Starting with a blank Canvas

More than 2,100 students are test driving CANVAS this semester, a program that could protentially replace K-State Online in coming semesters.

“Potential” seems to be the buzzword surrounding a program currently being piloted by K-State students and faculty. The learning management system, known as Canvas, is being test-driven during this semester by 50 instructors, 92 class sections and more than 2,100 students, and is being considered to replace the K-State Online service.

As K-State continues to grow and mature in its online tool usage, the needs and expectations of instructors and students have become more complex. To accommodate this growth, Canvas was presented as an updated alternative to KSOL.

Last semester, a small pilot was launched to determine if there was a technical fit between K-State and Canvas, as well as to preliminarily gauge faculty and student opinions of the system.

“The feedback was overwhelmingly positive,” Scott Finkeldei, associate director of the Office of Mediated Education, said. “It was an easy decision to go with a second pilot to try and understand if it would be a valid, functional replacement.”

This semester, the feedback from both instructors and students seems to be in favor of the trial program, based on their preliminary interactions.

There are many things that Canvas does better than K-State Online,” Brian Arthaud-Day, dean of business administration and instructor, said. “The overall ability to communicate with students within the system works more seamlessly in Canvas than in K-State Online. I love the SpeedGrader functionality (the ability to grade documents submitted into Canvas directly in Canvas). This feature alone cuts my grading and communication time in half.”

Arthaud-Day also acknowledged some shortcomings of the trial software and areas where both programs are similar.

“There is no way to directly email students from within Canvas,” Arthaud-Day said, though this issue will be mitigated after most faculty adopt Canvas and students are logging into the system more regularly. “The creation of groups worked better in K-State Online, but the features available to the groups, once created, seems comparable in both systems.”

Young-Ok Yum, associate professor of communication studies, noted that Canvas has allowed her to meet with students more often and engage in more one-on-one interactions online.

Canvas helps me monitor my students’ learning experience better and give them feedback in a timely manner,” Yum said. “Canvas is a digital educational space where students can live, socialize, study and work in both physical and digital forms, navigate from one space to the other fluently and with ease, and manage their schedule flexibly and efficiently.”

According to Yum, students seem to become more acclimated to the new digital environment over time and enjoy staying connected with the class learning community.

“Canvas is a significant improvement upon the current system,” Mitchell Durr, senior in advertising, said. “It is pleasing to the eye, intuitive and functional. My favorite part is the fact that you can pair it with other services such as Google and LinkedIn. In terms of synchronizing calendars and emails, this is a promising feature of Canvas.”

In addition to aesthetics and link-ability, some students said they appreciated the more intricate functions of Canvas.

“I like the fact that I am able to enter any grade I would like and see how low a certain score on an assignment will change my percentage,” Bridget Hoover, senior in agricultural communications and journalism, said.It is also nice to be able to see who is in the class with you, that way if you don’t remember what’s due that day it’s easy to get in contact with someone from class.”

Despite all the raving reviews, Eli Schooley, student body president and senior in political science, said he stresses Canvas is still only being considered as an option at this point.

“The transition is just that: potential,” Schooley said. “While the trials with Canvas have so far gone well, we’ll be learning much more with an expanded pilot this semester of around 2,000 students regarding whether or not Canvas is the right client for K-State.”

All information gathered at the pilot’s completion will be compiled and documented in a final report. This report will then be presented to the Office of the Provost, K-State Online Advisory Council, Faculty Senate Committee on Technology and Student Governing Association for their consideration.

If Canvas is approved, all K-Staters could be using the system as early as next year.