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A Canvas Case Study: Higher Education

Ateneo de Manila University: From “Free” to Flourishing With Canvas

Manila, PH


Started in 2020

The higher education landscape is more complex than ever, requiring institutions to acquire systems that can support mobile, online, and blended learning, a personalized student experience, a technology-driven and data-friendly culture, and a scalable and secure infrastructure—to name a few needs. At Ateneo de Manila University, it had become common practice for faculty to acquire many different tools to meet these needs, many of them relying on free versions of tools that resisted meaningful adoption and couldn't sustain LTI integrations for a more connected learning experience. Learn why the Ateneo team upgraded to Canvas LMS to expand online learning and support its teaching and learning community.

The Challenge

When in-person learning was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Ateneo de Manila University, like many other institutions around the world, needed instructional support. The learning landscape at Ateneo was varied, as faculty members used many different technology tools to manage everyday instruction. However, even with the many tools used, Ateneo lacked administrator analytics and insights needed to evaluate student engagement, the technical support needed to drive a meaningful adoption process, the integrations needed to expand their learning ecosystem in a centralized way, and the course design capabilities needed to enhance learning activities. 

Although many of these needs had existed for years, the pandemic pushed them to make a decision. To maintain its democratic decision-making process and gauge faculty interest, Ateneo introduced Canvas Free-For-Teacher (FFT), a basic version of Canvas LMS, to faculty during the summer semester of 2020. After evaluating feedback the decision was clear: Ateneo purchased Canvas in September 2020 and invested in faculty training to ensure that beyond the tools, the right instructional practices were acquired to support students through this uncertain time.

The Solution

Upgrading to the premium version of Canvas had three main benefits for the Ateneo team.

#1 Implementation Support

Having access to a Canvas implementation specialist every step of the way enabled the Ateneo team to create guided training paths for faculty to follow. With the core belief that educators are the experts in their field, Ateneo created a design rubric to assist with quality control of courses while still providing the flexibility for faculty members to interpret and apply the guidelines to their courses.

“Without proper adoption, you run the risk of teachers not using what the institution is paying for. In my many years in edtech, this has been an issue with many learning management systems. Hands-on implementation support is one of the things we considered to be a big plus of Canvas.”
-Galvin Ngo, Assistant Director and Coordinator for Education Technology and Innovation, Ateneo (SALT) Institute

#2 Teacher Collaboration

To promote further collaboration throughout the transition, faculty were required to take an interactive Canvas course as a team, which pushed them to explore Canvas capabilities together and lean on one another for support. With a long history of Ateneo faculty creating their learning ecosystems with the tools of their choice, Canvas Commons was a game-changer because it allowed educators to find common ground in course creation. Instructors were given a course template as a starting point, allowing them to be more creative where it counts—with content and curriculum. 

“We wanted to get everyone on the same page and have meaningful conversations with one another about what online learning is and what it could be with Canvas.”
-Johnny Go, Director of the Science and Art of Learning and Teaching (SALT) Institute

The teacher teams that were formed throughout the adoption process enabled Ateneo to efficiently expand asynchronous learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

#3 Student Engagement

The new Canvas course design guidelines helped faculty be more intentional about communicating with their students. Best practices for student engagement were created to include a personalized course introduction, Discussions were used to create more opportunities for interaction, and Modules organized content into intuitive paths for students to follow. 

With the core belief that students become people under Ateneo’s care once they're enrolled in a course, the university feels it’s of great importance that students have the tools they need to succeed and learn at their own pace. The Ateneo team agreed that the user-friendly interface of Canvas made the transition easier for students, especially during the rapid shift to online learning. The team uses Gradebook to monitor individual student engagement and participation, which contributes to a more personalized learning experience.

The Results

“Before we started using Canvas teachers rarely worked together. The culture here, as in most educational institutions, was not collaborative before. This was a breakthrough for us.” 
-Johnny Go, Director of the Science and Art of Learning and Teaching (SALT) Institute

With the belief that training should not end after implementation, Ateneo has invested in ongoing Canvas support to ensure each team has on-demand training as needed. These efforts have led to the formation of professional learning communities (PLCs) in which educators regularly share resources, tips, and strategies to expand Canvas use and improve courses.

The emphasis on interactive online course design has led to higher student participation than ever before, allowing students more time and space to organize their thoughts, engage with course content, and collaborate with one another via Canvas Messages.

Above all, upgrading to Canvas LMS has provided the Ateneo team with a chance to design the learning experience they want to deliver without compromising reliability, scalability, and support as they plan for the future of higher education.

About Ateneo de Manila University

Since 1859, Ateneo de Manila has been preparing young people for the future, offering education and holistic formation that prepares students for life beyond work. Ateneo stays true to its mission of alleviating poverty by helping capacitate and empower marginalized communities and sectors of Philippine society. Aside from instilling academic excellence in its students, the University aims to mold future leaders to be at the forefront of nation-building.


Key Insights

  1. Ateneo de Manila University introduced faculty to Canvas Free-For-Teacher through a systematic professional certificate program before adopting the premium version.
  2. Ateneo centers its approach to teaching and learning around the three Cs: community, content, and coaching.
  3. Faculty members at Ateneo are not required to use the same learning management systems, but Canvas has helped many educators collaborate and connect.

Products Used



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