Group gathers to demo first potential replacement for online learning system

by Frankie Olito / Beacon Staff • April 12, 2012

Webct
Canvas is the first LMS system to be demonstrated.
Canvas is the first LMS system to be demonstrated.

Emerson’s Instructional Technology Group and the Learning Management System Advisory team hosted a demonstration to a small group faculty of Canvas, a new Learning Management System, in the Multipurpose Room yesterday.

The demonstration was the first of three lessons to showcase a possible platform to replace WebCT, the college’s current LMS. 

Kurt Beer, sales employee at Instructure, the company that owns Canvas, showcased the learning system in a 90-minute demonstration. 

The system has many modern advantages that Emerson could benefit from, Beer said.  

According to Beer, students and faculty can create profile pages that integrate social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Participants are also able to receive updates about announcements and assignments as a text, email, or Facebook notification. 

Canvas applications are available for the iPad and IOs phones, according to Instructure.com. 

Through the system, faculty would have the capability to manage a grade book, moderate attendance, create a calendar for assignments, and speed grade, which is a simplified way to open student’s work and grade it instantly. All users can record video or audio and put them into announcements or assignments on the platform.

Further implementing the use of audio and video, another tool allows students and teachers to virtually hold conference hours via webcam, audio, or text messaging, according to Beer.

Natalie Hebshie, the creative instructional designer and Instructional Technology Group member at Emerson, said the purpose of the demonstrations are to gain community response.

“We are getting the word out and piling feedback,” Hebshie said. “We are trying to do a thorough analysis.”

At the event, the audience was encouraged to fill out a survey, analyzing Canvas and offering their opinion. The survey asked participants to rank various aspects of the system — like the dashboard, calendar, and navigation  — on four-point scale.  

Angela Cooke-Jackson, assistant professor for communication studies, completed the survey and said Canvas could provide a much needed improvement to the college’s current learning system. 

“I like it [Canvas] a lot better than WebCT. It is a lot more interactive,” Cooke-Jackson said. “WebCT is is very antiquated and has a lot of glitches, so I like really like the video chatting within the Canvas system.”

Chris Edwards, the regional director at Instructive, said the 130 other schools that use Canvas, which include Brown University and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, praise the system.

“Students love that it is innovated,” Edwards said in an interview with the Beacon. “This is a modern structure, built on modern stuff, so it performs the way you want it to perform.”

Beer said he saw similar positive response. 

“There are reports that it takes half the time to grade assignments,” Beer said in a interview with the Beacon. “It’s so easy and easy to interact with that you should save time.”

The other events will be held over the next two weeks, demonstrating Longsight Sakai, Blackboard Learn, and Moodlerooms. According to Hebshie, an official new LMS will be chosen by the end of the academic year to be implemented by Spring 2013.