CFANS Shares Their Canvas Transition Story

The College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) is making a big move from Moodle to Canvas this spring. Along the way, they are finding things to learn and like about the new platform. We interviewed Tracy Wilson, Academic Technologist, to learn more about their transition.

What are your overall plans for the transition?


After understanding what support our faculty would need to make a successful transaction, we decided we would use this semester as a pilot to ensure that our processes would work for large scale migration. So far, the pilot has been a success.

We have a wide range of LMS users in our college, some are looking for our help to transition courses, while others are requesting training and help resources to do it themselves. We’re offering options for both. This spring, we decided to leave Canvas usage up to the individual instructor, and offered to move courses to Canvas if requested. For summer and fall, we’re taking a more hands-on approach by moving all courses for our instructors by default, while offering them the option to choose to move their own courses or delay moving, if they prefer.

To help faculty get comfortable using Canvas, we created ongoing, weekly help sessions called “Work in Canvas” that allow instructors to drop in and work on their courses with our help. We also have a communication strategy in place that uses a newsletter and direct email campaigns to continuously keep faculty informed of need-to-know info, as well as educated with helpful advice and tips at key points throughout the semester.

How is the transition going so far?


Our first semester in Canvas is going smoothly, and we’re ramping up to move the bulk of our Summer 2018 and Fall 2018 courses this semester.

We are utilizing, and grateful, for the assistance from ATSS (Academic Technology Support Support) who are providing staff and help resources to transition the courses we defined as “straightforward,” while our staff will focus on the intermediate and complex courses that require additional attention and course familiarity to ensure the final outcome in Canvas reflects what was presented in Moodle.

While getting courses into Canvas is a major goal, we are also using this time to go beyond just moving the content and encouraging instructors to think about ways to use their LMS more, incorporating effective practices, and considering the pedagogical value. CEI (Center for Educational Innovation) have been extremely helpful in this as we partner with them and the faculty member on topics like complex assignments and assessments.

Overall we feel supported, our faculty feel supported, and we have a great a feedback loop with everyone involved.

What have instructors liked about Canvas?


Canvas allows easy customization of the navigation menus and can accomodate different kinds of content presentation. For example, instructors can outline exactly what they want students to do and see each week and guide them down an intended path.

From a feature perspective, they like the Rich Content Editor and the ease in which they can link content together or embed info. Grading features, like SpeedGrader have been useful as well, especially being able to grade submitted assignments from a variety of file formats without having to download and then upload again. The simplicity of the gradebook has also been helpful with the ability to set up weights or rules, or use the mute assignments feature, which will prevent grades and feedback going out to a student who submits an assignment early until instructors have finished grading all submissions and unmute the assignment.

We also have a template available for faculty to use as a starting point. We’ve found when learning something new, it’s easier to start with a base and work from that. Instructions for finding and using our template can be found here.

Any learnings to share?


It’s much easier to start with a transitioned course in Canvas if you take time to clean up the Moodle site first by doing things such as removing content you won’t be using, flattening the question banks, and taking note of elements that may not transfer well, such as Lessons.

Turn off any Canvas course navigation links that students won’t use during the course to keep the site free from distractions. Related to that, the Syllabus feature seems to be suited for a specific kind of course where absolutely everything in the Canvas site has points and a date associated with it. We recommend turning it off for courses that include ungraded readings or other content, so students aren’t tempted to “live” in the Syllabus and miss important information.

Another specific thing we’ve learned is that because Canvas defaults to calculating only assignments that are graded, it’s important for instructors to fill in zeros for students’ missed assignments to make sure they have an accurate grade displayed throughout the course.

Overall, it’s important to learn how the structure in Canvas works. It divides its world up differently than Moodle and stores its pieces by category. Once a person has seen the different storage areas, like Files and Pages, it’s easier to explain Modules as a sort of storyboard, where elements from these categories are put in order and revealed to students.