The University of Texas at Austin

Canvas and Google Apps Enhance Teaching and Learning

January 18, 2013

About 50 faculty and 3,500 students used Canvas for the first time on campus during the fall 2012 semester. During this assessment period, the data gathered from students, faculty, and staff strongly support Canvas as a viable alternative to the University’s current Learning Management System, Blackboard. In a survey to faculty members who used Canvas this fall, 84% of the 41 faculty who responded were very positive about using Canvas in their courses.

Findings from the spring 2013 semester will include a much wider number of classroom experiences from 125 faculty and 8,000 students taking 200 classes using Canvas. Of particular interest is how newly integrated features such as UTmail’s Google Apps for Education and Mediasite lecture capture benefit both students and faculty. There is a lot of excitement from students and faculty around enabling UTmail’s Google Apps for Education within Canvas. This was one of the most requested enhancements made by students last semester because the Google Docs integration will help them collaborate amongst themselves and with faculty.

Dr. Paul Resta, Director of the Learning Technology Center, the College of Education, led an instructional pilot last year using Canvas and Google Apps for Education. A key goal of the pilot was to develop best practices for the classroom and evaluate accessibility before a campus-wide rollout could be considered. College of Education faculty were provided training and consultation by the college’s Learning Technology Center IDEA Studio. Dr. Gene Brooks, a faculty member in the Special Education Department, helped with the accessibility testing and development of accommodations.

The project team has taken the lead coordinating with technical support contacts (TSCs) across campus, so faculty members have access to Canvas help when they need it. Additionally, staff from the Center for Teaching and Learning has developed on-line training materials and videos, training classes and scheduled office hours to assist faculty members who are using Canvas for the first time. The ITS Help Desk is also geared up to help students and faculty who have questions about Canvas.

On January 9, 2013, the project team presented an FYI reviewing last semester’s pilot and discussing what has been learned so far about Canvas’ unique features, extensibility and blending of technology and pedagogy. Special thanks to Dr. Brenda Berkelaar, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Studies, College of Communication, for taking the time to provide insights, tips and stories from her experience using Canvas in two of her classes this past fall.

If you were unable to attend, the FYI presentation is archived at: http://mediasite.aces.utexas.edu/UTMediasite/Play/ff67b01b86654e418f8382f1998e47051d

If you want to learn more about the Canvas evaluation project, please go to: https://www.utexas.edu/its/canvas-project/

More Canvas updates will be available throughout the spring semester.

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