Utah State shares its opinion of Canvas


After years with Blackboard Learn, Webster University will be switching to Canvas, a new learning management system (LMS), in 2013. Utah State University made the same change in 2011.

“I haven’t had anyone say, ‘Oh, I miss Blackboard,’” said Camille Fairbourn, an online professor at Utah State.

In 2008, the educational software company Instructure took form. The company began from an idea of a few students who wanted to compete with Blackboard, the LMS leader at the time. By 2009, professors started to use Canvas. Utah State assistant professor Kelly Fadel was one of those professors.

When Fadel began to use Canvas, he did so independently. This was a result of Canvas not being a Utah State supported LMS.

But in 2011, the Utah Education Network negotiated a statewide license for Canvas. All publicly-funded Utah universities switched from their current LMS to Canvas by 2012.

“Canvas is like driving a Maserati compared to the first car my dad gave me when I was 19,” Fairbourn said.

She said the LMS is smoother for her and her students.

“We can link to the online homework and it can link back to the Canvas grade book,” Fairbourn said. “There is a lot more seamless interaction.”

Fadel also found Canvas to be easier to use. The Webster faculty and staff agree. They have described Canvas as “intuitive,” Fadel said.

At the Utah State Faculty Assistance Center for Teaching, Director Shane Thomas said the change from Blackboard Vista to Canvas was relatively smooth. As an administrator, he said it was easier to support faculty and students.

“It is so easy for us administratively to get in and help faculty with their course,” Thomas said. “And in Blackboard we had to jump through 20 hoops just to get in and look at their course. Canvas has made it so much easier as an administrator to help faculty.”

Thomas equates this ease of use to better faculty response to the problems of students.

“What we found is faculty members are giving a lot more feedback on assignments because it’s a lot easier to grade assignments,” Thomas said.

All Webster University campuses — domestic and international — will switch to Canvas  on May 26, 2013. This decision was made by a joint group of Information Technology, Online Services, the Faculty Development Center, professors and students. To find out more about Webster’s switch to Canvas. go online to websterjournal.com.

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