As those of you that are in North Carolina know, Canvas is basically the official LMS of our state. This past year I was able to experiment with the site with my students, and I found a number of fantastic things (affordances) and a few limitations (constraints).
First a word about what a LMS is for anyone that might not know. The link goes into greater detail, but a LMS is essentially a delivery method for course content to students. If you used Moodle or Blackboard in school, you will be familiar with the concept. The idea is that it puts everything in one place to simplify the lives of students, parents, and teachers.
First, let’s look at the affordances. The program is much more user friendly than a variety of similar programs that I have used in the past (here is looking at you Open Class). If you are familiar with typical word online processing programs and the general way in which questions are formed on these types of programs, you won’t have any major issues with this program. The most complex part is setting up the modules, which leads to the second affordance.
Canvas has an outstanding community of users that help each other solve problems, and customer service is lightning fast when you run into an issue along the way. If you run into an issue, you will not be left floundering for a solution.
Additionally, you can connect Canvas to several different types of gradebooks so that you can remove human error from the transfer of grades (it also supports standards based grading).
Another valuable tool is the Canvas Commons where teachers can share and explore teacher created resources. You can add resources and restrict who has access to them (from just you to global users).
Next up, it has quiz and test creation, and it enables you to embed videos into questions. It also makes data analysis simple and quick, so that reteaching and differentiation becomes easier.
Now seems like a fantastic time to mention that it integrates with Google Apps for Education, YouTube, Zaption, and a multitude of other apps into the interface. If you use a particular tool, it is quite likely that you can simply embed it into your assignment pages.
As to its constraints, there is no simple way to transfer what you have in Google Classroom if you are currently using that program. Regardless of what you use now, it will take a large amount of upfront work. Additionally, the transfer from one year to the next is still clunky. The best thing to do is to export the course at the end of the year, since classes have a tendency to disappear. Obviously, that is not the most exciting discovery to make.
All in all, Canvas is a very useful program that is intuitive. Have you used it? Do you have any words of wisdom for those of us that are still newbies?
All images are screenshots from https://www.canvaslms.com