start with the outcomes, draft the learning activities and identify what students must know prior to beginning the activities. It won’t be long before you have the content components you need and can then curate at all levels of the instructional sequence.

Assessment Strategy

In this case the assessment strategy depends on the outcomes and learning activities. An important consideration, however, is that curation gives faculty the opportunity to focus students on what is important; more so than the textbook. The curation should be produced with this mind. It should guide students through the various thought processes and activities. It should create the comparisons and contrasts to set the stage for critical thinking.

Instructional Strategy

A lecture driven instructional sequence usually flows with required readings first, then the lecture, followed by lab (learning activities), and ends with an assessment of some kind. Curated webpages can go anywhere and everywhere such that the instructional sequence can be designed for a specific instructional situation.

This is a powerful concept. Traditional textbooks are linear. Written with content first followed by a series of recommended assignments and activities. While it may not have been intended, the written sequence implies an instructional sequence which may not be in the best interest of your students.  The web, on the other hand, is non-linear and curation based on the web can be used to change this sequence. Curation is like a strand that binds all the elements together.

As example let’s say I choose to use an experiential learning approach using Kolb’s Experiential Learning Model which suggests that learning follows a cycle that includes concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation. I can use this as an instructional sequence and curate content items, activities, and assignments for each of these elements as well as curating the entire concept into a single presentation.

You can do this in Canvas without curating by simply listing the assignments in sequence within a module but you lose the framework and flow; the strand that brings it all together. Curation allows you to place these elements in context so that your students get what’s happening rather than just responding to assignments. It allows you to make important connections in their learning.