UTM gears up for transition to Canvas

UTM gears up for transition to Canvas

UTM students and faculty are preparing for the anticipated transition from Blackboard to Canvas this January.

Canvas by Instructure is predicted to be a more integrated academic online tool than the university’s current Blackboard system. Some faculty who have interest in Canvas have completed training in preparation for the transition beginning next semester.

UTM Instructional Technology Center Director Craig Ingram said that the adjustment to the new system should be simple.

“For classes that are being taught beginning in January, faculty members can utilize Canvas but we’re continuing to run Blackboard at parallel through the spring semester,” said Ingram. “At the end of the spring semester, at the start of Maymester classes, we’ll retire Blackboard officially and will be on Canvas.”

Students will be able to download the free Canvas app from the app store for Android and Apple devices.

Faculty will still be able to post announcements, assignments, course materials, syllabuses, and other information on Canvas. The math editor will also be included with Canvas.

“The equation editor is always some bit of an issue for folks that are trying to teach math,” said Ingram. “From dealing with the math faculty, they’re always looking for creative ways to do those things and somewhat difficult to do. They have to jump through some hoops.”

All enrollments in classes offered at UTM are automated into campus from Banner. Ingram said that individual students can be sent invitations to join student organizations.

In addition to many of the same features in Blackboard, Canvas also hosts some that are distinctly new.

Student will be able to interact with their classmates using the chat tool. There is also a messaging feature through the conversations tool built into Canvas, which works like an instant messenger on social media. The platform will also host online class chat groups.

Students will also be able to fill out their own profiles on Canvas. They can also upload their own head shots, so professors and other classmates can tie a face to a name. The profiles are public and professionalism is emphasized. They will also be able to link their cell phone numbers, additional email addresses, and social media accounts on Canvas.

In addition, students can create an online portfolio using the “ePortfolio” tool for their prospective employers and faculty within their major. Ingram said that the idea behind the tool is for a student’s work to not be intrinsically tied to a distinct class, and for them to have a place to display significant submissions, such as group projects and assignments, academic papers and capstone projects.

Students will also have the option of setting up notifications, including daily/weekly summaries, as well as text messages.

“It is totally up to them, [and] they control their own notifications that we don’t set,” said Ingram. “The only thing that’s set by default is that their university email address is something that they cannot edit, but they can add multiple email addresses.”

Canvas will host a major new feature to help keep students organized; including a calendar feature with each class on the Canvas dashboard represented by a distinct color.

“The idea is that it would be a way for students to be more engaged in what’s happening inside of their classes,” Ingram said.

Canvas will work with most modern browsers, as well as other computer specifications. It contains video walkthrough tutorials so students can become acquainted with the program. Ingram said that the Canvas link will be a part of the UTM Portal as soon as it is fully available to students.

Ingram does not foresee any downtimes with Canvas.

“One of the advantages of Canvas…is that for any major upgrade for Blackboard, we basically had to schedule downtimes,” said Ingram. “It’s hard to find a time during the year, mainly Christmas break is one of the big ones where there’s no class going on. Canvas is in the cloud and it’s just on a three-week cycle so there’s no downtime.”

For more information about Canvas, visit https://www.utm.edu/departments/itc/canvas/.

Image credit| San Jose State University

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