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Case Study

Change Brings New Opportunities for Innovation


Farmington, New Mexico, USA

Started Using Canvas


Number of Users


San Juan College

As a two-year community college, San Juan College in New Mexico offers high-quality programs, and its instructors blend the latest online pedagogical tools to prepare students for the next step in their careers. Many students pursue degrees and certifications in specialized fields, including veterinary technology, health information, automotive, and the gas and oil industries.

Because San Juan College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, the caliber of its courses is important to administrators and the college’s growth and student success. San Juan College is implementing Quality Matters Standards for online and hybrid course design. Instructors build and evaluate courses with research-based benchmarks to promote innovation and learner engagement.

San Juan College had used the ANGEL course management system by Blackboard for five years, but learned that Blackboard would be discontinuing that system. The college could already feel a difference in support and the frequency of updates with ANGEL and needed something that would grow with the college’s programs. San Juan College set out to find a new learning management system (LMS).

The implementation team was so helpful in making sure that our conversion was smooth. Any time our team had questions, the Canvas team was there to help and guide us through the change.


Director of Online Services, San Juan College

The Process

A selection team of faculty, staff, and students (including online students) researched the LMS market to find a system that was easy for students and faculty to use, featured smooth application integration, and had advanced reporting functions. Decision-makers also included service and support among the most important criteria.

The team evaluated three companies, one of which was Canvas by Instructure. Several colleges and universities in New Mexico used Canvas or were moving in that direction. Because San Juan College is a community college, many students will advance to other schools in New Mexico, and administrators wanted them to have continuity with their LMS. San Juan College went through a pilot of Canvas in the fall of 2013, with specific demos for teachers and distance learners. In a rare move for a group that big, the team unanimously chose Canvas as its new LMS. The entire college started using Canvas in 2014.

Dr. Karen Acree, the director of online services for San Juan College, said Canvas offered great training and Amazon Web Services hosting, which freed the online services team from spending its time hosting servers at the college. Online services is now able to devote more time to course development and student and faculty support.

Because Canvas is easy to use, faculty are much more comfortable adding digital learning tools and additional apps to the platform. “We are able to spend much more time working with faculty to ensure that courses meet Quality Matters standards, do more training, and take advantage of many more applications being integrated with Canvas,” Acree said.

Soon after the switch, San Juan College achieved 95% adoption of Canvas. Nearly all online, hybrid, and face-to-face courses are required to use Canvas. In 2017, the college implemented a Minimum Standard Use of Canvas policy that all faculty must follow. Students take courses with a Canvas shell that includes course guide and syllabus, attendance records, and all grades. The course is published, and all content is accessible to people with disabilities.

In line with the college’s focus on continuous improvement, Canvas helped online course designers reach standards for Quality Matters certification and will help create new online programs. San Juan College also rolled out a college-wide course template that comes with all of the student resources built in and helps faculty provide a structure for all courses.

San Juan College is taking advantage of new opportunities that come with a flexible, open, customizable platform like Canvas. Acree said, “I think I speak for almost everyone at San Juan College that we are so glad we selected Canvas. We have progressed further than we could have imagined when we started this process.”

Key Findings

  1. 95% of San Juan College has adopted Canvas
  2. Faculty like Canvas because of SpeedGrader and the ability to integrate other digital apps
  3. Factors in selecting Canvas: ease of use, service, and support

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