CBS Starts the Transition to Canvas

The College of Biological Sciences (CBS) and their Academic Technology team are one of the first units this summer to start the adoption of Canvas at the University of Minnesota. We interviewed Kalli-Ann Binkowski, Academic Technology Coordinator, about how the transition is going so far. 

What is your plan for the transition?


Our main goal it to make the transition as seamless as possible for our faculty and instructors. We began by doing a lot of communication with our faculty leading up to the transition, so they are expecting the move.  We have a total 240 courses and we’re planning to move 60 each semester over the next two years. We started out by determining and then categorizing the complexity of each course. We gave each a rating of basic, intermediate, and complex, and then identified the right mix of each type to transition this summer and have ready for fall instruction. We then notified the faculty of those courses of our plan along with the option to delay the transition to a later semester if needed. We have found that a majority of the courses can transition without consulting with the site owner, but for the more complex courses, we will need to work with them to ensure the course transitions and operates as expected. 

Another goal was to take the initial sting out of learning something new for our faculty and instructors by offering to do most of the transition work for them. We’ll get the site and tools functional and then provide them a series of help resources along with enough time to get used to Canvas. After the two year transition completes we’ll have a lot more experience using Canvas and its’ tools and be in a better position to re-evaluate the best uses of Canvas and utilize those findings to improve courses after the fact, or along the way.

How is the transition going? 


It’s been good so far. My colleague, Evan Peterson, started two weeks ago and has already transitioned a few courses. Before starting, we estimated how much time it would take for each type of course based on the complexity range and so far have found the first few courses to transition a little faster than we expected.

We also have started thinking about faculty goals, how they achieved them in Moodle, and how to re-imagine them in Canvas. It’s a good time to figure out if there are new ways to meet these goals and in some cases we might find better options.

What have you liked about Canvas in the early stages?


We’re really excited about a brand new feature in Canvas called Blueprint Courses. It allows us to create and offer a master course for faculty that they can then update or add information to, and those updates are automatically pushed to the associated courses.

Overall, Canvas seems to be simpler to use. We have found the grading features are an improvement, and much of the functionality across the board is designed in way that will be easy for faculty and instructors to learn and then do themselves.

Any tips for colleges making the transition?


We knew the transition would take a lot of our time and energy over the next two years and it would be a challenge. To help our planning, we sat down for an hour each week leading up to the decision and brainstormed a transition plan. We started with a giant mind dump and got out all our questions and ideas regarding how to communicate, when and how to do what, sticking points, and potential solutions. After a few of these sessions we found it much easier to figure out our plan. My tip is to just put everything on the table that needs to be considered and eventually the path forward will start to become clear.