Campus considers D2L replacement

Carina Snow

Assistant Editor


RSC is testing a new learning management system, called Canvas, and comparing it to the current system, Desire2Learn, to determine which might provide the best distance-learning experience; the college will choose at the end of the spring semester.

Regular evaluation of a college’s LMS is not uncommon, according to a Butler University report, because technology and online education needs are ever changing.

A 2014 report about LMS vendors, recognizes Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Moodle, and Canvas as the “largest LMS’s in the education sector.”

Instructure, a company founded in 2008, created Canvas, which launched in 2011 and is used by more than 400 colleges, universities, and school districts, according to Instructure’s website.

Higher education institutions that use Canvas include the University of Central Florida, Pasadena City College, the University of Washington, Auburn University, and Michigan Technological University.

Jesus Saavedra does homework on his student D2L account Feb. 9 in the RSC library. Canvas could replace D2L as the college’s learning management system; the decision will be made at the end of the semester.   Photo by Carina Snow

Jesus Saavedra does homework on his student D2L account Feb. 9 in the RSC library. Canvas could replace D2L as the college’s learning management system; the decision will be made at the end of the semester. Photo by Carina Snow

Dr. Dana Lindon-Burgett, director of instructional support and online learning at RSC, said a full evaluation rubric will compare the many features, tools, and overall performance of each LMS.

“Really, we want the most affordable LMS that will provide positive learning experiences, as well as keep our students engaged and active in the courses,” she said.

Lindon-Burgett explained that ease of use is imperative to a successful LMS because “if tools and features are not easy to use, then they don’t get used.”

Beyond the basic features that students utilize, however, RSC must examine reporting tools, learning-objective trackers, grading options, feedback tools, and hosting options that professors use, she added.

“We have a small pilot of 14 live courses that come from each division across campus,” Lindon-Burgett said. “In addition, we will have a group of faculty who test Canvas without live students.”

The distance learning team at RSC will gather feedback from participating faculty, student focus groups, and surveys in order to make a recommendation that will be proposed to RSC’s Academic Affairs Committee at the end of the semester, Lindon-Burgett said.

Leanne May, professor of life sciences at RSC, who is teaching a Canvas pilot course, said she has created a Microsoft Excel chart to compare D2L and Canvas features. So far both systems appear to be strong, she said.

“In particular to Canvas, I seem to appreciate most of the mobile-friendly applications that are available. These apps make reading discussions, email messages, and grading easier while I am away from my desktop computer at work,” she said.

“The students seem to be adjusting well to the new LMS. A few are still timid in the platform. However, it seems that all students are participating. I haven’t heard much feedback about any specific features that the students like best in Canvas. Likewise, there haven’t been many complaints about Canvas, either,” May said.

After about a month of using the Canvas platform, she hasn’t experienced many problems with it, May said. “The biggest concern that is most common for students, and me, is simply adjusting to the learning curve of working in a new LMS,” she said.

After test and feedback evaluation at the end of the semester, RSC will decide whether to keep D2L or switch to Canvas. The switch would affect virtually all students and faculty of the college, especially those that participate in online and hybrid courses.

“Change can be difficult for many people since it involves going into unknown territory,” Lindon-Burgett said, “but technology is changing rapidly.”

She said part of the college’s responsibility is to ensure that the technology students are using is effective in helping them reach their learning goals.

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