Blank Canvas: The Faculty-Friendly and Student-Focused LMS
February 24, 2015

Blank Canvas: The Faculty-Friendly and Student-Focused LMS

Michael Smith | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 10 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User

Overall Satisfaction with Canvas

Canvas will be launched by my institution as its online-wide Learning Management System (LMS) in the Spring 2015 quarter. We are in the process of transitioning from another LMS to Canvas because of its dynamic, student-friendly features. In fact, I work as an online instructor at several institutions, and have undergone this same process at another school. Canvas is certainly worth the switch because it solves many problems. In particular, it makes the online learning process easier for students to navigate because it looks and feels familiar to them. The LMS brings a social media-like feel to online learning, encouraging interaction, while maintaining a robust dashboard filled with learning tools, ensuring that students are receiving the required course content. Students and instructors also have a mobile app available to them and this app has most of the same features included.
  • Without question, the major strength of Canvas lies in its utilization of technology. As an instructor, and even as a student, there is not much one cannot do in this LMS. With integration of Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Khan Academy, the possibilities are endless for creative course design. In addition to the mobile application, students and faculty can also associate a mobile phone number and receive SMS alerts. These alerts can be managed according to personal preferences.
  • Canvas navigates extremely well for both students and instructors. The dashboard makes it easy for students to access weekly modules and participate in discussion forums. In fact, the discussions are very modern, allowing for better peer-to-peer interaction and instructor feedback. Student and faculty profiles also make the online environment feel more interactive, allowing users to upload pictures of themselves, link their social media sites, and include personal information.
  • Grading has always been a challenge in other systems, but the SpeedGrader feature in Canvas eliminates any frustration, confusion, and difficulty an instructor might have regarding student grading. For written assignments, documents such as Microsoft Word files appear on the left and the instructor's grading dashboard is on the right. An instructor has the option of adding in-text comments within the documents as well as separately. As an English instructor, this is an amazing time-saver that you really have to see to believe!
  • For those who may not be technically savvy, particularly with social media and other high-tech Learning Management Systems, Canvas may take some getting used to. Luckily, my institution developed a wonderful training program for faculty. In addition, there are many video tutorials available on the Internet for free!
  • There are no "e-mails" in Canvas and that often throws some people for a loop at first. There are, however, "conversations," and this method further reinforces the pro-interaction approach to student learning. Instead of sending an e-mail to the instructor, a student simply starts a conversation with the instructor and he or she responds. An alert does show up in the instructor's "Inbox," so there are not many differences beyond naming conventions.
  • I have only used the mobile app on my iPhone and while most features are available, there are some limitations. You will be pleasantly surprised with the app compared to other systems with app technology, but do expect that not all options to be available in the Canvas mobile app. As an instructor, for instance, I can view and respond to student messages. However, I can only view student discussions and assignments; I cannot grade those items at this time. I do expect those functions to become available at some point!
  • Higher student retention.
  • Better student engagement.
  • Stronger student/teacher interactions.
  • Moodle,ANGEL,Desire2Learn,Blackboard
I have used many other Learning Management Systems as an online instructor, including Angel, Blackboard, Desire2Learn, and Moodle, but Canvas is by far the most faculty-friendly and student-focused. With an array of technology tools available to incorporate for stronger and more creative course design, this LMS earns its name for giving faculty and instructional designers a blank canvas for making learning fun and interactive for today's online students.
Canvas is extremely well-suited for career college online divisions that want a more student-centered approach and a boost in their retention. During my time as an instructor using this LMS, I have been able to incorporate more video and audio presentations, manage my time more efficiently because of the SpeedGrader feature, and interact more smoothly and effectively with my students. As a result, I have seen much higher retention rates and my students are much better engaged.