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.



CSG Fall 2013 – Is the Grass Greener? Exploring the New Wave of Course Management Systems, Part 3

Aisha Wood Jackson – University of Colorado.

Teaching and Learning Applications program. Supports iTunes U, Kaltura, VoiceThread, as well as LMS. They have Google Apps, and Coursera, as well as Desire2Learn. 

Came to D2L after being on WebCT. Two committees formed to come up with selection criteria for replacement – functional stakeholders and technical stakeholders. Criteria included Experience, background, and qualifications; features and usability; LMS admin; Product environment; product roadmap; financial. D2L won on everything except financial and Experience, background, and qulifications.

Using hosted D2L.

Implementation schedule: Spring 2011 pilot; Fall 2011 opt-in period; D2L default Spring of 2012; D2l All-in Fall 2012. 

2291 courses this fall (out of about 5000 total courses) on D2L. 

Tools used – Content (43%), Homepages (28%), Discussion (12%), Quizzes (11%), Grades (2%), dropbox (3%)

Had series of outages at beginning of spring semester – upgraded to new interface in January, started having outages and access issuesin mid-January, leading to a 61 hour outage on January 29 – Feb 1. D2L said failure while migrating CU to new file storage system. Yes but – D2L didn’t consider risk and potential impact and lack of communication about change: weren’t informed of work or given a scheduling choice. 

Managing after outage – transparency and communication was key (used lots of social netowrks); emphasized that OIT was not D2L; CEO and COO of D2L sent communication to the campus; Provost and CIO kept communicating to campus. Communicated alternatives to D2L during outage – how to email classes, share docs, etc. 

Afterwards had Faculty review committee look at options: staying with hosted D2L, self-hosting D2L, or middle-ground with a redundant system on campus. Did an audit and on-site visit to D2L. Decided to stay with hosted D2L. Saw that D2L was putting processes in place to do a better job. Changing agreement to require consideration of risk and impact when making changes, and requiring notification of changes. This year D2L implemented a change freeze during school start. 

CSG Fall 2013 – Is the Grass Greener? Exploring the New Wave of Course Management Systems, Part 1

Survey Results: Kelly Doney – AVP for Enterprise Applications, Georgetown

Started with a significant skepticism about Blackboard – wanted to understand if new players on the block had anything new to offer.

The landscape – On average, each institution has 2.88 LMSes. Harvard has 6, Penn State has 1. Great diversity of platforms being used.

50% use Sakai for the primary LMS, 24% Blackboard, 12% Moodle, 8% Desire2Learn, 12% Moodle. On average have been on their primary LMS 8 years.

36% of institutions migrated within last 5 years (almost all from Blackboard), 38% considering changing their primary LMS. Most popular candidate people are considering is Canvas, next is Blakboard.

Most people feel that their systems are reliable, but are dissatisfied with user experience, regardless of product. 

Features most used; grade book, photo reoster, faculty-student communication features, uploading course documents, assessments. Least popular: wiki, blogs, maybe because there are better products being used for those features.

Integrations – Kaltura, Echo, Voicethread, WordPress, Coursera, Edx, Google apps

Training and support: Average number of staff supporting primary LMS: 5.86 FTE. Nobody trains students, but targeted or 1:1 trainings are generally more popular than mass trainings. NYU, Duke have office hours for LMS support. Online documentation is popular. 52% offer around-the-clock support for LMS. Georgetown and Berkeley reported 2 FTE, and at least Georgetown that’s just the technical staff. Michigan reported 20 people, but that includes help desk staff.

On average, volume of support calls did not change with transitions to new system. Notable exception: UVa – more calls because of more capabilities and features in new system.

Student needs and satisfaction: Students care most about reliability. Students want faculty to use the LMS more, and use more of the LMS. Average of 70% of faculty and courses using the primary LMS.


Level of LMS Use – Basic users – 60% of faculty, moderate, 25%, Advanced 15%. Common obstacles – Grade book, integration with SIS. But at the same time grade book is the most popular feature. 

Reliability and update cycle: system reliability is generally high. Most schools update annually or biannually. USC avoids all even number releases of Blackboard.

84% host on premise. In future 67% of those thinking about changing LMS would host Off-premise, 33% undecided. Nobody said they wanted to host on premise in the future.  Duke hosts off-premise – went their because it was the fastest way to switch their system.

East of migration to new system: on a 0-100 scale, average score 48.5. NYU – Bb-> Sakai at 90.

Many people seeing that the future is likely to be an integration layer – Gartner sees an environment of a middleware layer as a learning platform connecting many pieces. If that’s true, is this the time to be changing LMS to a new monolithic platform? 

Discussion – one of the values of the LMS is providing a consistent home for each course. Also the integration of assessment tools with gradebook capable of complex calculations.