A Canvas Case Study: Higher Education

City University of Hong Kong

Rapidly Scaling Online Learning With Canvas


Kowloon, Hong Kong

30,000 Users

Started 2015


As the spread of the coronavirus began impacting educational institutions across the globe, many schools were forced to design and implement plans for remote learning. A Canvas customer since 2015, City University of Hong Kong (CityU) met the challenges of COVID-19 early on. In just eight days, they became one of the first local universities to shift all classroom instruction online using Canvas.

The Challenge

Adopting a cloud-first strategy, CityU had replaced Blackboard, their original learning management system (LMS), with Canvas in 2015—due to Canvas’ reliability and ability to scale as the institution’s online learning needs continued to expand.

Although the Canvas LMS had been implemented several years prior, the sudden transition to remote learning required all CityU educators to embrace the platform more than ever before. As the team made this shift, two questions remained top of mind:

How do you quickly train more than 1,200 teachers and provide a central hub for sharing resources to ensure campus-wide learning continues online?

At the same time, how do you help 30,000 students access courses anywhere, anytime on multiple devices?

The Solution

Since 2015, CityU has been using Canvas to streamline online courses, take its mobile-learning initiatives to the next level, and improve the student experience. Fast forward five years—as CityU’s education ecosystem expanded and then needed to rapidly transition online—Canvas was there to help.

To ensure both educators and students were set up to succeed, CityU took the following steps:

Step one: Ensure all educators had the tools and training they needed to get up and running. In a matter of days, Dr. Crusher Wong, senior e-learning manager, built a 1,900-member Canvas website to accompany interactive training sessions. Teachers found the intuitive interface and easy-to-use tools helpful as they made the move to online instruction.

“A few colleagues were reluctant to lecture online in the first place,” said Dr. Wong. “But, with proper training and practice, our teachers became comfortable and value the opportunity to interact with students in real-time.”

Step two: Facilitate student engagement. In addition to the video-conferencing integration, teachers at CityU have relied on Quizzes, Assignments, Discussions, and Media Recordings in Canvas to fuel student engagement and capture evidence of learning outside of the classroom.

Key Insights

In a matter of days, leaders at CityU created a website for professional development resources to train over 1,800 teachers on Canvas.

Canvas hosted more than 2,000 students simultaneously when courses resumed during the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting CItyU in its transition to remote learning.

With Canvas, CityU has produced over double the amount of media recordings (1,900+ vs. 7,200+), for use in student presentations and video lectures.

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The Results

The significant increase in usage was followed by even greater outcomes. To put it simply—both educators and students have found Canvas incredibly easy to use. In particular, the most important features to CityU were mobile access, multimedia capabilities, and interactive remote-learning tools. With the ability for students and teachers to access Canvas LMS any time, anywhere, and from any device, CityU built a foundation for student-centered remote learning despite the disruption caused by the pandemic.

With the sudden change in daily learning objectives, educators at CityU were able to rely on Canvas for project-based assignments. In fact, in the most recent semester, more than double the average amount of media recordings have been produced (1,900+ vs. 7,200+), for the creation of student presentations and pre-recorded video lectures.

Shortly after CityU launched its Canvas training website, 30 training sessions were conducted for 1,218 educators during the first week of remote learning. In the weeks to follow, CityU’s Canvas website became a central place for educators to continue interacting and collaborating about Canvas best practices, with 8,185 pages recorded and 177 discussion messages posted.

Adapting to remote learning was not something CityU had planned for, but with a scalable, reliable, and flexible platform in place, educators and students are prepared for whatever comes their way next year and beyond.

“While facing successive challenges, CityU has been thinking out of the box and, with the support of our faculty, is providing our students with the best possible options,” said Professor Way Kuo, university president. “Our online learning platform ensures that learning effectiveness continues as scheduled and in an engaging way.”

About The Institution

Located in the heart of Hong Kong, City University is known for its excellence in pairing innovative research with professional education. With a focus on addressing global issues and cultivating positive change, the institution is dedicated to fostering lifelong learning and preparing students for the ever-changing global environment.

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