Instructure Canvas Raises $8 million and Plans to Expand

Management system software maker for the educational sector, Instructure Canvas, has raised $8 million from venture capitalists in an attempt to scale up its operations and widen its customer base.

The Utah-based startup said its investors included OpenView Venture PartnersEPIC Ventures, TomorrowVentures, and Tim Draper of Draper Fisher Jurveston.

Founded in 2008 by two computer science graduate students, Instructure develops learning management software that helps teachers manage interactions with students through a variety of ways including distributing assignments as well as grading students’ work.

Today, the company appears to targeting its giant rival, Blackboard (NewsAlert). The company is currently servicing more than 30 educational institutions, the majority of which are those who have switched from Blackboard to Canvas.

“The investment will be used to scale the company’s operations and to keep up with market demand,” said Josh Coates, CEO of Instructure.

Coates, who was a teacher at Brigham Young University, previously worked for many companies including search-technology pioneer Inktomi, Scale Eight and most recently the online storage provider Mozy, which was purchased by EMC (NewsAlert) for $76 million.

On February 1, Instructure announced the availability of Canvas as open source.  Since then, thousands of schools districts and universities have begun evaluating Canvas and turning to Instructure to transition their existing LMS solutions.

“We were compelled by Josh and his team’s vision of delivering outstanding user experiences to those in the education market,” said Firas Raouf of OpenView Venture Partners. “The LMS market is long overdue for a new learning platform built on the latest Web-based technologies.”

Canvas streamlines standard LMS features like the integrated gradebook, assessment tools, discussions, multiple assignment submission types, rubrics and Web chat. Its grading tools, including SpeedGrader for the iPad, reduce the amount of time educators spend grading assignments.

Canvas leverages the leading edge of Web technologies by embracing features such as drag-and-drop file uploads, HTML5 video and automatic speech-to-text conversion. It also integrates with popular Web 2.0 tools and social media platforms like Google Docs and Facebook (NewsAlert).

When a teacher changes the date of a quiz, for example, students automatically receive text messages on their cell phones, messages on Facebook or conventional emails, according to the company.