CELT-led Canvas workshops aid ISU community in transition

Ryan Jacobson, strategic customer success manager of Canvas demonstrated some Canvas functions to an undergraduate student at “Canvas Countdown” Parks Library event.

Hannah Dong

Blackboard access ends for all courses that use Iowa State’s centrally supported academic Learning Management System (LMS) on Jan. 5, 2018, as the university transitions to Canvas.

The Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) has organized and conducted over 70 workshops and training sessions that focus on the transition from Blackboard to Canvas.

Among those, the majority focused on the use of tools within Canvas, such as quizzes as well as best practices in online course design. CELT staff has also provided over 20 sessions designed and delivered to individual departments and the college leadership teams.  

Sara Marcketti, Interim Director of CELT, and professor of apparel, events, and hospitality management program, discussed CELT’s role helping faculty, staff and students prepare for spring semester Canvas.  

Marcketti said when the Blackboard contract was nearing its completion. This provided the ideal time to consider the needs for the next campus LMS. Canvas was selected for “its intuitive interface design, easy navigation and extensive user support.”

In a survey with instructors and students using the LMS this semester, there was positive support for Canvas. Instructors praised the content creation, calendar and communication tools, while students praised the mobile app, calendar and modules.

To help with the transition, CELT created a host of workshops that blend the technical “how to” with the specifics of why and how an instructor would organize their courses. One of the most popular CELT-led workshops is “Course Design in Canvas”.

“Course Design attracts lots of attendance. The participants are looking at the setup of the course. We are really helping faculty, instructors or who are teaching on Canvas design and organize their courses,” Darrin Jones, a program coordinator at CELT, said.

“I really enjoyed it, and I learned a lot of things today. It’s more straightforward and has more visual features,” Bosuk Hur, a lecturer in the architecture program, said after a Canvas design workshop.

Part of the support for Canvas comes with the resources available to instructors and students. These include 24/7 support line, chat live with Canvas support, canvas guides, as well as an online community.

“Canvas has a community on the web, where if you have a question, you can post online and Canvas users can reply your question,” said Lesya Hassall, instructional development specialist at CELT and also an instructor for the Course Design in Canvas workshops.

At one of the Accessibility in Canvas workshops, Jones talked about Universal Design Online Content Inspection Tool (UDOIT). After finishing the testing, the application of UDOIT will enable faculty to solve accessibility issues in web courses.

“I think it was really beneficial to help me understand how to make Canvas accessible for all students. You will know how it is accessible for yourself, like the captioning videos function on Canvas,” Alyssa Yanni, a graduate student studying history, said after a workshop.

While support thus far has been positive, there have been challenges as instructors and students learn the new system.

“Any time you make a tremendous shift, there’s going to be challenges, but I think we have made sure to have a lot of support in place, this includes central CELT support as well as support within the colleges through college coordinators, instructional designers, and the early adopters who have provided tremendously helpful feedback,” Marcketti said.

“A lot of people might be nervous about the change, as this is a new LMS. But the CELT team are fantastic and really eager to ensure the transition is successful. They’ve been very supportive and really effective. So I think faculty and especially students will be pleased by the experience of Canvas,” Ryan Jacobson, a strategic customer success manager of Canvas, said at the Canvas Countdown event at Parks library last Wednesday.

Currently, CELT-led workshops are offered two times a day. Faculty, staff and students can access these face to face resources, as well as open labs, the online resources and the 24/7 support line.

Open labs are planned from 8 to 10 a.m. and from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday in October and November in the Rotunda of Parks Library. More information is available on the CELT website.

“I’m really excited about it. This platform is super diverse and accessible for people. On Canvas, one of the new things allows you to change gender pronouns. I think it’s sending a positive message,” Akira DeMoss, software engineering student, said.