Last fall 45 instructors and 962 students put Canvas, the University’s new learning management system, to the test. After a semester of use, both instructor and student feedback on the Canvas experience was overwhelmingly positive.
The goal of the pilot was to test how well Canvas functions for users, and to determine how to make the smoothest possible migration away from RamCT Blackboard by Fall 2015.
“We had very positive responses from the faculty and extremely positive responses from the students,” said Patrick Burns, Vice President for Information Technology and Dean of Libraries. “After getting ‘over the hump’ of learning a new system, both groups found it easier [than RamCT] to use.”
Survey responses from the instructors who pilot tested Canvas indicated they think the system is “very intuitive,” “more like navigating a web page than other course software,” and “easier to learn” than any other system CSU has used in the past decade. Most instructors indicated they were comfortable using Canvas within one to four hours.
Like with any new system, however, there is a learning curve. A majority of the instructors said they found Canvas training sessions to be extremely valuable. One instructor said, “It is really easy to get started. Though I believe attending a workshop on how to set up assignments, graded discussions and getting columns in the grade book should not be missed.” Other respondents stressed the importance of instructors ensuring their students know how to use it.
Survey responses from students who pilot tested Canvas, however, indicated that learning to use it would not be a major hurdle. Most students said they never needed to use technical support for the system, although it is easily accessible if necessary.
Canvas includes many user-friendly tools that were not available on RamCT Blackboard. A favorite new tool for students is the “what-if grades” calculator, which allows students to predict what their final grades will be by entering hypothetical grades for all ungraded assignments.
Among the most useful tools for instructors are Quizzes, which automatically grades online quizzes instantly, and SpeedGraderTM, which allows faculty to view and provide feedback on student assignments digitally, in one place.
The pilot test did reveal that an important feature, an anti-plagiarism tool, is currently missing in CSU’s version of Canvas. Burns said that feature, as well as some other recommendations to improve the system, are being addressed.
Start Learning to Use Canvas
As almost all courses will be taught in Canvas beginning in Fall 2015, faculty are encouraged to take advantage of the many training resources available, including:
- Online guides and videos
- Staff training workshops
- The Canvas Information Center located in Morgan Library room 185
- One-on-one appointments with college Canvas coordinators
To access these resources or find more information, visit http://info.canvas.colostate.edu/.