For around a decade Blackboard has been the Learning Management System at KSC. However, during that time with Blackboard the Learning Managment System (LMS) industry has been changing dramatically. Given that, KSC is currently looking at an alternative LMS and it’s called Canvas.
According to Jenny Darrow, director of Academic Technology, Canvas is currently a pilot program being used by certain students and faculty opposed to Blackboard. Currently, there are about 400 students enrolled in the program with 12 faculty members piloting the program for the spring semester. Darrow said, “It includes faculty from all three of the schools, two faculty members from each.” Darrow added, that a few IQL professors are using the technology as well as including adjunct faculty. The Mason Library is also included; staff members are members of Academic Steering Technology Committee.
According to the KSC Academic Technology website, “Canvas integrates rich media into its core-students and faculty can create media content on the fly without having to leave the Canvas environment.” It is also worth noting Canvas is available on iOS and Android devices, an option that is also available with Blackboard. In addition, functions like the Speed Grader, feedback tools, and easy Peer Grading support reduce the amount of time faculty need to invest in routine tasks, freeing up time for other higher-impact endeavors.
In addition Darrow stated, “It is very student-based, very student friendly.” Some of the features are that students can have a text message sent to their phone if they wanted to.
Something else that Darrow promoted about Canvas was that it was given a gold star rating from the National Federation for the Blind, an achievement that Blackboard has also achieved, being the first LMS to do so. Darrow added, “I think it’s very important for students and faculty who are using screen readers to be able to navigate their page.”
According to the IT Department, this is also the first time that KSC has done an in-depth look at other learning management systems. Even if the pilot is a success based on reviews the migration will not happen that quickly, according to Darrow.
So far Darrow said she has gotten some feedback on the program and some faculty and students do in fact like the program. Celine Perron, a theatre and dance professor, said she really likes the program. Perron said, “It is visually appealing and it is pretty simple to use. The part that I like the most about it is the outcome section and assignment section. I think it works well.”
Perron also uses Blackboard. Perron said that when Blackboard first came to campus that she was on the first team that tried it. Perron added, “The difference with Blackboard and Canvas is it feels like Canvas is more flexible.”
Perron said, “I had some enthusiastic responses.” Some of the students seemed to have knowledge of the program and Canvas wasn’t foreign to them, she added. If Perron had a choice to use a program she said, “I guess my gut reaction Canvas … I’m enjoying it.”
Senior Alisa Santangelo is using the program in her IQL class and said she likes the new program. “I like that it’s calendar based. The modules show what is coming up in their class in weeks ahead.”
At the end of the program the students and faculty will be given a survey on whether or not they liked the program. Darrow said that it is going to be important that students give details and specifics on the program. Darrow stated, “If you like it explain what you like and if dislike explain why and what you dislike. It might be a failure of Canvas or it might be a little coaching with the instructor to make things work better.”
Feedback is going to be crucial as the contract with Blackboard is soon set to expire and the result of this pilot will help decide possibly what academic technology KSC will use going forward, Darrow said.
Brian Clemmenson can be contacted at