Overall Satisfaction with Canvas
We are currently in our fourth year of using the Canvas LMS across our entire school (a 7-12 grade independent day school), in which over 200 faculty serve almost 1600 students. Our faculty uses Canvas as our digital "Hub" to store resources, collect student work, create digital discussions, and more. Now that our school has a 1:1 laptop program for all students, Canvas has helped us to consolidate the large variety of digital resources students use. It has made it much easier for our students to access their work, whether on campus or not, while also enabling them to easily share their work with teachers and other students. Given the ease of using Canvas and its flexible architecture, we have begun to use Canvas for other school purposes, including hosting club web pages and faculty professional development materials. Generally, we have been very pleased with the versatility of the Canvas LMS and the support of Instructure.
- One of Canvas' strengths is its "Discussions" feature, which is the most robust of all the LMS tools I've seen. Students can easily share ideas in discussions created either by them or by teachers, with options to reply in threads, include rich text, and attachments. The system allows for thorough conversations to take place entirely within the digital space of the LMS.
- Multiple types of assignments can easily be submitted through the Canvas LMS, including voice and/or video responses using the media recorder tool that are of great use for language study.
- The "Speed Grader" allows teachers to quickly sort through submitted work, while grading and adding feedback that students can see immediately. It's one of our faculty's favorite features of the Canvas LMS.
- Canvas offers a wide selection of LTI plugins that can be used to customize a school's instance of the LMS. For example, Quizlet flashcards can be directly embedded in Canvas pages and reviewed by students.
- Canvas offers a great mobile app giving our students easy access to the site.
- Canvas offers "peer review" within discussion, where students are assigned other student work to evaluate. While the idea is fantastic, the system of assignment and notification needs some work before it's as useful as other features of the system.
- It can be difficult to work with subsets of students, as one may do when teaching multiple sections of a class.
- The Canvas gradebook is evolving quickly and has become quite useful. But it needs a few more tweaks before it is ready to replace other traditional gradebooks.
- Moving our resources onto Canvas has challenged our community to consider how digital tools can change our approach to education in general. In a number of important ways, then, Canvas has welcomed us to explore using different tools with our students and has also helped us to encourage sharing from student-to-student, in addition to the traditional student-to-teacher.
- With access to course materials anywhere and anytime, students are much more able to stay on top of their work when traveling or away from campus. Effective use of the LMS can thus cut down on student-teacher email and reliance on having to write down everything in class.
- Using Canvas takes time, both in learning how to use the system and to work with it on a daily basis. This can create extra work for teachers, especially those who need extensive training on it. Additionally, not all teachers will use the tool to the same extent or depth, which can be potentially confusing to students (e.g., one teacher may post homework daily, while others post rarely).
Our decision came down to Canvas and Haiku, which we both loved. We chose Canvas, however, because of its potential for "disruption." In other words, Canvas was the LMS that would offer us the biggest challenge in rethinking how we taught our classes and interacted with our students in the digital space. We also loved how responsive and supportive Instructure is with their community of users and were confident that they would work with us to maximize our use of Canvas (and they've continued to do so!). And finally, we loved the versatility of the file system, in that sharing a variety of file types (e.g., Google Docs and other URLs, audio/video files, pdfs, etc.) was not only supported but quite easy.
Canvas is a fantastic LMS and, in my opinion, is the most robust of all the big LMS tools. But because of its wide offering of features, it needs a devoted site administrator, especially for a big school, and sufficient and ongoing training needs to be offered to faculty. If these conditions can be met, Canvas would be an excellent choice, and Instructure will certainly offer all necessary support. Alternatively, schools can elect to use the free or open-source version of Canvas, provided they can administer the system themselves.