This fall quarter, Pierce College will switch from the Learning Management System called Angel to the Instructure Canvas program. Some of Pierce’s instructors currently are learning to establish profiles and navigate Canvas.
The reason for this change of systems is because after the college moved to Angel in spring 2009, Angel was acquired by a major management system vendor, Blackboard, who announced it would be discontinuing support for Angel in fall 2014, forcing Pierce to consider a tough decision. Either stay with an unsupported system or search for a new system before the end of the three-year contract.
Pierce College eLearning Director Edward Bachmann said college officials decided to leave come fall quarter 2013.
“We decided to not look for a new LMS due to a need for new or improved features,” Bachmann said. “The eLearning department also wanted an LMS that addressed some challenges found while using Angel. We ended up choosing a modern product that reflected current web technology.”
The statewide decision was made in cooperation with every college in the Washington State Community and Technical College system and Public Universities. Led by their eLearning group, choosing Canvas was done in coordination with the State Board for Community Technical Colleges. The selection process was a year-long ordeal from July 2011 to June 2012.
On July 2012 a contract was signed after SBCTC was able to negotiate a licensing deal at a prominent price to get the program started. The Canvas website is organized in its set up and easy to understand when navigating around the site.
Those who decide to visit Canvas can find guides for students and instructors. Canvas Guides can be found at the top left of the site. Under the student guide there is a full run-through of how to sign up and log into Canvas, how to check grades, and a vast amount of other informative assistance that Canvas provides.
“Canvas will be able to connect to social media tools such as Facebook and Skype,” Bachmann said. “Students will be able to message their class from, for example, Twitter to Canvas. Canvas however is not a two way communication device between accounts so any response to a message that is sent to Canvas will show up only on Canvas.”
Canvas doesn’t force those who set up an account to change passwords, like with Angel. Faculty members will not be able to change the names of their menu items that will keep things organized.
However, depending on the course, instructors can slide certain option tools off the screen so they can link course materials to a different page, but overall it will keep things consistent on the site.
It’s still uncertain whether Canvas will suffer from the same problems that Angel has.
According to Bachmann and Pierce College’s Angel admin, and program coordinator Earl Sallade, unlike Angel, which runs updates once every six months, Canvas will periodically run updates every two weeks.
“So far the Canvas program and Blackboard have been responsive. Canvas can monitor the number of people using the system and are able to expand the number of servers being used,” Bachmann said. “Whenever anything has crashed it has only been down for 15 or 20 minutes, and the company has been great about informing us on whatever problems need to be addressed and fixed.”
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