School Board Approves Canvas as New Learning Management System for 2020-21 School Year

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Produced by Wauwatosa School District

Eve Lazarski, Staff Reporter

Students, teachers, and parents will use the Canvas learning management system to organize their instruction and learning starting in the 2020-2021 school year. The school board approved a 3 year $213,500 contract to Instructure Inc., the manufacturers of Canvas at the school board meeting on Monday, June 22nd. 

A Learning Management System, or LMS, is an online system meant to deliver educational courses to users. Teachers used a variety of tools to deliver instruction during the COVID-19 school shutdown, but it was decided that a more thorough system was needed. 

“We realized we needed to explore a more comprehensive learning management system K-12 to serve as a hub for teacher and student communication and collaboration,” says Kristin Bowers, the Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning

While Google Classroom is good for in-person school, it has limitations that hinder online learning. The district wanted a LMS that would streamline and organize assignments, grades, and students.

“Our work team members felt that Canvas most aligned to the criteria we used in our evaluation of the 5 platforms that we explored; it’s appropriate and intuitive for students K-12; students will have single sign-on capabilities so that means fewer log-ins and passwords to remember; teachers have the ability to quickly gather data and use it to modify instruction for increased effectiveness; families will have access to their child’s platform,” said Bowers.  It would also need to be easy to use and integrate the current digital learning tools, like Infinite Campus and Google Classroom.

The work team evaluated different LMS’s by using their 14 criteria as well as feedback from teachers, and ultimately decided on Canvas.

Students will have to learn how to use Canvas for the upcoming school years. Gabriel Lazarski, a junior at Lyons Township Highschool in Illinois says that “…Canvas is an easy way for teachers to give you assignments and makes it very straightforward and easy for students to turn those assignments in. It also is a good way for teachers and students to contact each other in regards to questions or work.” 

Canvas includes calendars, to-do lists, conversations, grades, and easily accessible classes and assignments. These make it easy to talk to teachers and peers, organize assignments, and be on time. 

But all these features may take some time to master. In the first weeks of the 2020-2021 school year, teachers will embed Canvas into instruction, letting students learn how to use it and become familiar with it.  

Like many other online learning systems, Canvas may be a bit trickier to use for teachers than for students. Gabriel Lazarski says that “…it can be a bit of a challenge to set up and organize a canvas page if you are a teacher. Several times, teachers have told me that their canvas page is down or that a file did not upload and submit.” 

Overall, Canvas seems like a comprehensive, organized and easy to use Learning Management System. While it may have some flaws, the 2020-2021 school year should be easier than the previous online semester due to Canvas.