The fall 2019 semester at UW Oshkosh saw a major change as the university switched from D2L to Canvas. While this switch no doubt had an impact on UWO students, it was actually the professors that seemed to have the hardest time adjusting to the new platform.
Now, it would be ridiculous of me to assume that all the professors would instantly be able to master canvas in a single semester, but that’s not going to stop me from complaining. So now that we are in the spring 2020 semester, the grace period is over — it is time for professors to step up their Canvas game.
Amidst my (admittedly small) sample size of classes from last semester, I encountered a wide range of experiences with professors and how they used Canvas. These experiences ranged from professors who had every single assignment in Canvas with the correct grade weights to professors who simply gave up and never put a single grade in Canvas. On one end of the spectrum you find the professors who actually understand how to use the website.
The best class Canvas that I had the pleasure of seeing had the semester’s worth of assignments laid out week by week, all the readings and additional material neatly organized, and had all of the grades weighted in accordance with the syllabus.
Personally, having the correct grade weighting is so important because it allows you to actually take advantage of the “What-If Scores” tool on Canvas, or, as it probably should be called, the “How-Bad-Can-I-Do-On-The-Rest-Of-My-Assignments-And-Still-Pass-The-Class Tool.”
On the utterly inept side of the spectrum you will find the professors who cannot accomplish the evidently insurmountable task of placing the syllabus in the syllabus folder.
Among the comedy of Canvas errors that I experienced last semester, some of my favorites had to be professors who didn’t weigh the grades correctly so that one random quiz had as much bearing as your midterm, the professor who messed up while making the quiz so it was just the same six questions repeated over and over, and, my favorite, the professor who apparently couldn’t find a way to upload the file of the syllabus, so they just copy-and-pasted it right onto the page.
The absolute worst of the lot, however, had to be the professor(s) who threw in the technological towel early and did not enter a single grade for the entire semester. It truly did add an unexpected sense of danger to the course experience. Overall, the lack of experience professors had with Canvas had a negative impact on a lot of my classes because it just created more confusion than was necessary.
Instances such as assignments not being posted despite professors thinking that they are just ended up putting the class behind schedule and creating confusion, which made the classes somewhat less enjoyable as a whole.
In terms of suggestions for professors this semester, I would urge them all to take the time and correctly weigh the assignments on Canvas. It created confusion in many of my classes when the average grade presented on canvas did not accurately reflect the students grade in class, and the professor did not clarify this fact until the final three weeks of the semester.
This goal should be more than accomplishable considering that it was done very effectively in one of my six classes, and the one with the most different grading components at that. I really like Canvas, as it is extremely intuitive to use and features many cool tools, so once that consistency is established, I don’t foresee any issue with it.
Now that we are entering the second semester of using Canvas instead of D2L, I fully expect that we will start to see more consistency in Canvas usage as the professors become more used to the new platform.