Canvas: An End of Pilot Semester Review

During the Canvas pilot in the Spring of 2017 we tested the LMS for a variety of roles. Instructors and learners tested the usability and features via the courses taught in the pilot program. One of our students browsed the LMS throughout the semester with a Teaching Assistant’s access and provided her brief experience in comparison to her experience on Blackboard.

By Emma Corette

I had the opportunity to access Canvas as a teaching assistant during the 2017 spring semester and I have been using Blackboard as a student for the last 3 years in my CI classes. I have been asked to review the Learning Management System that we will be using, going forward and discuss what I liked or did not like about the system. So, if you are interested, let’s get to it!

Blackboard

Blackboard Logo
Since I started going to college, I have used three learning management systems: Desire 2 Learn (D2L), Blackboard and now Canvas. As a student, I want a system that is easy to use. I do not want to spend time searching through different modules, pages and drop-down lists to find what I need for a class. The first LMS I used, D2L, at Moorpark Community College definitely did not do this. The first semester I was at CSUCI I was impressed with how much better Blackboard was. It was more intuitive than D2L was. It was much easier for me to find content, assignments, quizzes, etc., basically anything I needed to get my classes done. However, even though Blackboard was comparatively better than D2L, it was never a great website. It has always appeared that the Blackboard dashboard was set up in a very generic way. It appeared like people just added modules on the home page and thought everyone would use them, which gave it a very cluttered feel. Additionally, in the two years I have used Blackboard nothing noticeable has changed on it. The dashboard of Blackboard, the landing page you first see when you open it up from the MyCI page really only serve three purposes. First, it opens up to my courses. Second, we can see updates from our teachers. Third, we can see our grades. Many other uses are hidden and hard to reach. In the process of writing this review, I talked to a classmate about the website and his response is probably the best I have received, “Blackboard has a calendar?” Blackboard has a number of unused, unseen features.

Canvas Dashboard

Canvas

On Canvas, I was a teaching assistant this semester and I was really impressed. The design was much better. Instead of the clutter that will not be used and forgotten, you see links for the classes you are enrolled in for the semester. Instead of the hidden features that will not be utilized as in Blackboard, Canvas has a global navigation bar off to the side with icons for your account, dashboard, courses, calendar, inbox, commons and help. Canvas cut down on the clutter and made their content useful so that students will be more engaged. For instance, the calendar on Canvas has several useful tools for students. Canvas has your classes, your assignments in those classes (their due dates) and your teacher’s office hours. And instead of having most of your class content under content, Canvas broke the class module into the categories that you will need: announcements, syllabus, assignments, discussions, etc.

As a TA, I tried creating quizzes and surveys for the class. It took a few tweaks to get them right, but overall it is a very intuitive process much like the rest of Canvas.

Blackboard vs. Canvas

After spending a semester working with Canvas. I am excited. This LMS is intuitive, clean, and well organized. It will help instructors organize their classes more than Blackboard has. This in turn will help keep students more engaged in classes and online.

The design and aesthetics of the course page are both user friendly and sleek on Canvas. The content is functionally categorized and multiple pathways to accessing features and content makes it easier to navigate. While Bb also has many of the features Canvas offers the difficulty in finding where they are buried keeps us from using them when necessary.

In my experience creating content on Canvas is intuitive and easy; the display of the contents published at the end is clean and easy to navigate. All in all, it seems that Canvas has a better idea how to design a learning management system for faculty and students of this decade.

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