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Top 10 Things Teachers Like About Canvas

Time to get training: Canvas Learning Management System will replace Blackboard in August

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Change is good. Change is hard. Change is never seamless. But technology can make change better, easier and smoother. That’s the story emerging about Canvas, the new educational platform that will replace Blackboard this August at Northwestern University.

About 70 percent of courses at Northwestern are now using Canvas, and many instructors have taken advantage of attending a training session and moved their courses to the new platform. They’re enthusiastic about the benefits of the new educational technology platform. (See their Top 10 list of favorite things about Canvas at the end of this article.)

 “It is clear that instructors at Northwestern are interested in bringing active learning exercises and project work by student teams into the mix of traditional course work,” observed Bob Taylor, senior director of academic and research technologies at Northwestern University Information Technology (NUIT), “and Canvas provides better, more intuitive opportunities for these efforts.”

The Canvas Learning Management System is the new educational platform adopted by the University during fall quarter, and instructors are commenting on how it is already allowing for new approaches to teaching and learning.

With the retirement of the Blackboard system coming at the end of August, instructors across the University are being encouraged by NUIT to start their training and move over to Canvas before that time.

So far, Taylor said, the School of Law is 100 percent migrated to Canvas and completely off Blackboard, while the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications is close behind with 90 percent, and the Bienen School of Music is at 82 percent.

Workshops for instructors to train on Canvas are scheduled every week. They are all on PlanIt Purple and on this webpage:

More information specifically for instructors is at  

Here are the top 10 things instructors like about Canvas:

1. “Canvas integrates nicely with so many of the tools I use in my classroom, from clickers to TurnItIn’s plagiarism detection software to Respondus’ lockdown browser. All of these things make it easier for me to teach. I can spend less time on mundane tasks like grading multiple-choice questions and more time giving the students meaningful feedback on their writing. Truly a win-win.” Amy Kristin Sanders, associate professor in Residence; NU-Q Journalism Program 

2. “It's a powerful platform that makes it easy to engage with students through whatever channel works best for the topic at hand. I nominate myself for President of the Canvas Fan Club!” Scott Andrew Wentworth, adjunct lecturer, Integrated Marketing Communications; Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications

3. “I like the simple and intuitive interface. The ability to figure out where the documents are and how to access the resources (quizzes, calendar and discussion group) with little to no effort really lets us focus on learning the class material as opposed to the LMS.” Mitchell Petersen, professor, finance; J. L. Kellogg School of Management

4. “What I like the most is the Calendar view. It provides a wonderful bird’s-eye view of the course, and it is a kind of portal from which you can easily drill down into the details of an event, an assignment or a quiz. For a person like myself with modest organizational skills, it has worked wonders. With it, I feel so much more put-together!” Ed Colgate, professor, mechanical engineering; Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science

5. “Canvas is wonderful for stimulating discussion groups – over 140 posts and replies from 30 students on one assignment – amazing! Canvas rocks :)!” William Grant Bleich, senior lecturer, radio/TV/film; School of Communication

6. “SpeedGrader is an evolutionary improvement. I used Canvas for the first time in the fall. Although I am still exploring all its capabilities, integrating material from multiple sources was quite easy, and the format is very flexible.” Ellen R. Rissman, adjunct lecturer; School of Professional Studies

7. “I can write a rubric for all TAs to use and they use the SpeedGrader to quickly complete their grading. In a large class with four TAs, it can be difficult to make sure that all students get a similar type and amount of feedback on reports and other assignments. With Canvas, I can review scores from all the TAs to ensure that they are consistent applying the rubric before I release scores to the students.” Ken Gentry, senior lecturer, administration; Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science

8. "I like how Canvas organizes class content onto the syllabus page, allowing for a snapshot view of the quarter at any given moment. It would be nice if one could do this not only for assignments and quizzes, but also for lectures, thus organizing all class content by date and type. The speed-grading tool is a time-saver." Vasili Byros, assistant professor, music studies; Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music 

9. “Canvas allows for more student collaboration because of the small groups function, more immediate instructor-student-instructor feedback, and the use of audio and video clips with ease.” Lois C. Trautvetter, Director, Master of Science in Higher Education Administration and Policy; School of Education and Social Policy

10. “Canvas has been very easy for our instructors and students to use. It allows us to post content seamlessly in a variety of formats, including links to articles/journals and videos. Students have the ability to video conference with one another, which has been helpful since some of our teams are composed of students at both campuses and those away on rotations.” Lauren Hannah Hooberman, education coordinator, finance; J. L. Kellogg School of Management

To discover your favorite Canvas feature, attend a hands-on workshop or training session. Sessions are being held every day for all levels. More information can be found about the Canvas Transition on the NUIT website.