A new online learning system is coming to Troy University this summer.
Canvas by Instructure will replace Blackboard, beginning in Term 5/Summer Semester with the College of Communication and Fine Arts, the College of Education and the College of Health and Human Services and, in Term 1/Fall Semester, for the Sorrell College of Business and the College of Arts and Sciences.
The decision to change from Blackboard to Canvas came about after extensive study and presentations from vendors, said Dr. Glynn Cavin, associate vice chancellor for TROY Online.
“We formed a study group to review our Learning Management System and make a recommendation on a path forward,” Dr. Cavin said. “They conducted research on available options, did a survey of faculty members and had five vendors come in to give presentations. The survey of faculty received 354 responses indicating that the majority of people were interested in the Canvas system, and, in fact, 60 faculty members indicated that they had already used Canvas in previous jobs. The study group unanimously selected Canvas, and we made a presentation to the Senior Vice Chancellors and the Chancellor for approval.”
The new system will utilize current Trojan Web Express usernames and passwords as log-ins.
Canvas brings with it many features that Dr. Cavin believes faculty, staff and students will find extremely helpful. Canvas offers easy to learn and operate because it is very intuitive, he said, and communication features offered through the system will benefit both faculty and students.
“Canvas provides some unbelievable functionality,” Dr. Cavin said. “The calendar tool far exceeds what we have had in the past and is a great scheduling tool. Faculty will have a greater opportunity to communicate effectively with students because not only does the system utilized the required TROY email address, but students can also add as many additional means to receive communication as they would like such as text messages and additional personal email addresses. All communications between faculty and students, regardless of means, is tracked by the system. And, Canvas is device agnostic, so any device can be used to access the system. In fact, in review of studies from other universities, most revealed that students are utilizing their smart phones to access the system.”
Increased video capabilities available through Canvas offer further opportunities for student engagement, Dr. Cavin said.
“Instructors can use video clips to communicate with students because of the robust video capability available through Canvas,” he said. “Students can also utilize video to respond. This is particularly important from an online learning standpoint because it allows those studying at a distance to see the faculty member, offering increased engagement. Increased engagement tends to lead to increased student retention.”
Another feature of the Canvas system that Dr. Cavin believes students will find particularly helpful is the to-do list that is included on the dashboard they see when first logging in.
“On one side of the dashboard is a to-do list that includes all upcoming assignments, quizzes, papers and exams across all courses in which the student is enrolled,” Dr. Cavin said. “In one place, without having to log into each course, the student will have access to all the things they need to accomplish.”
Faculty in each of the colleges and at each campus, as well as online, received a preview of the system last week and will receive official training in the coming weeks. That training will be followed by training offered for students. Notification of the training opportunities will be shared via email. Until then, TROY Online has established a website that offers information about the transition, an introduction to Canvas, question-and-answer pages for both faculty and students and links to helpful resources to learn more about the new system.