A Tale of Two Migrations: What You Need to Know about Switching to Canvas

Dorina Kosztin, Teaching Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy;
Bethany Stone, Teaching Professor, Division of Biological Sciences

So, Mizzou is switching to Canvas. As an instructor who will be directly impacted, you may ask yourself: Why should I look forward to this switch? It is just more work, yes? We agree! However, we are here to help. As part of the first group who piloted Canvas in 2015, we want to share lessons learned and things you will want to take into consideration as you switch.

Bethany Stone is a teaching professor at the Division of Biological Sciences
Dorina Kosztin is a teaching professor and associate chair of the MU Department of Physics and Astronomy.

There are three things that helped us get motivated for the switch:

  1. Switching to a new system gave us the chance to review, reimagine, and improve older courses. Consider this a chance to clean house and do something new in your class.
  2. We imagined the course from a student point-of-view. The Canvas layout is appealing to the eye, intuitive to use, and easy to navigate. In Canvas, instructors can create a course that looks like a well-designed website (bonus: fewer student emails asking where to find course materials!).
  3. We let go of the idea that our courses should look the same in Canvas as they did in Blackboard. Consider what you want to do and find out how to do it in Canvas instead of belaboring how you did it in Blackboard.

Feeling inspired to make the change? Here are some fundamental things to know: The basic content tools in Canvas are Modules and Pages. Modules and Module items in Canvas are the equivalent of folders and Content Areas in Blackboard. They provide the structure and organization of content in your course that lists all pages, quizzes, assessments, and other materials.

Pages are content that is built inside of Canvas. You can use a page to include everything you could in the Content Area in Blackboard and design it any way you want. Pages can hold content and educational resources: text, images, videos, links to your files, links to assignments and quizzes, discussion boards, and any other tools within Canvas or outside Canvas. If you’ve ever used a Wiki, this is essentially a Wiki with a more usable and dynamic interface. You can work on designing a page and make it visible to students only when you are ready. Also, Canvas preserves the history of the Page so tracking changes is easy.

Before you get started, we recommend you get some training from ET@MO. The staff there will guide you through using Canvas and answer your questions. For more information visit ET@MO’s website at cdt.missouri.edu or canvas-migration.missouri.edu. We also recommend you talk with other instructors who have already moved to Canvas. As of Fall, 2016 almost one-third of the classes had already transitioned into Canvas. That’s a lot of prior experience available to you. Many faculty have found creative ways to organize their course materials and work around the limitations in Canvas.

Our last piece of advice: switch to Canvas SOON. Blackboard will not be accessible in 2018. Also, moving to Canvas now reduces the number of students who have to use two systems.

Canvas is different from Blackboard. There will be things you have to do differently. With an open mind and good advice, many challenges can be overcome.