Preparing Your Canvas: Tying it all up

Community Champion

This is the eleventh (and final!) post in my Preparing Your Canvas series, documenting NKU's transition from Blackboard to Canvas. If you want to start from the beginning, here's the rest in chronological order:


At long last, it's time to cast off the end of this endeavor. First, I'm going to indulge and talk about myself. Since my first post in June 2017, I've grown and changed. Some of that change has been undesirable (turns out being in a grad program while working full time is a great recipe for not taking care of your body), and some of it has helped me mature as an individual. I've learned more about pedagogy and the weird power dynamics of a university. Some of my edges have softened while others have hardened.

Canvas has changed, too. Since we adopted the LMS, Canvas has rolled out updates to the grade book, quizzes, and numerous quality of life improvements. I wish I could have recorded some of the instructors faces when they learned you could finally drag classes around on the Dashboard. Across this series I have also tracked my evolving relationship to Canvas. First, as the new, sexy software that did all the things our old LMS could not. Then, as the unfamiliar tool I had to learn to become an expert. Finally, as a robust (if not perfect) platform for education. And, as we approach the two-year mark from when we first started, I can still confidently say I am 100% happy with the choice to go with Canvas.

But few things can be boiled down to just one choice. It's really a series of choices. Implementing a new LMS involved an ongoing flow of commitments. When we ran into an issue, did we try make it look like the old LMS or use Canvas's approach? Is accessibility a goal we're pursuing as an institution, or an ideal to which we pay lip service? We like to view our past as a being made up of pivotal decisions because it makes our past comprehensible. It's a survival strategy evolved by finite brains processing an absurdly large world. But even something as mundane as switching software can make us reckon with who we are as people. 

From a project management perspective, having a clear end state is critical; you need to be able to say "We're done! We did it!" so that the project can come to a close. However, this view can encourage you to only see your project in isolation. Like the past, some projects don't have a neat end state for the people whose lives are influenced. Its been over a year since the old LMS was shuttered and I still have instructors who are getting used to Canvas or still find it unfamiliar. This is not to fault the instructors; rather, it's to highlight the danger of thinking its as easy as saying "Welp, we're done! Time to pack up!"

In a previous post I said my goal at the end was to wrap up loose ends and look to the future. Some threads refuse to be neatly knotted, though. Although the official migration is finished, it created new responsibilities and connections. We have courses and web pages that people now rely on for ongoing information about Canvas. The LMS migration prompted other initiatives in the university, too. People are warming up to Outcomes, for instance, and beginning to try implementing them at the program level. Universal Design for Learning is popping up in more conversations. Online learning is a growing priority for programs adapting to student needs. And each one is tied up to some degree with the changes to our LMS. Instead of treating the migration like something to finally move past, we can treat these things as yet another necessary step in the patterns of behavior we are creating each day.

I guess what I'm fumbling towards is that maybe its never really over?

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