No one likes transitioning from one LMS to another. It takes a lot of time and hard work. Yet, as much as migrating to a new LMS doesn’t make my top 10 (or even 100) list of things I’d like to do again, when we transitioned from Angel to Canvas at Richland Community College, it went surprisingly well.
I think it went so well for two reasons: the user-friendliness of Canvas and the excellent implementation planning by our college. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a year or a few months, it’s really important to focus on the things that need to get done and then plan accordingly. For our transition, we focused on the normal things like training and getting our other institutional technologies to play nicely with Canvas, but the thing that seemed to make the biggest impact was our marketing strategy.
Most people don’t like change, so we felt it was really important to put a positive spin on the switch to Canvas. This included things like articles in the student newspaper about cool Canvas features such as the mobile app, what-if grades, customized notifications, and the easy-to-use interface. For faculty, we emailed and posted the “Top 10 Time Saving Features in Canvas.” We tried to cover all our bases with posters and handouts around campus, a “Countdown to Canvas” on our main website, and we even created catchy promotional stickers that ended up on every drink at our college coffee house.
Also, any time I talked with people about Canvas, I always kept the conversation upbeat, focusing on the good that would come from making the transition. And, as silly as it might sound, I think this made a huge difference in how our implementation played out.
Students seemed excited for the change and were asking how soon until they got to use Canvas. This enthusiasm carried over to our pilot testing where 85.3 percent of participating students said they preferred Canvas over Angel and 94 percent were confident to very-confident in their ability to successfully use Canvas for future courses. The qualitative feedback from students was also pretty positive:
“Canvas is a wonderful, user friendly program. I have used Angel and still do for most of my classes. Last semester, I thought Angel was great, but after using Canvas, I prefer it. Everything seems to operate much smoother.”
“Canvas has made navigating, submitting assignments, and communicating a breeze. It is a pleasure to be a part of this new online program at RCC. I'm sure everyone will find Canvas fun and look forward to utilizing its easy functions. Classes, assignments, and tests can be stressful, but Canvas has cut the load in half. Good Bye Angel!!!”
It wasn’t all rainbows and pandas riding unicorns, but the overall results from our pilot were that students felt navigation in Canvas was easy and they had no problem finding course materials, assignments, and their grades. Students really liked the layout of Canvas and that they could personalize their communication preferences.
Faculty also seemed to embrace the change and were generally pretty positive about the switch. After the first full semester with Canvas, 82 percent of faculty (29 percent response rate) said they were having a positive to very positive experience using Canvas. They rated SpeedGrader and grading to be the most useful and helpful features:
“SpeedGrader is my favorite thing in the world. The gradebook is also wonderfully easy to set up and manage.”
“I love the SpeedGrader … it makes grading so much easier and faster! I also love the Canvas app and being able to work from my iPad!”
This generally positive impression of Canvas has remained, and now, two years after our full implementation, 97 percent of faculty (21 percent response rate) indicated they were having a positive to very positive experience using Canvas. Likewise, 95 percent of students (17 percent response rate) felt positive to very positive about their experience using Canvas and 90 percent were confident to very confident in their ability to successfully use Canvas for future courses.
What’s the takeaway from our experience? 1) That Canvas is user-friendly, and 2) so were our planning and implementation efforts. Training and getting our technologies synched was crucial, but without a successful marketing campaign, I don’t believe our transition would have gone as smoothly. If you catch people’s interest and create enthusiasm for the change, then people are much more forgiving when things don’t work quite as planned. They’re also much more interested in completing training and using the new system.
The best part? All we really needed to do was get people into Canvas with an open mind and positive outlook and the simplicity and ease of use did the rest for us.
Richland Community College Director of Online Learning