By Sadie Finn and Alexis Larson
The beginning of this school year marked a switch in learning platforms for Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS). Last year, a board decided to switch TC Williams’ Learning Management System (LMS) from Blackboard, which ACPS has been using since 2005, to Canvas.
One of the main motivations for making the switch of LMS platforms is that Blackboard was not as user friendly for the younger audiences. When deciding to change the ACPS learning platform, the Request for Proposals (RFP) committee had to find a LMS that would be easy to use, even for elementary students. Canvas now makes it easier for teachers to make their pages look and function differently depending on what level of course they are teaching. ACPS Technology Integration Specialist (TIS) Jessica Henderson said, “Canvas is going to be really good because it is going to meet the needs of the diverse personalities of teachers.” An elementary teacher can make their page more understandable and navigable for their young students, while a high school teacher can give their page more in depth information for high school students.
Canvas can also be easily personalized by teachers to allow them to add their own creativity to their pages. TC Williams High School teacher Ashley Phillips said, “I like that you get to design your own page. Mine is very simple for my students, they can go in and see their course units, they can see any papers that they are missing, and discussion boards are very easy. We have a lot more control over [the layout of our page].”
The second main reason for changing LMS is that Canvas works more efficiently with the Google Apps. ACPS TIS Jami Martin said, “teachers and students can access their Google Drive from within Canvas and create or turn in assignments created and saved in Drive without having to convert them.” In addition, students can also sign into their google accounts through Canvas.
Google classroom is not an LMS, although it works hand-in-hand with the learning platforms. Martin said, “teachers can still use Google Classroom to send out assignments and content for students, and it works well with particular types of assignments.” It should be noted that parents can not access any information within Google classroom, unlike how they can through Canvas.
When searching for the right LMS to replace Blackboard, the RFP Committee read teacher responses from using Canvas and watched presentations from LMS companies. Martin said, “Ultimately, Canvas fulfilled the needs expressed by ACPS the best.”
Many students and staff at TC are staying positive about the switch. TC senior Saul Osorio said, “[Canvas] is better organized because you have a section for all of your classes.”
However, some students still miss Blackboard. TC sophomore Shannon Murphy said, “It is kind of hard for me to navigate, there are so many buttons and sections to go in I find myself getting lost.” Students are concerned that adjusting to the new LMS will be difficult and will take time to fully understand.
Phillips said, “Once we work out those kinks- those little hiccups- this year, it is going to be great.”