Most faculty and students who participated in a pilot project for Canvas, the learning management system proposed as the successor to CTools, prefer it over the current system, according to an early preview of the pilot evaluation.

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Thirty-five instructors and 3,000 students participated in piloting Canvas in 23 courses during the fall term. Access to the system became available when U-M joined Unizin in June 2014.

Based on the positive results, U-M is moving forward to expand the pilot in the winter semester. The second pilot is projected to include 100-150 courses, 200 instructors, and 10,000 students.

In the early evaluation, prepared by the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, faculty and students identified some changes they’d like to see in Canvas, and the pilot team submitted enhancement requests to the vendor in response.

Martha McComas, clinical assistant professor of dentistry, talks about her use of the Canvas learning management system during the first phase of its pilot program.

“Canvas is easy to use once you get the logic of it,” said pilot instructor Melissa Gross, associate professor of movement science, School of Kinesiology. “It gave me the tools I needed to design a comfortable, convenient and predictable learning experience for students. I never want to leave Canvas.”

Students also indicated Canvas was helpful for completing homework and assignments, and for checking their progress in a course.

“Canvas makes it much more transparent to see what I’ve accomplished in a class, what is due, and what I still need to do,” said Jiaxin Zheng, a Statistics 250 pilot course student. “I definitely like Canvas more than CTools. It’s a very familiar layout and was easy for me to learn.”

The pilot team is engaging with academic units to define the local pace of adoption and strategies for unit-local support options. Assuming continued success, the faculty group, Digital Innovation Advisory Group, will recommend next steps and the optimal approach for U-M to adopt the new system.