Why I recommended Canvas as an LMS

My role in the group evaluating LMS options ended yesterday, and I don’t know the recommendations of other individuals in the group, though I get sense of where we’re headed as an institution. For my part, after looking at Blackboard 9.1, Moodlerooms/joule, and Canvas, I recommended Canvas. We have a lot of transitions to plan at this point no matter what the institution’s choice is, and Canvas is relatively new, but I am confident I made the right recommendation. Some thoughts I’ve had in the last week, as I’ve built the summer course structure into Canvas (this is a face-to-face offering of an upper-division course in Schools and Society, what’s also sometimes called Social Foundations–I’m using the “free to teachers” version of Canvas, unless/until there’s a contract between USF and Canvas this summer):

  • That took about a quarter of the time it would have taken in Blackboard.
  • That took about a quarter of the time it would have taken to build in Respondus and upload to Blackboard.
  • I look like I’m in some 1960s movie, but it took about three minutes to record a short video greeting for the whole class that’s the first thing they see.
  • Oh, I can spend half a minute to leave a ten-second video greeting for each student after they accept the email invitation into the course.
  • Hmmn… okay, I can see a workaround to get what I want to happen (a sequence of assignments, so students have to complete a quiz on plagiarism before they can upload papers, but without having unnecessary girders/infrastructure showing).
  • I think I’ll give them hints about Canvas and let the interested students show the others what they can do.
  • On second thought, I may definitely want to show the “What if?” feature in Grades and talk about it explicitly.
  • Anticipated grading workflow: paper copy of rubric, scribble notes and a two- or three-sentence script for each, then use Speedgrader on “mute assignment” to score papers and use script from paper rubric to record a video comment. (Students will get the paper copy, too.)

I will be very curious to see how much they pay attention to the online version of the outcomes and grading scales. On the one hand, it’s transparent where I have clear expectations.1 On the other hand, students pay attention to such things differentially (sometimes judging that if instructions are very complicated, they’ll be discussed in class).

And now, I need to pay attention to the basics of running a compressed six-week course and ignore the temptation to play with Canvas some more…


  1. On another assignment that’s unique to my section, students will construct the grading criteria/rubric within the categories I establish. []