Dynamic Tools for Learning and Teaching in HSU's Move to 'Canvas' Learning Software

Dec 02, 2016

Engagement, empowerment, access, collaboration, and feedback. Those are just a few ways HSU Provost Alex Enyedi describes the benefits of the campus’s move to new classroom software.

This October, Enyedi presided over the official launch of HSU’s conversion from the Moodle learning management software (LMS) to Canvas, an open-source education system that aids in the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and delivery of university courses.

The Canvas LMS has been in testing since spring with 98 faculty members teaching more than 3,500 students in 100 courses in the Canvas Pilot Production environment. “The move to Canvas is truly a faculty-driven, shared governance model for our institution. We started the process with two goals in mind, to provide the best LMS system for HSU students and to further support student success,” said Enyedi.

During the launch, Enyedi shared some results of the pilot testing, highlighting interaction between students and instructors and the tools that keep students on track with their course assignments. Students who have been testing the software have found that the ability to work in a mobile platform and course notifications via email, text, and social media makes tracking their assignments much easier and less stressful. Such feedback from these early adopters was influential in the eventual decision to move to Canvas by HSU faculty and staff in June. Since then, the Canvas Project Team has been preparing for campus-wide adoption in fall 2017, something Enyedi eagerly awaits. “I am genuinely excited and happy that Canvas will be embraced on our campus as the next way to enhance learning and how we serve our students,” said Enyedi. “This has been a long time in the making and I am happy to share today the unleashing of the power and the potential that Canvas will provide to our students and faculty. This is going to begin a new chapter in HSU’s commitment to student success.”

Amy Rock, an instructor in the departments of Environmental Science & Management and Geography, is an early adopter of the Canvas LMS and a faculty ambassador for Quality Learning & Teaching. During Rock’s presentation of her Introduction to GIS course (GSP 270), which utilizes Canvas, faculty members remarked at her use of eye-catching and informative graphics, which work as visual guides for students who are navigating the site. Rock especially appreciated the ability to customize the look and navigation of the course. “Since I teach largely visually-oriented courses, to me, design is an important part of setting the tone of the class. I can set up a visual ’front door’ to help students quickly navigate course sections, and keep sections neatly organized and engaging using the editing tools,” she said.

Students and faculty are also excited about the highly integrated and easy-to-use grading tools. Christine Dobrowolski, a Health Education instructor in the Department of Kinesiology and Recreation, led a demonstration of the Canvas SpeedGrader, which aims to make grading much more efficient by giving instructors the chance to give feedback in video, audio or text and provide clear guides on how grades are assigned. “Grading rubrics give students a clear understanding of the expectations, as well as an understanding of their grade. In addition, the rubrics allow instructors to link learning outcomes to assessments,” said Dobrowolski. Students have also reported appreciating better information about the grades they receive.

Much work has been done to put this LMS migration in place and HSU faculty are invited to begin creating and migrating their own course curriculum into Canvas. From now until the end of the spring 2017 semester, the Canvas Project Team is offering weekly hands-on workshops for faculty on topics such as:

  • Creating Your Canvas Course
  • Content Creation and Design
  • Tools for Student Engagement
  • Assessment and Evaluation of Student Learning

At these training sessions, as well as in online tutorials, faculty will learn how to use Canvas tools that can expand the impact of their teaching and engage students in a dynamic learning process with the goal of student success. School of Education instructor Heather Ballinger was relieved after attending the first session of Creating Your Canvas Course. “This training helped alleviate my anxiety about the transition. Everyone was very supportive,” Ballinger said.

In addition to weekly trainings, the Canvas Team is also providing numerous Canvas Support Drop-In Sessions and Teaching and Learning Luncheons.

A calendar of upcoming sessions can be found at the HSU Canvas website – https://www2.humboldt.edu/canvas/calendar.

More information about the Canvas LMS migration and training can be found at https://www2.humboldt.edu/canvas/welcome.