CSG Fall 2013 – Is the Grass Greener? Exploring the New Wave of Course Management Systems, Part 4

Washington – Use of Canvas

Wanted a flexible, extensible elearning platform; cloud-based and built for the Internet; speed to innovation; open standards and SOA (fits with Oren’s definition :); Modern user experience

What would make the Canvas LMS successful at UW? Pilotded during Autumn 2011 & Winter 2012; Wanted to collect informtaion about engineering and support in addition to faculty reaction. Found that both faculty and students rated Canvas very highly. Faculty who used it multiple times liked it even more. Faculty think using Canvas has made teaching more efficient. Repeat users started using new features, because easy stuff was easier.

Engineering – no technical impediments uncovered (auto-provisioning 10k course sections for Winter today)

Support – Found it easy to support. Some features were missing at beginning, but Canvas responded, doing releases every 3 weeks, and by spring problems were ironed out.

Have integrated enterprise groups within Canvas, so can create courses and course groups. Integrated with thei Astra role management. Doing social ID login. Now have 21000 students and 1200 instructors. 

Moving to Canvas – Jenn Stringer, UC Berkeley

The decision of what LMS to choose ends up being political as much as anything. Berkeley has recommendation to move from Sakai to Canvas. In the midst of a pilot phase. 

Upgraded Sakai this year so they have a stable platform to support a migration. Sakai has been the only free collaboration system at Berkeley, so they have 8,500 project sites that aren’t courses. Canvas is truly a learning management system, so won’t port those project sites over.

Motivation for change: faculty frustration with perceived lack of functionality within Sakai (could be more perception than reality); Campus commitment to select a next generation teaching and learning tool – initial plan to have a joint course/collaboration environment using Sakai OAE; withdrawal from OAE project in Fall of 2012; UC Online and UC Berkeley Extension commitments to Canvas. 

Limited Pilot – 10 courses – broad use cases with ~400 students.

Faculty findings – navigation was easy and intuitive; upload of images is faster and simpler; assignments tool was easy; quiz tool made the creation of formative, informal assessments much easier; modules tool made organizing content much faster; release cycle (every 3 weeks) confused some faculty with tool updates. 

Students – 66% agreed that canvas helped learn course content more effectively.

Identified issues: not great (yet) for large school administration, doesn’t have the kinds of tools for sections that Sakai has; Communication tools for subgroups are not great; Accessibility  – core student tasks acceptable – Berkeley has identified some issues, but not show-stoppers. Have given issues back to Instructure and they’ve been responsive – will that change as they grow?

Technical – SIS and SSO integration done – very easy. Local CSS & Javascript customizations including skinning/branding. LTI interop integrations with local tools; Leverage APIs to localize user experience. Capability of only showing photo rosters to faculty is not in Canvas, so they built and integrated a tool for that – took 2 weeks. 

CalCentral portal rolled out this fall – very lightweight Ruby on Rails app (moved away from Java). Easy to build integrations from Canvas into portal – mashup of Google task list and Canvas assignments for students. Mashed up activity streams from Canvas and the SIS. Announcements took .5 day to integrate with Canvas, but a week with Sakai. Canvas APIs “a dream to work with.”

Looking at Net+ licensing; 24×7 support is available; Cloud licensing is hard at UC. 

One issue is who has the right to take down content – Instructure has some language reserving their right to take down content – having discussions about how to deal with intellectual freedom and copyright. 

Next steps if recommendation goes through governance: Phased rollout with Opt-in. 5000 students this fall, 15k in spring, final rollout in Spring 2015.



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