By Austin Morris
As GTCC students prepare for the start of another academic year, some will have more than just new classes ahead of them. The college is transitioning from its longtime learning management system (LMS), Moodle, to an eventual replacement, Canvas, leaving students and faculty alike with a new system to master.
GTCC piloted a select number of Canvas courses during the Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 semester before making it the standard for Summer 2022 online courses. In Fall 2022, all online (courses with an N before the section number), hybrid (W), and blended (B) courses will be in Canvas. Traditional face-to-face (T) courses will remain in Moodle unless the instructor requests Canvas for those courses as well. By Spring 2023, all courses will be in Canvas and Moodle will no longer be available.
Nicholle Stone, Director of eLearning, said that 310 courses have been taught with Canvas since Fall of 2021, with 193 courses planned for this Fall semester.
Stone reported that faculty members have been working tirelessly to support this change. “While it is intense, the faculty have really stepped up and (are) working hard to redesign their courses, not only for Canvas, but to meet the fundamental QM (Quality Matters) criteria,” she said, describing QM as “...a rigorous process that requires two peer reviews; this means that faculty are reviewing other faculty members’ courses before they go live online.”
The internationally accepted criteria cover everything from ensuring that directions for getting started in a course are easy to find to ensuring that communication expectations are clearly stated, so GTCC students can know that courses taught in Canvas are taught with the same care and attention as those taught in Moodle.
The switch to the new LMS is part of a national trend in higher education. According to education data firm Edutechnica, 40.9 percent of institutions now use Canvas compared to just 14.7 that use Moodle, up from 38.1 percent and 15.8 percent, respectively, a year ago. Canvas is also the LMS used by Guilford County Schools.
“We will continue this work to convert Spring courses and then continue to work with faculty to constantly improve the content design, the facilitation, and, ultimately, the student experience,” Stone said. “With the approach that GTCC is using, we hope to make the online and hybrid courses more consistent in design, which is intended to lower the learning curve for students and to increase confidence.”
Students who used Canvas during the summer exhibited a largely positive reaction. Of thirty-four students polled via a course survey, sixty seven percent found Canvas easy to use and sixty four percent preferred it to other systems such as Moodle.
“I last attended school two decades ago and it's been a real relief to use Canvas for my first class back,” said Ashanti Jennings. “Canvas has a pleasing interface and is so simple to navigate.”
“I use Canvas for my high school courses but the Canvas for GTCC is a little different,” added Julissa Arzate. “Although it was tough to get used to at first, I am pretty comfortable with using it now.”
Ahmad Machhadani disagreed. “Finding everything you need is easier and faster on Moodle,” he said. “Moodle’s user interface is better in my opinion as well.”
One instructor who declined to be named described designing a Canvas course as “a massive time sink” but added that “it [Canvas] will probably serve everyone better in the long run.”
Zac Goldstein contributed to this report.
New System, New Features
Canvas offers a great many features that Moodle does not have:
Canvas Inbox is a one-click feature that allows students to easily communicate with all their instructors and fellow classmates.
Grade What-If tool – What would my grade be if I get less than 80 on these assignments, etc.
Many more options for assignment submission types, allowing for students to respond in a way that's more in line with how they learn (text, video, audio only, images)
Instant notifications: When students change their notifications to immediate, they will receive instant notifications when an instructor changes a due date, grades an assignment or releases important class announcements.
Canvas App: while eLearning doesn’t recommend students doing assignments from the Canvas app, it is a handy tool for keeping track of assignments and receiving instant messages and updates from instructors.
With Canvas Studio, students have the ability to record and store videos for their courses.
Help! How Do I…
Some students may feel apprehensive about the switch to a new LMS. However, there are several resources available to help students adjust to Canvas.
Canvas Quick Start: a course that anyone who has the link (Canvas Quick Start - Student Training (instructure.com)) can take if they are totally unfamiliar with Canvas and need/want additional help.
Help button: look at the bottom of the green global navigation bar on the left side of the screen. The Help button provides a one-click solution for students seeking quick answers.
The 24/7 GTCC Technical Helpdesk can be reached at 1-866-826-3748.
What Students Think
Summer 2022 Online ENG 111 Course Survey
1. Canvas is user-friendly and easy to navigate
2. My experiences using Canvas at GTCC have been better than my experiences using other learning management systems (including Moodle, Blackboard, or Canvas at another institution).