Working with Canvas: A Journal of the Experience – Meet Canvas

At this point, I would guess that basically every Wayne State instructor has learned of the university’s decision to migrate from our current learning management system (LMS), Blackboard (Bb), to a new one called Canvas, which is made by a company called Instructure. This semester I was offered the opportunity — along with about 20 colleagues — to be one of the first instructors to teach classes in Canvas. As I learn about Canvas, I’ll do some journaling about my experiences and share them with the campus community so you have an idea of what to expect.

Knowing that change can be hard for a lot of people, a thoughtful and deliberate process to review and update our LMS has been underway for about one year. I have been involved in this process since the beginning and I am confident that the decision to move to Canvas is the best outcome for the university. You can learn more about the process and the decision at canvasproject.wayne.edu/process.

One huge advantage is that Canvas is a cloud based application—meaning that it is maintained by Instructure an Amazon Web Services hosting. This means that we will never have a moment like the beginning of the last academic year when we experienced several days of downtime. With hundreds of universities dependent on this application Instructure must guarantee reliability. They have the capacity to create backups and redundancies that Wayne State simply cannot create alone.

So, what do I actually think of Canvas?

First of all, I like it very much. Has the move over been without hiccups? No. I didn’t expect it to be. I’ve been using Bb for about 17 years and even though it very frequently drove me insane, I had become accustomed to its user interface and the Bb way of thinking. However, I have already found using Canvas to be more intuitive than Bb ever was. I’ve also found that even though the learning curve slows me down, I can do things more quickly than in Bb. Finally, I have to say that my students are far more receptive to Canvas and are having a far easier time with it than they did Bb.

Next semester, we are on schedule to have five colleges/schools using Canvas. University-wide usage will begin in the fall semester of 2018 with Blackboard being completely shut down in September 2018.

This is my first installment of this series of journals. I know I have not gone into any specifics of using Canvas. Don’t fret, they will come. For this entry, I simply wanted to outline our journey to Canvas.

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