During the last school year, our school announced that our upper school teachers would be required to use the learning management system (LMS) named Canvas in 3 significant ways forward:
- All objective assessments would be delivered through the Canvas LMS
- All students have the option to turn in papers digitally
- All grades would be done through the Canvas grade book
With any change comes push back and fear. For us, all stakeholders have had to learn a new system- teachers, administrators, students, and parents. Below are the benefits each group of our stakeholders can experience from using Canvas:
Benefits to Administrators:
- Analytics- By creating expectations for students to take assessments using Canvas, we also have the ability to start to see patterns of each student's learning and possible gaps in the mastery of concepts. While we are not a full-fledged competency-based school in the way we teach, we now have a place where administrators can quickly have access to class averages on assignments and even dig deeper to see individual student results.
- Compliance- In some ways using Canvas diminishes the silo effect that education can sometimes cause. When administrators can only get into a classroom for a few observations a year, Canvas allows admin to take a quick glance at assignments and quizzes to make sure all teachers are compliant to the goals and expectations put upon them for their curriculum.
- Scalability- We are in a school system where we have multiple educators teaching the same course to grade levels. By having those educators work together to create their Canvas-based curriculum it takes workload levels off everyone and allows systems to be in place regardless of the size of classes. Blended learning works well with Canvas. In our middle school math program, we have been able to effectively increase class size by using this platform for students to navigate their daily needs.
- Accountability- The real-time aspect of Canvas allows administrators to immediately see if lesson plans are both accurate and up to date for students with just a click of the mouse.
Benefits to Teachers:
- Mobility and Accessibility- Students now have the ability to access their assignments easily as long as they have access to the internet. Being a 1:1 school with 100% at home connectivity (one of the upsides to living in Chattanooga, TN- home of the fastest internet in the country), this means our students now can access things without the excuses of "the dog ate my homework, I lost it, or I didn't know I had homework."
- Deliver Content Instantly- Teachers now have the ability to deliver information to students instantly. Perhaps a classroom discussion spurs a teacher to remember an article they want to share. Utilizing an LMS allows the teacher to quickly upload it to the course for immediate and future reference.
- Personalization- Canvas allows educators to assign things to individual students, give individual students multiple attempts to take a quiz, share different resources with different student groups, all without other students knowing that differentiation is taking place. This allows some students with IEPs to feel less self-aware of their learning issues because others aren't aware that any accommodations are taking place. Have a student that can breeze through the curriculum? With mastery paths being utilized within Canvas, teachers can meet those needs by creating deeper learning or allowing those students to go further with their learning.
- Multimedia Learning- The use of Canvas allows teachers to share videos, audio recordings, as well as continue robust face to face engagement with students that might be graded outside of a computer-based assessment. Sometimes students may not grasp a concept during a lecture but a teacher can upload a video of themselves or someone else teaching the concept and students can stop and start the video to make sure they have the concepts before moving on.
Benefits to Parents:
- Transparent view- Parents have the ability to see exactly what their students are seeing by pairing with them. They can view the courses, the calendar due dates, and grades all from one location. In a world of constant connectivity, parents have the ability to know 100% what the expectations are for their child's classes because it is all listed in their Canvas courses. Nothing can be placed in a grade book without first being added as an assignment in Canvas.
- Click thru to assignments- Parents have the ability to see a grade or a "missing" label and then click directly through to the assignment to see the details. They can see everything their student can see, they just can't complete the assignment with their parent account.
- Parent portal for accountability- Parents can set up to receive notifications regarding their child's account. If they choose to use the Canvas Parent App, they can have the app push them information straight to their phone about course grade levels, missing assignments, when a grade is above or below a threshold they deem important to know, and any announcements about a course. If they use the web browser access, they can set themselves up to receive emails for the same types of information in order to hold their children accountable in their learning process.
Benefits to Students:
- Single sign-on- One of the things we wanted to streamline for our students is giving the ability to go to one place and have fewer log-ins and passwords to remember for their educational process. Canvas allows our students to use their Google accounts for single sign-on capabilities. There are no longer multiple platforms and passwords to remember because all information and access goes through Canvas for our students.
- Consistency- Students now know they can go to Canvas and click on "calendar" to see all the things due on any upcoming date that has already been assigned for any class they are taking. Students know that their "Upcoming" section represents a week glance. Students know that their "to do" list means things that they need to get done. Students now have one platform to go to see information shared by their teachers. While each class may look differently, based on how the teacher set their own courses up, the student experience remains significantly the same for access and turning in assignments. Now students aren't sharing a document via Google Drive in one class but uploading to an LMS in another. Their experience and the expectations feel more the same from class to class.
- Collaboration- Canvas allows for discussion boards and it connects with the school Google suites account for all students. This allows students to work together on a Google doc or slideshow, for instance by adding information or comments. Students also have the ability to participate in "peer grading" through the Canvas LMS platform.
- Communication- Knowing that a teacher is communicating through one platform helps students to realize the importance of checking for communication more often. Canvas allows the students to expect all communication in one localized place- the place where they also see their assignments, turn in their assignments, and take assignments.
- Immediate Content- Canvas allows students to place their virtual hands-on content quickly and efficiently based on teacher sharing. Students no longer have to go back to their locker to get a handout or call a friend because they lost the details of the homework assignment. Students can immediately access the content of their courses as long as they have access to the internet.
With any digital plan, there are sometimes bandwidth issues, accessibility of device issues, quirks, and a learning curve for all users. It's not all benefits but as we are now a month into the school year, the benefits of this endeavor seem to quickly outweigh the detriments for our students.