By SAMIHA ISLAM
Instructure Canvas has replaced Blackboard as the school’s new e-learning tool, starting this fall.
The University of Mary Washington’s contract with Blackboard ended in March 2011, prompting a search for a new system that would integrate current social technologies with new learning tools, according to UMW’s E-Learning Specialist Lisa Ames.
Canvas should have less down time than Blackboard, according to Ames. It also integrates web-to-web technology like Skype and Facebook, allowing features like “conference,” which allows students to connect with each other and the instructor through both audio and video.
Many students and members of faculty are pleased with what Canvas has to offer.
“Canvas allows for more control and it’s easier to fill in students’ grades,” Professor of physics Hai Nguyen said.
Canvas has tools similar to Blackboard but with better navigation, according to junior Yawen Maier.
“The preview page is really nice because I don’t have to download the document,” Maier said.
“Also, the collaboration feature lets the entire class take notes together so everyone can look up stuff they missed.”
The collaboration feature is one of many new tools that Canvas offers. The main page on Canvas allows the student to see new announcements and assignments. Clicking on a course reveals tools the instructor enabled, which includes online conferencing.
Another feature is an application that instructors can download for their iPhone, iPad or Droid.
“Basically, it allows instructors to do speedier grading through mobile apps,” Ames said. “We’re currently working on an app for students as well.”
The changes, however, were not positive for everyone.
Senior Lauren Kim said, “It’s hard because a lot of professors don’t use it.”
Instructors had two information sessions available to learn how to use Canvas, but some still opted out of using Canvas, at least for the beginning of the fall semester, choosing instead to simply email students.
“Canvas has limited use and is basically the same as Blackboard, but I can’t mass email all students in all of my courses,” said Professor of Biology Rosemary Barra.