Canvas is easier for both students and lecturers to use. “Lecturers can work with it on their iPad, computer or phone. It makes marking digital tests much easier, for example. Instead of first downloading, then editing and then uploading again, you can do everything directly on your tablet in Canvas,” says ESHCC Director of Education Jeroen Jansz. As head of lecturer professionalisation at the Community for Learning and Innovation, he is involved in the introduction of Canvas.
Students assess each other
Another advantage of Canvas over Blackboard and Moodle is its modular structure: the core of the software package is relatively small but can easily be expanded with all kinds of functions.
“For example, we have a nationwide educational ‘do-tank’ that’s working on software development for Canvas. The modules we develop there are available to all universities that use Canvas,” says Wilco te Winkel, who represents the interests of faculties in the Canvas project group.
Thus, a peer-review system is being created which enables students to assess each other in Canvas. Should part of Canvas’ functionality eventually cease to be relevant, it can easily be replaced.
“Blackboard also has loads of features, but the problem is that nobody knows this. Blackboard doesn’t help you to find these new possibilities. That’s a big difference from Canvas,” explains Jansz.
“Canvas is more tailored to interaction with students. Students grasp it instinctively,” adds Canvas project manager Anne Floor Erdman. “It’s more like the services they already use on the Internet every day. By offering it, you can prevent parallel conversations taking place on social media. Students don’t want that either.”
Whereas Blackboard is primarily a means of exchanging documents and messages between lecturers and students, Canvas helps more with the structuring of teaching. “For example, you can present your files in chronological order. You can create a sort of storyline in your lecture series, with files, videos and quizzes,” explains Te Winkel.
Canvas, unlike Blackboard, is a cloud service, which means that the data are not hosted on campus. “The data are stored in a data centre in Germany.
The law says that storage must take place on European territory,” says Erdman. Canvas thus complies with EU privacy legislation, including the new law that will take effect on 25 May.
“Ultimately, we’re very satisfied. It’s highly intuitive”
A number of Erasmus MC, ESHCC, ESHPM and RSM programmes have already switched to the new system. As well as EUR, Twente, the VU, Eindhoven and Tilburg have also opted for Canvas.
The Institute for Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague was the first EUR component to move to Canvas, in September. According to Wieke Blaauw of the ISS, the new learning environment is a considerable improvement on its predecessor, which in the case of the ISS was Moodle.
Blaauw: “We were the guinea pigs, so we did have a few start-up problems initially. Ultimately, though, we’re very satisfied. It’s highly intuitive. With Moodle, the support staff had to upload the documents. We still do that, but it’s now much easier for lecturers to add things, such as videos. Communication via Canvas is also a lot easier; in previous years, Facebook groups would be created to discuss a course, but all of that now stays within Canvas.”
Blaauw adds that she is very happy that the entire university is moving over to one system: “It means that we can build up expertise centrally as a university, which is very useful for the ISS.”