To canvas or not to canvas

I have some big news fellow #eci834-ers – I bought my first MacBook and, in fact, my very first apple product this week.

screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-10-46-37-am

Why yes, I do have a second tab open demonstrating how to take a screenshot on a Mac…

Although I’m still reeling from the bill, I’m also getting used to the operating system. I have been a PC-er my entire life – from Dell to HP to Sony Vaio, I have always used a PC for my personal, academic, and professional pursuits. I do have an Ipod Shuffle that my husband bought for me years ago, but otherwise, all my electronics and phones have been android (I have owned almost everything BUT an Apple… or a Blackberry). For my final learning summary last semester in EC&I 833, I was in a group with Krista Gates and Luke Braun and we did use iMovie to edit our final product. It seemed so easy to use and efficient, and ever since, I have been wanting to buy an Apple product to explore it further. In comes my brother – who just bought a MacBook Pro – and my husband – who was unbelievably excited when I said I would consider buying a MacBook – and, a month later, here I am with this new machine. It is lovely, sleek, and oh-so-light, but different than what I have used in the past. So, it has been somewhat of a learning curve. I still don’t know where to find the forward-slash or backslash on the French keyboard – even google couldn’t even help me find them – but I am slowly getting used to this new operating system, to this new keyboard, and to this new mouse 🐭 (I just had to add this after it became a suggestion from the touch bar above the keyboard).

I feel the same when it comes to Canvas. We were challenged this week to look at a new LMS that we could perhaps use for our project in this class. I know that I repeat this every week, but I am a Google Classroom fanatic. I just love it. So it is hard for me to look at another LMS and consider using it for my project. I just know Google Classroom so well – just like my previous PCs – and I can troubleshoot and answer questions about it without hesitation. It is easy and efficient, and most of my students have now used it in some form or another in the classroom, making it easy to incorporate in my daily tasks. However, that is not to say that there isn’t more out there – in comes the MacBook – that can offer just as much, or, dare I say, even more (gasp!).

Canvas is an LMS system that seems actually quite similar to Google classroom in some regards. Many of my peers, like Logan, Kelsie, Andy and Kyle, to name a few, looked at Canvas this week as well and summarized a lot of the key elements of this learning management system – including the discussion threads, the quiz options, the different tools you can import and export from the site, as well as many other aspects. I would strongly encourage anyone that is contemplating using Canvas to check out these blogs.

I feel as though I need more time to explore Canvas fully. I wish I had a summer where I could attempt to set-up an entire course on this LMS, and then I could give a full critique of the pros and cons. Perhaps this is because of my very slow learning-curve when it comes to learning management systems, or technology as a whole, but I just couldn’t seem to get everything that Canvas offers. I watched some of the videos above to help me understand how I could set up my course, and I was able to achieve a few things, but there is still much more to be explored before I could definitely say that this system is for me and my courses.

Pros

  • The dashboard is nice in that it can be displayed in two different ways and it is easy to read. This is similar to Google classroom, which is perhaps why I like it.
  • I also enjoy the Coming up display on the dashboard, showing students and teachers upcoming due dates. There is also a calendar you can access directly from the dashboard that will indicate upcoming due dates in a visual format. This is a wonderful organizational tool that I think would greatly help a variety of learners.
  • When setting up your course, Canvas has a Next Steps icon on which you can click and see a checklist of the things that you should be doing to complete your course. I used this a lot when looking to see what I should be exploring when trying to set up
    my new course.
  • I like the look of the website. Now, I know this is superficial, but I do believe if something looks nice, it becomes less difficult to start using it. You need a simple yet efficient look – when there is too much information on a singular page, it becomes daunting. This is, in fact, a critique of Google Classroom and of Moodle – there is long scroll of death as was described in class this past week.

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Cons 

  • Once I created my course, uploaded my syllabus, started a discussion, and prepped a diagnostic assessment, I didn’t know where to continue on in the development of my course. Even with the Next Steps checklist, I was at a loss for how to organize the rest of the class. This is perhaps because I didn’t know where I was going with my course development – which is a critique on my planning skills, and not that of Canvas – but I was at a loss for what to do next.
  • I think more time is necessary to truly organize this well. It is easy to start-up, like I mentioned in the pros, but to do it well, I think it would take time and practice.
  • There are a lot of options in the development of a course. This can be overwhelming – I know at times I was just clicking from one selection to the next, not knowing what I should do or how I should organize the course. Options are of course good in the creation of a course, but again, require time to sift through to determine what would work best in our context.
  • When I went to import content, I tried to select things to import, but I had no idea what most of the selections were. This, again, is more of a critique on my personal knowledge of technology, but also a critique in that it is not the friendliest of formats for all teachers to use

import-content

There were also comments made within our Google+ community this week and on Twitter about Canvas’ customer service. I have not yet been contacted, but their immediate response to someone registering with their website can be seen as a pro or a con – depending on your personality and your level of interest. I personally would not have minded it as I clearly struggled with certain aspects of the website, but I understand how this is not preferable for everyone.

So really, my conclusion of Canvas is that it can be a great LMS if used properly. If used poorly, it can become clunky, difficult to follow, and overwhelming. But really, isn’t this the case with most LMS? Just like Audrey Watters says in her blog, just because an LMS exists does not mean that it will entirely change our education. Sometimes, it is simply a case of transferring what we are doing online – and not changing it to fit the 21st century. Amy has a great blog post this week that addresses these concerns very well.

We often find ourselves adopting new tools that simply perform old tasks a wee bit better, a wee bit faster – Audrey Watters

What does this mean for me and my course? Well, Canvas may be something to explore – when I am not in a time-crunch. I think I may still be looking into a combination between Google Classroom/Zoom/WordPress blogging (where students can maintain their work even after the course is completed – an important thought after reading Watters’ blog) when I do my project with Katherine, but it is nice to know that Canvas is out there to try.

What are your thoughts on these LMS? Which are you going to try? Let me know in your comments below!

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6 Responses to To canvas or not to canvas

  1. Pingback: I’m not artist, but I could sure use this Canvas | Ashley Murray

  2. missnreeve says:

    I definitely think there is validity to the idea of feeling an ease of use with something that looks pretty or uncluttered. Perhaps that’s because I am a very visual learner but you’ve made a great point! On another note I have really contemplated buying a Mac book! I just may ask for some how to tips when I do!

    Like

    • Thanks for the comment Nicole! I’m glad someone else likes when something “looks” good.

      The MacBook is quite nice… I’m very “thrifty ” and I’m getting convinced that it was worth the cost… it’s hard to admit!

      Like

  3. Pingback: iCan-(ish) | E. Therrien

  4. Pingback: It’s the Final Countdown | E. Therrien

  5. Pingback: Course Prototype 2.0… | E. Therrien

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