My university transitioned from Blackboard to Canvas as its primary LMS. Faculty leaders went through a long process to determine that the system was the best fit for us. But when you have hundreds of great minds in one space, you get several different approaches to utilizing digital learning resources.
Some of my professors love Canvas. They upload documents to our course page, use the messaging tool to communicate with all students or individuals, and post our grades so we can stay updated on our progress in the course. In some of my other courses, the class Canvas page is dead silent.
Many professors have been a part of the institution for a long time and have been teaching for even longer. Organizational change associated with introducing digital teaching and learning solutions is often difficult to facilitate. For them, traditional teaching methods and tools are reliable, tried-and-true, and the introduction of a new LMS and other digital learning technologies yields the question, “Why fix what’s not broken?”
Diversity and quality of instruction should evolve in relation to the diversifying needs of the modern student body. My generation was raised when personal computers were appearing in every home; smart phones became popular when we were preteens; and social media became an almost necessary part of our communication when we were in high school. We quickly adapted to the capriciousness of modern technology, and we naturally expect the same from the institutions we are a part of. My peers and I understand the value of eBooks, online courses, a well-developed LMS, and other such digital tools that strengthen our learning experiences.
Implementation of new resources is one of the most difficult challenges in edtech. My school’s learning sciences department, which helps manage how Canvas is used on our campus, has provided great resources to help students and faculty adjust to the new LMS. Training workshops and tutorials, consultations, and even sharing news about new Canvas products have helped make the transition from Blackboard much smoother.
Still, there isn’t a lot of similarity or cohesiveness in how Canvas is used across the university or even within individual colleges. This is largely due to the incredible size of my university and lack of centralized communication.
Canvas and new digital education technologies are meant to enhance the learning experience and build upon what already exists. The edtech industry is all about bringing teaching and learning into the future and equipping existing infrastructure with modern tools to generate better efficiency, communications, and results.
Now that I work at Unizin, I am able to see how Unizin can help universities get to a place where they are using their LMS platform to its fullest potential. It can be difficult to start conversations at universities, big and small, about how to effectively integrate edtech initiatives into their teaching and learning practices. It can be even more difficult to change the day-to-day workflow on campuses to include new digital tools, especially at universities, like mine, that has been around for so long and has a steadfast organizational culture. Unizin helps not only start these conversations but keeps them going so that educators can see positive outcomes.
I can say for certain that students do care about LMS platforms and digital tools. When dealing with a resource as pervasive and critical as Canvas, it’s easy to forget that changes to the LMS and the digital culture of a university directly impact all students, even more so than faculty. All of these changes affect not only how we learn but what we learn. I log onto Canvas every day for a variety of reasons, and even though there are things I would like to change about how my college collectively uses Canvas, it is still one of the most important tools in our digital teaching and learning arsenal. With more pervasive use of Canvas and digital tools, my campus at large would operate more productively online and the digital learning aspects of my education would improve.