In 2011, Blackboard announced their decision to sunset Angel which prompted Cardinal Stritch University to enter the RFP (request for proposal) process to locate a new learning management system (*LMS). When we went through our RFP process in the spring of 2011, Cardinal Stritch University had four different Learning Management Systems come to campus and present their proposal/sales pitch. Stakeholders from across the university participated in the presentations and demos of each product and the participants used rubrics evaluate how easy common tasks would be in each system. The Office of Information Systems reviewed all of the technical documentation to identify which system would work best within our current environment and with our student information system, Jenzabar. After collating and reviewing all of the results, the committee had a vote and it was unanimous! Canvas would be our next LMS. We spent the next year programming the configuration of Canvas to ensure the launch in August of 2014 would go smoothly for all users.
With the launch in 2014 the institution set a minimal usage requirement of a course homepage and link to the course syllabus for all faculty using Canvas at Cardinal Stritch University. Since our initial launch of Canvas we have seen a gradual rise in usage among faculty, staff and students. Now in 2016, Canvas is being used in almost 100% of our courses regardless of format. Final Grade submissions within Canvas was announced as mandatory for all faculty using Canvas beginning August 29th, 2016. Since our initial launch we’ve seen Canvas introduce many new features including draft state and the new user interface. Compared to other learning management systems, Canvas is a very young: Instructure, Canvas' parent company, started in 2008 and the LMS was launched in 2011. Canvas now supports over 2,000 universities, school districts and institutions worldwide. With such a strong growth rate you might expect increases in support issues or outages to occur. However, in the last twelve months Canvas has reported an average 99.990% uptime, which is outstanding.
I recently had the opportunity to attend a day long Canvas conference for “Canvas groupies” like myself. Our first keynote speaker was the Senior Vice President of Product & Customer Experience, Mitch Macfarlane, who gave a great speech on why we should buy Canvas. At first the speech bothered me because I thought we already have Canvas so why would you devote 40 minutes of our day to talk to us about purchasing Canvas. As the day went on I dismissed the keynote address and focused on what sessions I wanted to attend. Many of the sessions introduced me to new and exciting ways to use Canvas and to other features Canvas has in development (HINT: A NEW Quizzing Interface is coming!). Talk about feeling energized! So what makes a Canvas conference such a powerful experience? It’s in the way that people talk about Canvas and how they have a crazy desire to get you to love the tool as much as they do!
As I reflect back to the keynote delivered by Mitch it occurred to me that each person presenting during the conference emulated the excitement and desire to talk about Canvas as much as Mitch did in his opening remarks. It was like they couldn’t wait to share what cool new thing Canvas could do. It reminded me of a parent who might be overheard saying…”My daughter can ride her two wheel bike now!”. Every presenter was enthusiastic, engaged and asked the audience repeatedly throughout the day, “What would you like to see Canvas do next?” It was invigorating to see the interest the presenters had in us (the end users) as we discussed our challenges around certain features or a lack of certain features in Canvas. While Instructure may be a young company and Canvas a young LMS, I believe the company holds the user experience at the center of all decisions. This reaffirms why I am 100% behind our original and unanimous decision to select Canvas. I can’t wait to see what new feature is coming next.