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Community Team
Community Team

Using an LMS for the Very First Time

I went looking for this topic in the community and didn't find it, so my apologies if is already being discussed elsewhere...

We have a lot of resources and energy devoted to the topic of helping faculty members and institutions migrate from brand X to Canvas - rollout plans, and communication strategies and migration checklists.  But what about selling the basic proposition of a learning management system to a community of educators who have, for the most part, never utilized one?  

I have my own memories from when we did this at a college campus in 2003 where there hadn't been one formally provided.  Some faculty members were doing clever things with their own websites or using publisher provided resources but there wasn't one default platform that students just expected the teachers to use.  It was a time before as Dr. Tod Treat put it "..teaching in an LMS is no longer innovative.  It is traditional teaching."  Rolling out an LMS was something that frankly we had no idea how to well.

Looking back on your own experiences and what you know today, what elements do you think are important in introducing a new technology to a stable group of educators who already have their own toolsets as well as mindsets?  What are the steps, the techniques and the art of doing it well?  What resources would you fall back on?  What are pitfalls that are easy to hit if you don't know about them but easy to miss if you do? 

Robin Beck - The Very First Time (HQ) 

24 Replies

Thanks  @scottdennis  for starting this thread and great feedback  @Kevin_W ,  @ekeefe1  and  @kmeeusen ‌.  

Follow up for the group:  

In Asia, we have a lot of first time LMS institutions in all sectors (HE/K12/Vocational) and, outside of specific tactics to encourage adoption by faculty, am curious about organizational structures.  

Did your institutions create a new department to manage the LMS?    Was it deliberate, or did this happen organically over time between faculty / IT.  


Community Coach
Community Coach

Hi  @scottdennis ‌

Thank you for asking this very important question, because we are getting lots of first-timers in our Community, many of whom are in the K-12 environment and moving online for the first time

The technology responses so far are great, because I am daily amazed and flabbergasted at how many schools are not training their faculty in how to use the LMS!

However, I am going to approach this from a humanistic and pedagogical perspective, because you specifically asked about users new to an LMS.

  • List out the primary activities/functions that face-to-face teachers regularly engage in - communicating with students, providing access to learning materials, providing access to learning activities, making assignments and assessments available, grading submissions, monitoring student progress and more. Then show how those functions can be easier, quicker and more effective using an LMS.
  • Be up-front about the time investment - Teachers already spend a considerable amount of time in class-preparation, much of it unpaid. Setting up your course online can mean duplicating that work and the time for teachers who are not trained in how to prep their course directly in Canvas. Teach faculty how to prep directly in the LMS, and be upfront about them prepping their courses up front. In other words, get your teachers to build the entire course, or as much of it as possible before the term starts. Build-as-you-go is fine when there is no other choice and you can stay far enough ahead of your students to make it work, but it makes for a very hectic term for the teacher and much more work. Seasoned teachers already have their content, and in this day-and-age most of that content is available in digital form. Show your teachers how to take advantage of that.
  • Teach the transfer of work flow from on-ground to online -  identify obvious primary workflows in an on-ground course, and demonstrate how those work flows can be accomplished online.
  • Teach good online course design principles - this, combined with my previous note can make classroom management so much easier.
  • Include the student/learner perspective - hey, it's no secret that most of us teach because we care about learners and learning. Point out the advantages of the online learner experience including 24X7 availability, digital content that is much more accessible, etc., etc., etc.
  • Teach the difference between on-ground and online pedagogy - too many folks do not recognize that there are even any differences, but there are and they are significant. In the online environment, pedagogy defines course design, and course design supports pedagogy.
  • Start slow and small if possible - start with the gradebook and a posted syllabus and such. Start with web-enhanced, move to blended/hybrid, then to fully online wherever and with whichever faculty this is possible.
  • Support, Support, Support - The migration from a traditional classroom to an online one is a huge change, and change is challenging for most folks. Be there! And I mean really BE THERE! Be at your user's beck-and-call!

I will also add the typical change management suggestion of identifying champions. Folk who may have some online experience, or who are excited about the transition and can't wait. Give them extra training, and use them as mentors.

A quick review of my hasty list shows that technology is intimately wrapped around every one of those suggestions. That is how you start integrating the technology training.

I hope this is useful for someone out there, and if I find the time I will come back and add more. For now, though, I want to hear what others can add.


These are great suggestions,  @Kevin_W ‌! 

As I travel around and train different institutions on Canvas, I hear a lot of what you're saying and see a lot of it being done. And the pitfall you pointed out? That's a HUGE one! 

Sometimes we have to train instructors who the idea of an LMS just doesn't seem to make sense. In those cases, I try to find the pain point they might be dealing with. Is it grading? Enter SpeedGrader. Is it student engagement? Enter Discussions or audio/video. Is it organization? Let's talk Modules...

I love when I get the opportunity to show it from the student perspective, and talk about how the students are experiencing the course content without an LMS vs with an LMS used minimally vs using Canvas in its best-case scenario. Those can be difficult conversations to get to, and not everyone is open to changing the way they have always done it...but those who are open to it - that can change a lot of minds about using Canvas!


Hi Scott! 

1. They're going to love using Canvas. 

2. Have a training course in the Canvas environment ready to roll. Low pressure, asynchronous, and set up by modules centered around different Canvas elements. Add the instructors to the course as students and set them up with their own sandbox/practice course that they can carry out items in.

3. Encourage the instructors to set-up their courses using modules.

4. As with anything new, get the excited ones and the not so excited ones on the same "canvas advancement" committee. 

5. Get a list of what their current LMS (if they're using one) does well for them and line up how Canvas does it (with features). In almost every case, you will find Canvas to sell itself here.

6. Moving forward, pay attention to the feature updates and share vital ones with everyone. Or all, but it's easy to overload here as Canvas is constantly improving. 

Pitfalls? The biggest one I've dealt with at my institution is the lack of consistent Canvas use from instructor to instructor and trying to retrain their Canvas use as they were never given training from the onset. They all figured it out on their own.

Those are some of the basics. We could dig into the admin side of things and specific features that would help from your side of the equation as well.