By Shawn Johnson
Lynn’s progressive vision has been furthered recently by the implementation of Canvas, an innovative tool to assist dialogue in the classroom and create an unwavering link between course materials.
The program, developed by Instructure, is a learning management system (LMS) designed to simplify the learning process for both educators and students. By connecting all the digital tools in one easy to find location, more time can be spent on learning rather than searching.
As a result of these benefits, Canvas has become the fastest growing LMS in America, mostly due to the increasing collegiate support.
While the software has taken the nation by storm, its journey to Lynn has quite the backstory. Well before iBooks were a commonality, the LMS Blackboard was the go-to for all learning needs. However, the iPad initiative at Lynn and development of iBooks quickly took the aforementioned software out of the picture.
“Blackboard let us down because they did not offer a mobile friendly platform,” said Mike Petroski, director of faculty development and academic assessment. “When we started the iPad initiative, it just did not function well with Blackboard anymore. On the other side, Canvas from the very beginning made sure to be mobile friendly.”
Once Blackboard came to an end, iTunes U became the new craze for educating individuals of the Lynn community. With that, the instructional design department quickly converted content to the new LMS to house all of the university’s iBooks. Still, an extremely mobile friendly outlet was needed as iTunes U was outgrown seemingly overnight.
In the search for a different LMS system, Petroski and his team kept coming back to Canvas for the best performance. Seeing the capabilities of the program, they could not overlook Instructure’s product. Once it was clear Canvas stood tall above other options, the decision was made and the three-month transition began.
“We saw Canvas as a valuable learning management tool for the Lynn community,” said JeVaugn Jones, instructional designer. “Students and faculty are given the ability to keep everything under one umbrella – all of their content, objectives, assignments and calendars.”
To start the conversion to Canvas, the instructional design team hosted training sessions for faculty during the last week of the spring 2017 semester and the first week of this semester.
Once the professors had been introduced to the LMS, the summer-long effort to convert courses began for Petroski and others. With other schools taking years to convert, Lynn’s team truly flipped the script in just a few months.
“Some local universities have taken three years or more to switch over to Canvas,” said Petroski. “In three-and-a-half months, we released a new LMS – no school has ever done it so quickly.”
Thus far, Canvas has been received quite well by both professors and students. By condensing all of the learning platforms into one single app, education has become more straightforward with Canvas.
Rather than having to check attendance and Gradebook, LiveText and iTunes, all three have found their home within the innovative Instructure software.
Moving forward, Lynn is engaged in a five-year contract with Canvas, a longer trial period of sorts. With the ever-changing world of technology, it is hard to imagine where education could be by 2022. However, Petroski has confidence in where Canvas will take the Lynn community.
“I would imagine Canvas is agile enough to change with the industry, to make changes accommodating the current technological environment,” said Petroski. “Canvas has showed our ability to test boundaries and make a decision. We will move and change with the times, and I would love to see Canvas be a part of that.”
In its infancy at Lynn, Canvas’ user error has dropped tremendously. While growing pains arise occasionally due to the mass amount of individuals utilizing the program, the instructional design team is proud to report no major issues have come across the LMS system thus far. Without a doubt, the transition to Canvas has been quite the adventure, yet the story is far from over.