Canvas is a stream-lined, intuitive LMS that is setting the pace for others to follow
September 06, 2016

Canvas is a stream-lined, intuitive LMS that is setting the pace for others to follow

Royce Kimmons | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 9 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User

Overall Satisfaction with Canvas

We use Canvas to teach online and blended courses related to instructional design and educational technology at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Our department uses Canvas along with a homegrown LMS called Learning Suite, but adoption is generally up to the lead instructor for each course. We use Canvas to organize course content, communicate with students, and grade assignments.
  • Intuitive: The Canvas interface is generally easy to navigate and aligns with students' notions of how a web app should operate.
  • Connected: Canvas connects courses, assignments, due dates, calendars, third-party (LTI) resources, and notifications well.
  • Simple: The Canvas interface is scaled-down and avoids bloat, making it generally easy to use for both students and instructors.
  • Customization: The instructor has some customization options within Canvas, but as with any standard LMS, power users will sometimes wonder why they cannot do things that seem simple.
  • Email: Depending on your preference this may be a pro or con, but Canvas tries to operate as its own email client. Though you can also receive notifications whenever students message you, having the separate inbox in Canvas can be confusing for students and instructors, and the conversation threads in a large course can become confusing very quickly.
  • Ugly HTML: This is only a critique that power users would have, but like many Web 2.0 systems that use a WYSIWYG interface for content entry, Canvas pages can often yield ugly HTML that does not comply with usability standards, especially if you work with others that are not mindful of these issues. As a result, I often have to edit HTML directly on content pages that have hundreds of unnecessary elements, that incorrectly use tags for layouts, or that do not provide appropriate "alt" or "title" attributes to visual content.
  • Improved Efficiency: We can efficiently create and teach courses in the platform from semester to semester.
  • Improved Interoperability: We can modify the operations of Canvas for research and improved functionality (e.g., learning analytics) through the use of LTI-compliant tools.
  • Improved Feedback: Through the use of rubric grading and document commenting, we can provide more focused feedback to students on assignments.
Canvas provides a nice blend of intuitive, simple interfaces with strong functionality. Other products will often try to do too much and become bloated (e.g., BB) or are not mature enough to provide reliable functionality in key areas without extensive support (e.g., Moodle). Also, Canvas has a production cycle very similar to Google and other companies that roll out updates regularly to fix bugs and improve functionality. This is both good and bad. It's good, because the product is always improving, and you are never stuck with a stagnant earlier version that has known bugs, but it's also potentially frustrating, because the interface and features may change at times without any perceived warning (at least for the lay user).
Canvas is a great all-around LMS, and it is easy to get up and running with if you have not used an LMS before or are redesigning a course. As with any LMS, however, converting courses between platforms can be a headache. So, if you have courses in Desire2Learn (D2L), Blackboard (BB), or some other LMS, be prepared to run into many problems if you try to use automated methods for converting the course over.