Canvas chosen as successor to CTools course sites


Following the recommendation of a faculty advisory group, U-M’s Ann Arbor campus will move all course sites from CTools into a new learning management system called Canvas by the fall 2016 semester.

The Digital Innovation Advisory Group Digital Ecosystem Subcommittee’s recommendation comes after a one-year pilot of Canvas, which is used by more than 700 colleges and universities worldwide.

Currently, more than 1,700 U-M courses — about 35 percent of all U-M courses using a learning management system — and 28,700 students are already using Canvas.

“I love the fact that it’s becoming a standard in our industry. I’m talking to some of the other top business schools and they’re on Canvas, making it very easy for us to share best practices,” said Wallace Hopp, associate dean for learning and design in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, and professor of industrial and operations engineering in the College of Engineering.

“I converted over to Canvas this year and I’m really pleased. I am facilitating a flipped classroom delivery and have set-up digital videos and online assessments through Canvas. It’s worked flawlessly for me.”

Help for faculty using Canvas

Move CTools Course Content to Canvas: Instructors can request “Convert2Canvas” assistance through the ITS Service Center (764-HELP). Instructors can review and modify their materials before ITS moves the content into their new course site. Materials are moved within 3-5 business days.

School & College Support: Many schools and colleges are providing unit-specific support. Instructors are encouraged to talk to their designated Canvas Unit Contact.

Canvas at Michigan: This Canvas course site provides support materials, training schedules, discussions, announcements, new feature information, and more. Self-enroll in Canvas at Michigan to view all content.

Optional Canvas Training: Offered through hands-on workshops, self-paced tutorials, and online support guides.

Faculty Exploratory: Pedagogical and instructional technologies consulting is available to help faculty create, configure, and use their Canvas course site.

Canvas is the first learning tool offered through Unizin, a consortium of institutions co-founded by U-M and focused on collaborative digital education. The U-M pilot involved more than 130 courses, with 150 instructors and 10,000 students. Evaluations showed 74 percent of faculty respondents prefer Canvas to CTools, while 18 percent are neutral.

“Faculty who piloted Canvas identified tools and features that allow them to experiment and improve the way they’re teaching, including SpeedGrader, student groups, course analytics, and the ability to easily integrate media,” said David Mendez, associate professor of health management and policy in the School of Public Health and chair of the Digital Ecosystem Subcommittee.

“These features allow faculty to modify and improve some of the ways they engage students. It will be a rewarding experience for both students and faculty.”

All of the student focus group participants preferred Canvas to CTools, but Mendez acknowledged students would prefer not to use two learning systems simultaneously.

In order to expedite the availability of a richer teaching platform, and shorten the period during which Canvas and CTools courses co-exist for students, the faculty subcommittee recommended:

• During the current 2015-16 academic year, both Canvas and CTools will be available. Faculty can choose either system to host their courses during the entire year.

• Starting with the fall 2016 semester, new course sites must be created in Canvas.

• Previously created course sites will still be accessible on CTools until August 2017. After that time, information stored on old CTools course sites will be archived and made available to faculty, upon request.

• CTools sites that are project-based (e.g., collaboration, research, or administrative) and not used for course instruction will move to alternative tools at a later date not yet set. The university will continue to support CTools for these sites until that time.

“I encourage faculty to experiment with Canvas and to engage with colleagues who have used it. Talk to your local IT support or instructional designers who can help you get the most out of Canvas,” said Mendez.

“Once people start using Canvas, they realize the transition is not that hard and the rewards far exceed the cost of moving to a new system. I encourage our colleagues not to wait too long to get started.”

Faculty members share their experience with using Canvas.


Students share their experience with using Canvas.


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