Trying out Canvas: A history professor blazes her own trail

February 11, 2013

Even before SFU selected Canvas as its new learning management system (LMS), history professor Elise Chenier had been looking for something to replace WebCT. Her search led her to the cloud-based version of Canvas. (SFU’s Canvas platform will be hosted on SFU servers and will have slightly different features than Canvas Cloud.) According to Chenier, what sets Canvas apart from other LMSs is the greater ability it gives her to customize and modify its modules and components so that they fit well with the courses that she is teaching.

SFU began piloting its own Canvas platform in January, but Chenier’s own experience goes back to fall 2013 when she taught two courses using Canvas Cloud. She used the LMS primarily to provide assignments and for its calendar and grading functions.

“It allows me to provide additional resources within the module of the week,” says Chenier, and that made it easier for students to find the information they needed for specific topics in the class. Since Chenier was using a cloud-based version of the LMS with content stored on servers outside Canada, she had to obtain consent from her students to ensure that no privacy laws were violated. Despite this extra step, she found that using Canvas was useful and rewarding for her students.

Chenier will continue to use Canvas and she’s looking forward to SFU’s LMS migration: “It’s so normal to use an LMS for classes now, it’s really needed. Nowadays, we manage so much information, and it’s almost expected for us to provide extra creative and scholarly materials to students. It’s just the matter of making that information available and readily accessible to students … I chose Canvas because it’s visually clean and both my students and I find that it’s so much easier to use.”

Canvas support at SFU

SFU recently launched a Canvas support website. Instructors interested in learning more about how to work with Canvas may also contact the learning technology specialists within the Teaching and Learning Centre by email at learntech@sfu.ca or by visiting www.sfu.ca/learntech.

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