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A fresh Canvas: FGCU moves to new online class management system

Florida Gulf Coast University’s new online class management system, Canvas, has been the cause of much discussion since its debut this past summer.

Opinions vary among students and teachers who compare it to the University’s old system, ANGEL LMS.

Melodie Eichbauer, an assistant professor of medieval history, finds the transition from ANGEL to Canvas frustrating.

“I think it’s the fact that I dislike change,” Eichbauer said. “ANGEL drove me up a wall but at least I was comfortable and knew what to expect. Right now I’m in the ‘figuring it out’ phase. I’m just not tech savvy so it takes me longer to adjust.”

Eichbauer experienced some major setbacks during the final exam of a class she taught last spring when ANGEL crashed.

Inopportune downtimes were not an uncommon occurrence for the online management system, which has been actively used by FGCU’s faculty and scholars since 2004. ANGEL was relied upon by thousands of students to take quizzes and exams, to turn in homework and to communicate with their peers. Unfortunately, the server was unable to accommodate large volumes of students at once and often went down during the busiest periods of a semester. As FGCU’s student population steadily increased with each year, the functionality of ANGEL declined.

Certain portions of ANGEL were only compatible with Internet Explorer and Safari, forcing Firefox and Chrome users to switch browsers when completing specific tasks. Because of all of the glitches and complications, many professors stopped using ANGEL altogether, making it harder for students to keep track of their responsibilities.

“I never liked ANGEL,” senior Christy Brandon said. “My teachers didn’t like it and they never used it, so I never knew what my grades were. Now teachers are excited for Canvas, so I’ve noticed that they’re actually using it.”

According to Cathy Duff, the associate vice president of Office of Curriculum and Instruction, in 2011 FGCU got word that ANGEL would no longer be in existence by October 2014. With this information, Provost Ronald Toll assigned the Ad Hoc Learning Management system task force to review the LMS needs and identify the products that met identified specifications, requirements and criteria.

Canvas was introduced to students and faculty at FGCU during the summer of 2013 and is designed to do all that ANGEL had promised and more. Created by Instructure, the online management system was launched in 2011.

Since its opening, Canvas has been adopted by in more than 400 schools. Features include easy access to Dropbox and Evernote, the ability for instructors and students to use audio and videos in their lessons, and a calendar that alerts students to all of their due dates.

The Canvas mobile phone app and social media capabilities link with Twitter and Facebook to give users the option to stay involved while they’re on the go. Students may also calculate possible grades on Canvas, helping them to figure out the minimum score they need on an assignment in order to keep a certain GPA.

“I’m sure I’ll love it once I get used to it,” Eichbauer said. “(ANGEL) was the relationship that you know needs to end but somehow you hang on to it.”

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