This is the first in a series of brief posts documenting my semester-long experiment with a new Instructional Management System (IMS). This IMS is called Canvas. It’s from Instructure. I wrote about it last spring. Individual instructors can use it for free.
D2L (or Desire 2 Learn) is the adopted IMS in our state college and university system. I have hated it for years and have complained loudly to faculty and students about its bad design.
I learned of Canvas and decided I could either complain for another year or do something about it. I am doing something about it.
First, the caveats…
When you go outside of the adopted IMS, please note that you’re on your own w/r/t FERPA. I have alerted my students that if I use Canvas to post their grades, their data will be stored outside of the institution, and that if they are uncomfortable with that, they should let me know and I will not use that feature of Canvas. (In previous semesters, I have not posted grades in D2L, so technically it’s a wash for them.) No student has indicated this to me so far.
Caveats out of the way, it’s time for round 1.
Round 1: Assignments
From a design and usability perspective, let’s think about how students use an IMS. They go there, I imagine, with one of two questions 85% of the time. The most common one (sadly) is probably What is my grade? More on that in a later round. The second most common has got to be What is due next week?
D2L has no Assignments area.
I’ll say that again. D2L has no Assignments area.
There is no choice that answers the question, What is due next week?
Can you read those choices? If you want to know what is due, what do you choose? It turns out you need to choose Content.
When you do, you get a screen that looks like this:
I typed those due dates into the titles of the links. There is no system for keeping track of due dates in D2L.
Now let’s look at Canvas. Remember that you are a student and you want to know what’s due next week. You see this menu:
But this isn’t really the best organization of things. You don’t want to have to pan through all of the categories of assignments to find the one thing that is due this week. No you would rather see things laid out in calendar format. Well, my friend, you’re in luck:
Round 1 goes to Canvas for sure.