My school is currently in the process of switching from Blackboard to Canvas. For those not familiar with Learning Management Systems (LMS) like Blackboard and Canvas, they basically provide a repository for homework assignments, registration, online class discussions, and anything else a 21st century classroom needs. Through the transition this semester, my school is using both systems; the professor being able to choose which system works best for them. A couple of weeks before the semester started, I found this out and signed on to my new Canvas account (same log-in information thankfully).
As I began to use Canvas, I was annoyed. Starting a new semester is stressful enough, without making me learn a whole new system. But now, a few weeks in, I have learned to love Canvas. Here are the four things that won me over:
The App: Keep Me Signed In
I don’t think I have to explain the importance of an app, it is universally critical. Blackboard’s app was fine, but it was my least favorite part of the system. I often found myself going to the website on my phone, instead of using the app. My biggest complaint was that you couldn’t stay signed in (at least not that I could ever figure out). Now, I know, it sounds like I’m just being picky, but picture this: You get a notification on your phone, your final exam grade has been posted. This grade is the difference between an A and a B in this class. You click on the notification expecting to go right to it, but now you have to sign in. You know your password, but you’re nervous and have entered it wrong a few times and still don’t know your grade. With Canvas, you get that notification, click on it, immediately go to your grade and now know. It’s the little things.
Discussion Boards: Which Posts Are One Thread?
Discussion boards; the twenty-first century teacher’s favorite resource. Somehow these discussions have become a large part of the college student’s grade and where they spend a significant amount of time. What makes the Canvas discussion board different? It’s actually difficult to put into words. When I use Canvas, it seems like I am conversing with classmates in 2016, whereas Blackboard… didn’t. It is clearer in Canvas where a new conversation starts and who is talking to whom. Before, it was just a stream of posts not easily recognizable as relating to one post or another.
Interface: Simple And Intuitive
The Canvas system is very simple and clearly organized. It’s intuitive where things are located. You sign in, go to the course, and just click the tab you want to see. The syllabus is there and you can see exactly what your homework is.
Notifications: Please Make Them Helpful
Now pay attention because this is the best part: Canvas notifies you at sign in about what you have to do. In the top right corner is a to-do list. As someone who loves lists, this is fantastic. It says clearly what is due and takes you straight to the assignment. It also notifies you daily via email what’s been going on in your courses – someone posted a discussion, grades were posted, etc. (You can easily turn these notifications on or off.) This right here is the future. Downside of notifications: Sometimes your phone looks like this, but what can you do?
The Winner: Canvas, Obviously
Canvas won me over based on those four categories, as they are the most important to me. Canvas has made the online course environment intuitive and sets up the student and the professor for success.
Disclaimer: I did not go in to Blackboard to see if I could adjust the settings to fit my user style. I didn’t see an easy way to change the settings and didn’t seek it out. Realistically, searching through an LMS user guide is not my first priority.