Why Canvas?

About Canvas

canvas logo

Canvas is a cloud-hosted Learning Management System (LMS) that officially replaced Blackboard on July 1, 2017.  Canvas provides the WPI community with improved stability, functionality, and flexibility.  With its modern, intuitive interface, streamlined grading, and student collaboration features, Canvas really is an LMS that is both user-friendly, and innovative!image of PC, tablet, mobile devices

Canvas operates as a software as a service (SaaS) product using Amazon Web
Services. It provides an extensive, open API, making it easy for third-party apps to plug right into Canvas. It also has one of the most well developed mobile applications for tablets and smartphones using Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android operating system. The mobile application is free and permits access to many of the core features.

Many research universities already use and trust Canvas including Indiana University, University of Pennsylvania, Brown and Dartmouth. During WPI’s selection process, Canvas met or exceeded the high-level requirements identified by the community, ACPWG, and the Academic Technology Center, which included usability, reliability, accessibility, learning tools integration, and mobile device support.

The Selection Process

An LMS Satisfaction survey was distributed to all faculty via the faculty mailing list.  A total of 67 unique responses to the survey were received and results were shared with the task force along with a combined matrix of the results of all responding LMS vendor RFIs.   It was decided that, based on the survey results and functionality identified in the vendor RFI matrix, demonstrations of four systems would be completed as part of the evaluation process. 

Academic Technology Center staff coordinated with each of the four vendors to send a client representative and a solutions engineer (to address more technical or integration questions) to WPI to facilitate a two-hour, hands-on demonstration of their platform. A test sandbox was established for each platform and LMS task force members had the opportunity to preview how their course content would transfer into the alternate platform. 

At the conclusion of the vendor platform demonstrations, the task force regrouped to decide next steps. The task force acknowledged that, no matter what platform is selected, there will be significant disruption in how content is presently organized and displayed to students in the next LMS.

Due to functionality concerns, two (of four) platforms were eliminated from further discussion by the Task Force.  To make a recommendation based on the Task Force’s two platforms (Instructure Canvas and another vendor), the task force compared specific critical platform functionality, including:

  • Spreadsheet editing in the grade book and how each platform handles grade entry for in-class assessment activities where there is no electronic submission.
  • In-browser editing functionality, including ability to annotate/comment on student assignment submissions.
  • The way the platforms process course emails, announcements, and messages.
  • Calendaring tools and the ability to push/pull from external calendars and batch-shift due dates for all assessment activities within a course.
  • Ability to integrate in custom content such as HTML or other tools used in teaching and learning.
  • Lastly, support provided by the vendor:

–  Documentation for the administrator and end-user

–  How the vendor provides technical support

–  How system updates are pushed out

–  Support for in-house innovation happening at WPI

Results of the task force discussions were clear-cut: Instructure Canvas was favored by the vast majority of the group. 

Download the full task force recommendation.