UWO to Switch to Canvas

Megan Behnke, News Writer

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Starting in the fall 2019 semester, UW Oshkosh students can expect D2L to be fully switched over to Canvas, with a handful of courses already using the website.

UWO Chief Information Officer Laura Knaapen said the information technology department ran a small number of classes in the fall 2018 semester as a test, running about five times as many classes for the spring 2019 semester.

“The full switch from D2L to Canvas for the Oshkosh campus is the start of the summer session 2019, so June 17, 2019 for students,” Knaapen said. “Instructors will, of course, have to do the switching of their summer courses before that time.”

UWO interactive web management major Kaitlyn Alexander said she started using Canvas at the start of the spring 2019 semester for her technology innovation class.

“My first impression of Canvas was good; I really liked the design of the website,” Alexander said. “I am majoring in interactive web management, so I see the effective design techniques used. I think Canvas is very easy to use and its layout is simple to understand.”

UWO interim chief information officer Mark Clements said the D2L contracts are expiring in 2020 and both D2L and Canvas are administered by UW System, with all UW campuses transitioning to the Canvas platform.

“An analysis of multiple academic technologies and a request for proposal was initiated to determine the future of the shared digital learning environment,” Clements said. “Canvas was the winner of the RFP and selected as the replacement of D2L.”

Knaapen said Canvas has a different user interface from D2L but it has similar features presented in different ways.

“Discussions are an item that may take some getting used to,” Knaapen said. “We do have a student training course to provide students with an idea of how things work in Canvas.”

Clements said he doesn’t expect students will have any issues learning how to use the new platform.

“This is our first year with the new tool, so expect some early ‘growing pains’ as we migrate courses and become familiar with the capabilities,” Clements said. “But the Canvas system is a modern [digital learning environment] that will offer an improved user interface and mobile applications for easy access.”

Alexander said she likes that there is a functional app for Canvas.

“There was no app for D2L that worked well, and so I think this feature is very convenient for students to get course announcements, assignment reminders and grade posting notifications all sent to their devices,” Alexander said.

Knaapen said she thinks Canvas will be better for students because of the built-in calendar, which makes it easier to see when assignments are due or when a test is coming up.

“It lets you view that calendar with all your courses visible in different colors too,” Knaapen said.

Clements said he has not had an opportunity to use the D2L system but has created course content in Canvas.

“I found it very easy to use and appreciated the clean, modern interface,” Clements said. “I rely heavily on my mobile devices, and Canvas worked flawlessly for me. I hope that students and instructors will like it as well.”

Alexander said, for the most part, Canvas is easier to navigate than D2L.

“There are some areas, specifically the course content section, that are easier in D2L,” Alexander said. “It will take some getting used to because the layout is very different than D2L, but I don’t think navigating around Canvas is more difficult.”

Knaapen said both tools are essential in the value of teaching.

“Whether we use D2L or Canvas, the real value is in the instruction, the teacher and how well they make use of the tools,” Knaapen said. “It is also in how well the students make use of the available tools, too.”