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Redesigning Canvas LMS for the University of Sydney

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Executive summary 

Curio engaged in a two-part project with the University of Sydney to revamp the learning experiences students had in their core science units. The first part involved redesigning the Canvas LMS to support multi-model course delivery, while the second part aimed to reinvent first-year physics courses using a new pedagogical model aligned with grand challenges within physics.



Client background 

The University of Sydney sought to enhance its physics courses by modernising the learning environment and aligning the curriculum with contemporary challenges, around which intricate and hands-on learning could occur. One of the main aims of this redesign was to support student learning and raise retention and knowledge acquisition rates. This was an exemplary course development that laid the foundation for Curio’s redevelopment of all core science courses at the University of Sydney.



Challenges and objectives 

First-year university students traditionally experienced a good deal of hardship adapting to the pace and scope of learning at university. The University of Sydney noticed that the increased workload and difficult navigation through the material impacted student learning and, ultimately, student success rates. The aim of the redesign was to better support the student journey, to stage learning in engaging ways which enlivened ideas, and to ensure students had sufficient scaffolded support in the course to succeed. Curio worked to create the physics curriculum anew, with profoundly impactful results. To undertake this redesign, Curio undertook the following:

  • Redesigned the course structure based on physics concepts instead of a weekly calendar.
  • Created an adaptable model for multiple delivery modes (online, blended, and in-person).
  • Scalability to accommodate more students annually without overwhelming lecturers. 
  • Customisable designs for alternative delivery timeframes. 
  • Constructive alignment of materials with specific learning outcomes. 
  • Reinforcing and interleaving learning to prevent loss of knowledge and increase.


Solution provided 

Curio restructured the course layout around fundamental physics concepts, fostering a scaffolded learning journey for students. A navigation system facilitated ease of discoverability and control for students. Curio introduced an innovative pedagogical model aligning the physics curriculum with grand challenges like the Starshot project.

In the physics course, the grand challenge involved using nanocrafts– miniature space probes attached to light sails, which are propelled by a ground-based laser array—with the ultimate aim of sending small probes to Alpha Centauri, the closest star system to Earth.

The student journey was structured around phases of imagining, discovering theoretical foundations, guided practice, deep exploration, and evaluation. This model facilitated engagement, mastery, and understanding through progressive learning pathways. 

Curio and the University of Sydney team reimagined the Physics course to follow a structured pathway: Imagine, Discover, Practice, Explore, and Evaluate, aligning each phase with specific learning goals. Structuring the course in this way had the following effects:

  • Engaging students in aspirational modes oriented them to the grand challenges of the field and showcased the problems their professors were working on.
  • Provided guided mastery and formative feedback to enhance learning acumen. 

The team also co-designed the lab experience for online delivery, engaging students in their environment to undertake physics experiments in real-time, often using their mobile phones. It was a challenging, thought-provoking exercise which ruptured traditional physics laboratory models and had students engage in learning within their set environment.







Results and Impact 

The redesigned Canvas LMS and the pedagogical model transformed the physics learning experience at the University of Sydney. Students engaged with aspirational challenges deepened their theoretical understanding, applied knowledge practically, explored in-depth problems, and evaluated their learning trajectories. The incorporation of progress bars and reinforced learning across the course improved student engagement and prevented knowledge loss. Curio was subsequently invited to rethink and redesign all the core science units at the University of Sydney.

Curio’s partnership with the University of Sydney showcases how innovative approaches in LMS redesign and pedagogical models can revolutionise learning experiences. Contact us to explore how our solutions can elevate your institution’s learning environment.





about the writer

Matthew Hall

Lead Consultant

Matthew helps teams grow and enables talented Learning Designers to excel. Matthew is most fully engaged on dynamic, pedagogically challenging and creative projects and he loves working with clients to solve difficult problems, especially to do with the scale and speed of their online growth. Learn more about Matthew

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