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Canvas Directors Outline Benefits Of New System At Student Media Night

Members of Canvas’ communications, executive, and steering teams provided an inside look at the new learning management system last night at a “Canvas Student Media Night.” Even though you’re likely not a member of the student media, the Canvas reps provided some inside information about Penn State’s new LMS.

Penn State is in the process of replacing ANGEL, which has been the university’s LMS for more than 15 years, with Canvas, a welcome change that students and professors have embraced so far.

“Not to down-play ANGEL, but it’s a 2001 experience — and it’s 2016,” said Jennifer Sparrow, the Senior Director of Teaching and Learning with Technology.

Sparrow said that, just one year ago, Canvas’ funding was officially approved by the Board of Trustees, and since then the system’s implementation has been both rapid but gradual at the same time. You’ve probably noticed that not every class is changed over to Canvas yet, whether you personally are split between Canvas and ANGEL or you have friends who are.

Much unlike the transition from eLion to LionPATH, Canvas is being implemented slowly to assure the system is working well and both students and teachers are comfortable with the new LMS. The Canvas developers even urged students to pressure their teachers who are still on ANGEL to move over to Canvas.

Project leaders and professors first took those in attendance through Canvas’ many features, all of which are pretty self-explanatory and easy to find, but they pointed out a few functions that were absent in ANGEL and are a welcome addition.

For one, you can see feedback on assignments from your professors, including comments directly on any PDF assignment you submit. Your teachers might not do this, at least in larger classes, but the functionality is available.

There’s also the option to transfer your Canvas calendar to your other devices — including your phone — so you can see when assignments are due. While this doesn’t make up for LionPATH’s shortcomings that should allow you to put your class schedule on your phone calendar, you can see a list of which assignments and exams are due and when.

One of the best features of Canvas is its native app that allows you to do everything from check your grades to take quizzes and upload assignments right from your phone or other device, and highly functional mobile capability is sorely absent on ANGEL.

Though the implementation process might seem a little funky, student feedback for Canvas couldn’t be any different from the feedback for the, *cough cough* other system Penn State is implementing.

Terry O’Heron, one of the project co-chairs, said that everyone is going to be forced to transition to Canvas during summer of 2017. Students, professors, or other Penn Staters who have any questions or trouble with Canvas are encouraged to check out the resources at canvas.psu.edu or the built-in help on Canvas, which offers 24-hour live chat capability with somebody from Instructure (the company who provides Canvas) who’s an expert on the system. Overall, O’Heron wants Canvas users to know what’s going on.

“We don’t want to do this in the closet,” he said. “We want to be transparent.”

O’Heron said too that the Canvas Steering Committee meets every other week and actively works to share best practices and get feedback, notably from students. Even if you’re not on the steering committee, any Canvas user is able submit requests for things they would like to see changed or implemented. Better yet, the system updates every three weeks so if bugs do come up, they aren’t around for long.

“Canvas isn’t perfect and we’re always looking for ways we can improve and what they can do better,” O’Heron said.

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About the Author

Lexi Shimkonis

Lexi is an editor-turned-staff writer who can often be found at either Irving's or the Phyrst (with the chances she'll have her backpack being the same). Lexi is a senior hailing from Spring City, PA (kind of) and studying Civil Engineering. Please email questions and/or pleas for an Instagram caption to [email protected], or for a more intimate bond, follow her on Twitter @lexshimko.

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