By NICK WORT
IU South Bend students and the rest of the IU system will be seeing big changes in the way their courses are administered throughout the next two years with the release of the new Learning Management System (LMS) called Canvas.
According to Kael Kanczuzewski, instructional technology specialist at the University Center for Excellence in Teaching (UCET), IU has been looking for a new system for the past two years. After extensive testing across the IU system, Canvas was chosen. The system is also in widespread use at other universities around the country.
“One of the advantages of moving to Canvas is that over 700 universities are using it. It is a big system, which means that Canvas not only built a huge array of help materials, but other universities have also contributed their own help guides,” said Kanczuzewski, who helps faculty navigate the new system. “With Oncourse, all the help material came from IU, but now we have all these universities across the whole United States helping.”
One key factor that led to the switch, according to Kanczuzewski, was the widespread popularity of tablets and cell phones on campus. Mobile versions of Canvas are available for both iPhone and Android devices. The system is also much easier to use in a mobile web browser.
“There is a continued push for people using mobile devices,” Kanczuzewski said. “A lot of people use iPads as their primary device and don’t even have a laptop for on-the-go, and Oncourse was basically incompatible with an iPad.”
Canvas includes many new features for both students and faculty, including faster feedback on assignments. Faculty can instantly leave comments on student’s papers without ever leaving the system, and students can view documents inside of Canvas without having to download them. The program also features the ability to embed video and audio files. This feature has already been embraced by Eric Souther, assistant professor of new media at IUSB.
“Oncourse could not do everything I wanted to do. So when Canvas came out, it had all these new and useful features, and it just felt easier for students to log in and use,” Souther said. “The level of communication across the board is way better on Canvas.”
Before the release of Canvas, Souther had already stopped using Oncourse and instead taught most of his courses on blogs. With the new system, he is able to teach his courses within the university program. Souther also noted that the new system brings many other useful features, like the ability to reply to student messages via email, as well as an auto save feature and the easy navigation the system offers.
Since much of the faculty is still learning and transitioning to Canvas (roughly one third of faculty have at least tested the program, according to Kanczuzewski), many students are forced to know both systems. This could lead to some confusion, especially for incoming students.
“Some faculty will be teaching in Oncourse and others will be using Canvas, which makes it a little bit more difficult for students, because you have to know whether you need to go into Canvas or go into Oncourse,” Kanczuzewski said.
Despite Canvas being unveiled during the summer, Oncourse will not disappear right away. The system will be phased out by the summer of 2016, with Canvas as the only system afterwards.
Student’s feelings on the new system seem fairly mixed, with many appearing confused or unsupportive of Canvas
“It’s about the same as Oncourse, to be honest. I don’t know why it exists,” said Zach Udell, an IUSB student with three courses on Canvas. “Canvas does work a little bit better though. It’s more responsive.”
“It’s really confusing. Maybe if I had the chance to use it a little more, I would like it, but right now I’m confused,” said Paige Woodward, another IUSB student. “I think Oncourse is better.”
For any problems or questions regarding Canvas, contact the Help Desk at firstname.lastname@example.org. An introductory guide to Canvas for students can be found online at guides.instructure.com/m/8470.