Free online program, Canvas, test-drived to potentially replace Sakai at univ.
Published: Monday, October 15, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 19:04
More than 30 professors and 1,200 students are test-driving an alternative to Sakai, called Canvas, this semester, according to Internet Technology project leader Mathieu Plourde.
The university has used Sakai for more than four years, but Plourde said he thinks the program shows its age.
He said it is much easier for professors to record lectures for students to watch outside of the classroom with Canvas, giving students more of an opportunity to spend class time leading discussions.
“Students will mostly do knowledge acquisition while they are outside of class, and they come to class prepared,” Plourde said.
Canvas, unlike Sakai, offers mobile support, including an iPad and iPhone application. All modern browsers such as Firefox, Safari, Google Chrome, Opera and Internet Explorer support the new program.
Education professor Bud Clark is trying out Canvas for his classes and he said he is pleased with the website’s functionality, in which social media plays a large role.
“Canvas delivers content in ways similar to other web applications students use every day,” Clark said. “[It] provides mobile views. There are Facebook, Twitter and text options to keep you abreast of what’s happening.”
He said he thinks the pilot has been successful, especially for online and hybrid courses.
Senior Kevin Colodner said he has had only good experiences with Sakai in the past and thinks changing to Canvas would cause confusion among students and professors.
“I think that if the program was changed to something new, students probably wouldn’t like it because everyone is used to Sakai, and that’s what we know,” Colodner said.
According to Plourde, the university is not forcing professors to switch to Canvas. The school offers the second learning management system as an option for faculty members.
Art professor Jon Cox said he thinks the university should give professors more options for their Internet component of their courses.
“I don’t think that the university should eliminate Sakai altogether,” Cox said. “I think it is good for faculty to have choices depending on their needs.”
Freshman Katherine Sneddon said she thinks Sakai is useful for students but only when professors use it correctly.
“I think Sakai is pretty good because it keeps everything in one place,” Sneddon said. “Sometimes it gets annoying if teachers don’t know how to use it.”
Education professor Fred Hofstetter has taught several courses using Canvas. He said he wanted to listen to the experts when deciding whether to use it in place of Sakai.