Canvas – my first impressions

Kicking-and-ScreamingFirst off… I’m happy with our current Learning Management System (LMS), Angel. I know how to use it; I’m comfortable with what I have. Change is stressful!
This is me, kicking and screaming as we move toward a new LMS: EEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKK!

That said, one of the three possible replacements for Angel is the LMS called Canvas Instructure.  I created a demo account and logged in.

My initial impression:  What *is* all this stuff!?!?!  It’s so cluttered! Where are my courses? Nooooooo! Don’t make me change from Angel!

But then I took a deep breath… and another… it seemed to me that *all* LMS should have the same functionalities:

  • course organization,
  • communication between teacher/student
  • grading
  • content
  • connection to things outside of the LMS
  • my favorite: a way to get back to the beginning

So I kept looking.

Next, I slowed down. I was in such a fit because this DOESN’T LOOK LIKE ANGEL that I was clicking around wildly and not paying attention.  I stopped and took my hand off the mouse and just looked at the screen.

Surely there is some kind of organization to Canvas.  I noticed the tabby thing within my web browser said “User Dashboard” that sounded promising… so I looked down a bit and across the top of Canvas itself were a few tabs… oh… One of them is Courses!  And sweet – you don’t even have to click on it, just hover your mouse (the fewer mouse clicks for me, the better).  I hovered around on the Canvas tab (I’m a teacher in the courses) until I found a pre-made course that looked interesting – Algebra I – and clicked (I felt like I was jumping off a cliff).

Still looking for organization I found a column of tabs down the left side… hmmm… some are grayed out…at this point I’m still looking for those common functions:

  • Organization?  There’s a tab for Modules… maybe…
  • Communication? I see Announcements, Discussions, Chat, Collaborations… this is starting to feel more comfortable
  • Grading? I see Assignments, Quizzes, Outcomes (!)… but where’s the gradebook? oh oh… blood pressure rising again.
  • Content? I see Pages, Syllabus (yeah!), Files… and maybe Assignments would work too…
  • Connecting outside the LMS?  Hmmm… don’t see that yet… heart beating faster…
  • A Way to Get Back to the Beginning:  Yes! A HOME tab! Whew… feeling a bit calmer again… if I get totally lost I can always go HOME.

At this point I still hadn’t clicked anywhere… I was still just looking. It felt kind of reassuring knowing that I wasn’t accidentally clicking on something; making something unexpected happen…

On to the right side of the screen.

Oh… a Course Setup Checklist?  That sounds handy… and a button to add a New Announcement.  Then a To Do list… hmmm… never used one of those in Angel… Edit Syllabus Description? Maybe… a Calendar – right there where I can see it – and some dates are highlighted (must mean something?).

As I get to the bottom there appears to be information from my gradebook… categories are showing.  But when I try to scroll down to see if there’s more in this first page of a class, the right side bar kind of stays where it is and I see a MANY more things in the center! Cool! My critical (?) information on the right side stays put. Nice feature…

And so I continued looking at just the first page of a course… there’s lots for me to explore without clicking or making me twitch.  I find my Profile… that I have emails waiting in my Inbox, I can modify my Home Page Layout, a link to Jump to Today (I wonder what that does… but no, no clicking yet!), See Course Stream (intriguing…)…

OK ok ok… enough looking… it’s time to take a break from Canvas… I wonder how I get back to the beginning.  I’ll grab my mouse now and click on the HOME tab. Nope, that just took me to the beginning of the one course I’m in… let me look… oh! There’s a big Canvas logo in the upper left corner! Stand back, I’m clicking!

Yup, that did it. I’m back where I was when I first logged in. I see the Courses tab back at the top… but ohhhh look what I see on the far right side… a button to Start a New Course!

Next post… exploring a brand New Course within Canvas!

FYI: Here’s what the Home of my pre-made Algebra I course looked like:

Canvas Course Screen

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