In Spring 2013 Webcourses will be replaced
UCF’s new online system a hit
Published: Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Updated: Saturday, September 8, 2012 22:09
Imagine being able to keep up with your classes while being able to use your favorite social media platform. A scenario that would allow you to be able to keep up with your friends on the go through Facebook and Twitter, as you already do, but that would also let you know what’s going on in your classes. Having the ability to be fully integrated, more organized with classes and being given more one-on-one attention in your online coursework. A place where social media will meet the classroom and become one. Well, with the help of a new management system, that time is now.
UCF has been working on migrating to Canvas Instructure as its next learning management system. This new system, temporarily being called Webcourses 2, will officially takeover and be used by all students in the spring 2013 semester. The reason for the switch is that the current learning management system, WebCT Vista, is being discontinued and no further updates will be provided for it.
In April, three vendors gave faculty, students and other interested parties the opportunity to see a demonstration of their platform. Those three vendors were Blackboard, Desire 2 Learn, and Canvas Instructure. Over the past two semesters, these systems were tested and used by both faculty and students to determine which of these systems would allow for the best learning and instructing experience.
“UCF is still in the soft launch phase of the Canvas platform with 30 instructors and 200 students,” said Thomas Cavanagh, assistant vice president of the Center for Distributed Learning.
Students will be able to integrate their favorite social media platforms with the new Canvas learning management system. Canvas will allow students to receive notifications through social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. If a new assignment or discussion gets posted for class, they can choose to be made aware via Facebook. Students will receive the same type of notification that they would if someone commented on their statuses. If the student uses Twitter more frequently, he or she would have the option to be notified via direct message.
John Raible, an instructional designer for the Center for Distributed Learning, is also an adjunct at UCF who instructs an Introduction for Technology and Educators course. He and his students are part of the Canvas platform pilot.
“You can see a class discussion through Facebook and never have to log in to the learning management system,” Raible said.
Neither class discussions nor grades will ever be posted to your newsfeeds or to your Facebook wall. The system will adhere to FERPA policies and social media privacy settings so that friends can’t find out that you failed your midterm.
However, if you do not like to receive too many notifications, you can choose not to receive them. If you choose not to get notifications through your use of social media, Canvas also offers a mobile app. The app is currently only available for Apple iOS, but the Android app is on its way. For now, Android users can still use their mobile internet to log in to access the system.
When a students log in, their home screens will have a newsfeed-like feature in the middle of the page. It will list out all of the students’ assignments for each class and any other important details that an instructor would post for them. Everything will be right there in front of students, making it hard for them to say that they didn’t know an assignment was due.
One of the best features of using Canvas is that it allows both instructors and students to be able to video chat. It will also give the instructors the ability to send video where students can see them while they are critiquing their work, such as a draft for a paper. Unlike the current system under WebCT Vista, the student will be able to send back comments on instructor’s feedback and essentially start a conversation where instructor and student will both be able to provide each other with their thoughts on assignments and projects. The Canvas chat feature will also allow students and instructors to upload YouTube videos.
Even with all of the different functions that are made accessible to students and instructors, the system has a visually appealing look that is very organized.
“Canvas is very user-friendly,” professor Brandi Blessett said.
Blessett was one of the initial faculty members to use Canvas during the summer and is currently using it in the nonprofit organizations class that she instructs.
Another great feature is what’s being called the “What If” capability. This feature allows students to go in to their grades and post a fictitious score so that they can see what they would have to get on an upcoming assignment to be able to earn a specific grade in the class. There will no longer be a need to ask professors what would have to be earned on the final exam in order to get a desired grade.