Starting in Fall 2012 UVU will switch from the Blackboard learning module to Canvas, which includes Facebook and Twitter compatabilities. Lyndi Bone/UVU Review

The university’s license for Blackboard, the current web-based course management module, will expire in the Summer of 2012, requiring instructors to migrate course materials to Instructure Canvas, the new online management tool.

After six months of evaluating several different online course tools including Moodle, Desire to Learn, the newest version of Blackboard as well as others, Canvas was a clear choice for UVU and the other state institutions.

There are currently ten faculty members experimenting with the new service, and instructors are saying that Canvas is a dramatic improvement from the previous online service.

“Canvas is a lot more straightforward than Blackboard and much easier to use,” said Jared Stein, the director of the Innovation Instruction Technology Center.  “It’s much more powerful than Blackboard and offers additional, easy to use features.”

Canvas offers all of the same features as Blackboard, including discussions, mail, live chatting, online quizzes, assignments, learning modules and calendars.

Unlike the Java-based Blackboard application, the open-source Canvas doesn’t require students and instructors to constantly update plug-ins to keep the module operational.

One of the most exciting features of Canvas for both students and professors is the integration of social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter.  After registering your Canvas profile, students will be notified about upcoming due dates, changes in assignments, returned assignments and more. Students can also receive updates on course assignments via text message.

Another draw for instructors is the easy-to-use grade book. Eighty percent of instructors on campus use Blackboard’s grade book to keep track of student grades, and most find that the interface is very difficult to use.

Rather than having to reload and re-submit grades for each different assignment, instructors type the score and Canvas can automatically save and recalculate the totals.

Other features of Canvas include integrated search engines for uploading documents through GoogleDocs, posting Flickr Creative Commons images, as well as various files that instructors upload to servers.

Instructors can even use their webcam through Canvas to record and post personalized video for students to access online.