By Jack Heerema, COM 250 Reporter
Edited by Hannah Hardwell, COM 303 Editor
MOUNT BERRY, Ga.—Berry began the implementation of its new Learning Management System (LMS), Canvas, for the fall 2018 semester, as a select group of faculty adopted it into their curriculum. Plans have been made to train 50 more professors to use Canvas by the spring semester, and Berry is hopeful that full utilization of Canvas among all staff will occur by summer 2019.
The newly-implemented LMS is used in addition to Jenzabar (i.e., VikingWeb), which Berry will continue to use for advising and course registration. Canvas is for managing classes, assignments and grades.
As far as features go, Canvas does not have many more functions than Jenzabar. Both faculty and staff, however, said that the layout of Canvas creates an eagerness to explore. Compared to VikingWeb, it is flexible and moldable, which gives professors a more desirable experience.
“I’ve loved the energy that’s coming from the faculty right now regarding Canvas,” said Jennifer Ngetich, a web support specialist from Berry Enterprise Systems. “I think Berry as a whole is heading in the right direction when it comes to using the technology that’s available.”
Canvas was chosen partially for how modern it is. According to Berry’s Chief Information Officer Penny Evans-Plant, three LMSs were considered. The first was Canvas; the second was Desire2Learn (D2L), a software used by state schools like Kennesaw State University; and the third option was the current Jenzabar software that runs VikingWeb. D2L and Canvas were both favored over the continued use of Jenzabar.
“We wrote out all the criteria that we were using to evaluate, and we asked [students and faculty] to rate their satisfaction for each of those,” Evans-Plant said. “When you look at the numbers, Canvas came out slightly ahead of D2L.”
Although students and faculty believe that a LMS is incredibly essential, VikingWeb had low user satisfaction. Comparatively, Canvas provides a system that is easier to navigate and is more modern.
“[Canvas] is easy to organize and customize,” said Kayla Ronchetto, a senior math and Spanish double major. “My main complaint would be that we were never told how to use it.”
Kayla, along with other students, voiced that they felt unprepared for the implementation; but once they learned how to navigate the software, they felt satisfied with the new LMS.
Canvas is designed to be adapted to each person. VikingWeb is uniform, so users are forced to search for whatever they seek. Canvas lays everything out for the user and organizes assignments and due dates.
“Learning to use VikingWeb was like learning to use a hammer without a handle,” said Dr. Curt Hersey, assistant professor of communication and one of Canvas’s early adopters. “You learn how to use it, but when I was given Canvas, it was like knowing that this is how it is supposed to work.”
Concerns raised by some faculty included the lack of an “absence excused” option in the attendance sheet, and that the grade book might be more challenging to navigate for some users.
“If those are our two biggest concerns, then we are killing it,” Ngetich said.
Canvas also has significant advancements compared to VikingWeb. For example, when making comments on an assignment submitted through VikingWeb, a professor would need to export the assignment as another format, make the comments and re-upload the assignment before sending it back to the student. With Canvas, professors can make comments and corrections on the format through which an assignment is originally submitted.
“Faculty want to be good at what they do; they want to be efficient at what they do, and I think that people recognize that Canvas is the leading platform,” Ngetich said. “People want to use the best tools for the job even if that means that it is a little harder for them up front.”