The University of New Mexico will be receiving a potentially controversial but possibly long-overdue upgrade to its online infrastructure, as Canvas by Instructure was selected as the new academic learning management system starting summer 2022.
UNM began a vendor engagement with Instructure in early 2021 but didn’t start a trial integration until spring 2022, according to the Canvas implementation page. Now, all courses for the summer semester will be available through Canvas, and UNM will finalize the migration of all available courses by the start of fall 2022.
Until recently, UNM maintained a self-hosted version of Blackboard Learn which is no longer supported by its vendor, Blackboard. The University had the option to move to Blackboard’s new cloud-only environment but decided to go another route partially due to ease of maintenance for non cloud-based software, according to director of online strategies and academic technologies Elisha Allen.
“There's fewer and fewer services that can be installed and managed locally,” Allen said.
UNM held demonstration sessions where students, faculty and staff had the opportunity to explore various learning management systems such as Brightspace — a new version of Blackboard — and Canvas. Canvas was preferred by the majority, according to Allen.
“The way that the system was organized was easier for them to understand. It was just generally easier for them to accomplish tasks on everything from grading to submitting assignments,” Allen said.
Kate Cunningham has been teaching online classes at UNM since 2014 and is very excited to use Canvas as a part-time instructor. She said that she found Blackboard to not be very user-friendly. Cunningham used Canvas both as a graduate student and as an instructor and said the new system is more student-friendly in both design and setup.
“That's really what the most important thing is: how students are able to receive and interact with the information that I have in my classes,” Cunningham said.
A big reason for her preference of Canvas was that it allows her to work with multimedia mediums and submit multimedia projects much more easily than with Learn, a pivotal need for her courses on multimedia and visual communication and video journalism.
One of the main issues with Learn that was repeatedly mentioned by students and staff alike was its dysfuntional app version. UNM students Tiamike Dudley and Anthony Romero-Kleve, both transfer students, used Canvas in their previous institutions and found moving to Learn was not an easy transition.
“I had troubles with the (Learn) app immediately; it kept signing me out,” Romero-Kleve said. “I couldn't access assignments and due dates easily, and it was just a mess.”
Both students showed a lot of excitement to go back to Canvas and are looking forward to a better learning experience next semester.
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“I can't stand Learn, and I'm very happy to see Canvas,” Dudley said. “Learn looks like it’s from the early 2000s; Canvas looks modern.”
Another major difference between Canvas and Learn so far is that, as a vendor-hosted system, Canvas will require less downtime for maintenance. Over the years, there have been multiple times Learn was inaccessible for hours due to upgrades, according to Allen.
While Canvas is more costly than Learn, Allen said that it will be covered by the current mandatory student technology fees, and there is no plan to increase them in the near future. UNM signed a seven-year contract with Instructure to have Canvas as its learning management system.
Annya Loya is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @annyaloya