Hotel California....you can check out but you can never leave

Surveyor
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Our campus piloted Canvas for 2 semesters and due to a number of reasons we decided "Not" to adopt the platform. We had about 40 classes and the instructors using Canvas now wanted to retrieve their materials and assessments from Canvas and put them back into the campus LMS, Moodle. Just as a side note Canvas was actually built out on an earlier version of the open source code from Moodle. This is where the dilemma begins. Apparently, no one else has decided to walk away...as we did. There is no way to easily remove your materials or your student work from Canvas once it goes in. Institutions need to maintain students records and the artifacts associated with their grades. This is a giant mess and I feel compelled to let the rest of the community know exactly what you are getting into. I think that this is the new model for LMS companies as I believe Bb also is making extraction of content and data out of their system difficult as well. So, be forewarned and check your options before taking that leap of faith! 

18 Comments
Community Team
Community Team

Hi Barbara,
I'm sorry to hear that you are not satisfied with your experience using Canvas. I am glad to see that you have created an account here in the community. Welcome! I hope that at some point in the future we have the opportunity to assist you.

I did want to clarify a few points for you now. Canvas does not share any code or common lineage with Moodle. It was written from scratch, using Ruby on Rails. The code is shared as an open source project (with 3,032 releases as of today) that you will find here: https://github.com/instructure/canvas-lms. With respect to exporting course content; Canvas is certified by the IMS Global Learning Consortium in Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) and Common Cartridge. I have exported course archives from one instance of Canvas and imported them into another many times. I wasn't able to find any examples online of anyone describing taking content from Canvas and importing it into Moodle, although I did read on the Moodle website that they can import common cartridge archive files. Maybe someone else in the community will have had more experience along those lines. I believe it is also common practice to export grade reports from Canvas for archival purposes.

Anyway, I wish you the best of success in whatever the future brings you. For questions about importing and exporting content I would recommend asking in the Instructional Design user group.

Community Member

One thing I focus on with students is making sure it is possible for them to keep their evidence of learning too! None of the LMSes, including Canvas, do a very good job with making sure that students get to export and keep all their work done in the LMS, which is why I have my students do their work outside the LMS, in spaces that the students create and control. So, I have students choose their own web spaces, and then that content comes into Canvas via RSS or iframe or whatever integration technology works best for that; I really appreciate the range of integration technology that Canvas offers me (our previous LMS was D2L, and the integration options there were much more limited and also much more difficult to use effectively compared to Canvas).

Just my two cents' worth on the subject of learning artifacts and who should/could keep copies of student work. 🙂

Learner II

For exporting the exact state of what students created and contributed to a course in any LMS would be a nice feature to have. Having been with Canvas for the better part of 8 years, it truly would be a nightmare to need to systematically dump what we have into another format to reproduce all course content AND the student interactions with the content in another LMS. It is not (to my knowledge) the design of the common cartridge format which only is concerned with the course designer/instructor created content. I doubt that any LMS has ever been designed with a feature requirement of how to escape out of it 100% with keeping student interactions and content intact to be transformed into another LMS.

With that being said, it sounds like beckmey3@gmail.com may have been on a self-hosted version of Canvas rather than an Instructure Cloud-hosted instance which in theory could archive the content indefinitely for record keeping purposes.  

Community Team
Community Team

Hi Jeffrey,

Just for clarification, she is referring to cloud Canvas.  I'm also not aware of an LMS that has designed a process for exporting all student interactions and content as a cross platform archive.  I think (maybe) ANGEL had a way to create a downloadable archive of student content but it didn't adhere to any cross-platform standards.

Learner II

Thank you for the clarification, Scott. It would be interesting to know if some institution's Canvas cloud contracts include provisioning for preservation or archival of information in the cloud past the expiration of a contract. That way transition to another platform could (in theory) be done if such a feature existed in Canvas, and if nothing else at least comply with the bylaws of an institution's academic record retention policy. 

Community Team
Community Team

Hey Jeffrey, Yeah, I don't know about the contract language on access to content after expiration of a contract.  I know we don't delete anything ever so in theory I'd think it would be possible.  I also can't remember hearing about any institutions that have decided to move to Canvas and then decided to migrate to another platform.  That is just uncharted territory as far as I know.

Community Team
Community Team

Hi Laura,

I think I can safely say, based on previous conversations, that one thing you and I agree on philosophically is that there isn't any one single tool out there that is the best in every situation, especially with regards to ed. tech.  When I worked in eLearning consistently the most popular training topic we had for faculty was how to use many tools, many of them being free to accomplish what you want with students, borrowing heavily from the edupunk philosophy (Jim Groom is my hero).  I also personally really like the Canvas-as-a-learning-platform strategy.

Community Advocate
Community Advocate

That's a great point Laura about the intellectual property that students have in the work they create. We had a similar question to what has been mentioned in this discussion when we left our former LMS - how detailed and for how long do the institution's records have to be with regards to retaining student submissions, instructor feedback, and assignment grades? Keeping course grades is obviously a necessity as students ought to have lifelong access to their transcripts, but different accrediting agencies have different requirements for data retention.

Community Member

Exactly! For me, the combination of ReclaimHosting (Jim Groom and crew changing the world one domain at a time) PLUS Canvas has my classes humming along better than ever! I keep spreading the gospel of RSS and iframe and LTI etc. in Canvas to anyone who will listen. And I will be doing so at the ReclaimHosting conference in June, whoo-hoo. 🙂

Community Member

Hi professorbeyrer@gmail.com legally I think it is only the grades... but of course that shows what a bizarre situation it is, because the grade itself "means" nothing without the activities that the grade represents. But for legal bean-counting, I suppose the grade record is all that matters, and at least at my school, the grade records are in the SIS, not in the LMS.

Community Team
Community Team

Thank you, Laura.  I am glad you will be there and representing your particular 'why can't we have both?' philosophy.

Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Yep, we're the same way. We have an entirely separate interface for faculty to manage enrollment and submit final grades. So I'm used to saying to faculty "all transactions inside the LMS are unofficial." Funny thing to say because the LMS has the interactions that matter most. Well, except to the auditors. Smiley Wink

Lamplighter II

Not sure about Angel but WebCT 4 did back in the day (about 15 years ago). I think in present day that would be disaster waiting to happen. Student data should be treated in similar fashion as you would with any other sensitive data so I am glad it can't be exacted easily. 

Community Team
Community Team

And for what its worth, back when I was involved with WebCT and ANGEL, they both ran on physical servers in our IT department and our backups were literally copies of hard drives.

Surveyor

Yes, I was a WebCT 4 & 6 Admin and this backup/archive ability existed. However, like scottd@instructure.com‌ mentioned, it was basically a backup & restore from the hard drive.

Surveyor

Hi professorbeyrer@gmail.com‌ and laurakgibbs‌, I also used to think that the final grades were really all we had to produce (unless it was within 1 year and required access to academic appeal records.) However, my eyes were opened last year when my College received an audit from the Dept. of Ed. We had just completed the consolidation of 3 different community colleges into 1 new college and some of the data during that first year of the consolidation triggered some red flags for a DOE audit. The audit was very focused on withdrawal data and activity dates and there was much discussion about how that was tracked for distance education. The audit reached back 2 years and luckily each of the three colleges had started using Canvas the year before we were consolidated. So, an awesome Canvas team helped me access the former college instances to pull the activity dates through the analytic reports. After I gave the auditors the data they requested, they let me know that a DOE audit can reach back 7 or 8 years and I would need to produce activity dates if they were requested.

While all went well for us...I immediately began looking at the Canvas Data solution and working with my IT department to start pulling the big Canvas Data files and archiving this info in an SQL server so we could pull whatever was needed, whenever it might be needed. The thing that scared me most was that if the DOE had asked for data farther back than 2 years, I could not have produced it because we were on a different LMS and would not have had the activity data files.

Surveyor

Hi bbeckmeyer@csumb.edu,

I also hate to hear about your experience. I have been an LMS Admin for 15 years and have managed 4 different platforms. I can't imagine leaving Canvas to go back to one of those or to move on to anything else. So far, it has been the greatest LMS experience of my career. I had an amazing implementation team and I think that makes a major difference in the experience, as a system admin.

Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Thank you ann.strickland@coastalalabama.edu‌ for sharing this experience. I hope that the sysadmins for my instance are not the only ones who get to know it.

About the Author
I have worked for Instructure since 2012. Before that I worked in the community college system in Washington State. I live in Idaho