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Teaching on a New Canvas

canvas.logoWe’ve spilled a lot of ink on reviewing learning management systems (LMSes) and alternatives to them on ProfHacker. Guest writer Abir Qasem has written about Piazza, Amy has written about using WordPress and multiple blogs as an alternative to a course LMS, and Ryan has written about ways to circumvent your institution’s technological choices.

Today I’m reviewing a new-to-me LMS: Canvas, founded in 2008 out of Salt Lake City, UT.  I stumbled onto Canvas due to my frustrations with Blackboard 9, which I found cluttered and difficult to navigate. Several of my academic friends suggested that I try out Canvas, and I was not disappointed. I managed to accomplish more in one hour in Canvas than what I had in five hours with Blackboard 9, which speaks volumes about Canvas’s easy-to-use, intuitive interface.

Canvas is available in two flavors: a campus-hosted version and individual accounts. Anyone can teach any number of courses for free on an individual account.

Some Canvas Features that I Love

Interface

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[Click any of the images in this post to view a larger version.]

The Canvas interface is clean, intuitive and uncluttered. Click and drag menu bar items to move them up or down. For example, if you want “Syllabus” to be the first menu item all you need to do is to click on the “Syllabus” item, hold down your cursor and drop it to where you want it to be positioned.

Simple Batch Upload

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Batch uploading files is made really simple via drag and drop.

Assignments

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Instructors can easily create and assign rubrics that can shared across assignments. All grades in rubrics are automatically totaled and sent to your gradebook.

Grading

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I love the Speedgrader grading function. It loads very quickly, keeps all assignments in one place,  allows you to make a combination of global and in-line comments, and to grade by rubrics. Recording audio comments is also an option.

Some Cool Canvas Features I Haven’t Used Yet

Discussions

Discussions__Trading_Races__LITT_2610 The Discussions feature looks really well constructed and easy to use. I especially like that you can “pin” discussions at your discretion.

Conferences

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You can hold “conferences”, or online webinars with your class, via Big Blue Button. I haven’t tried it yet, but will next semester when I teach an online class.

Overall

Overall, I’m extremely satisfied by Canvas and have found it to be superior to all other Learning Management Systems I have tried. I especially appreciate its customizability and flexibility.

Disclosure: I was not compensated in any way for this review of Canvas. I did receive some phone calls and emails from the company soon after I signed up to find out about my user experience, but these stopped once I asked them to stop contacting me. I really like the service and see myself converting to it for all my classes in the future.

Have you tried Canvas? What Are Your Thoughts?

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