Our Mission

Odyssey Wilson

As the internet has become increasingly prevalent throughout the last few decades, online learning has become a standard. With online learning came the development of learning management systems. Oregon State University has been using Canvas for the past couple years after switching from Blackboard in 2014 in attempts to find a learning management system to meet our expectations and needs as a university.

The presented reason for the switch was to find a learning management system that provides excellent teaching, learning, and communication capabilities yet teachers and students continue to have issues with Canvas. Rather than switching to a different learning management system, however, we provide recommendations for how Oregon State’s use of Canvas could be changed to better understand and take advantage of the features that it provides.

As we discovered in our research, there are problems with the ways that learning management systems are being exposed to teachers and students. As funding allows, we would like to see instructors be better versed in Canvas’ features and for students to be educated on how to use it before coming to college. This training would specifically target new students and less technologically savvy instructors, however everyone on campus could benefit from the information.

As a group of both eCampus and on campus students who have seen how Canvas has been integrated into the OSU experience, we would like to see the struggles that we faced regarding learning management systems be fixed for the next waves of students!

Thank you,

Odyssey Wilson, Amanda Hooser, and Jake Wadleigh

eLearn @ OSU

OSU Transition from Blackboard to Canvas

Amanda Hooser

In 2013, OSU launched eLearn@OSU to review, connect and optimize technologies for teaching and learning. This initiative was created due to OSU’s desire to provide students and teachers with a satisfying LMS. According to eLearn@OSU, an effective system was to allow for 24/7 access to course materials, provide a FERPA-compliant format for course delivery and communication, act as a foundation for learning technology, provide a way for OSU to evaluate academic goals and provide students with a consistent framework. OSU values these qualities of an effective system, therefore they used this initiative to conduct an LMS evaluation for the 2014-2015 academic school year.

In December of 2013, OSU submitted a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a new LMS. The request attracted 4 proposals and after a review process, two were selected for evaluation. The final two candidates were an updated version of the current system called Blackboard 14 and a new option called Canvas by Instructure. The evaluation of the two systems was conducted by three major groups: the core project group, OSU students and instructors, and a team of specialists. The core project group was the coordinating team that facilitated the evaluation process. OSU students and instructors had the opportunity to sign up and the core group filtered the candidates to involve all areas of OSU. The team of specialists were subject matter experts that reviewed target areas of the systems to ensure access, security and integration with current OSU systems.

The evaluation was done through a “sandbox” version in which the developers of Blackboard 14 and Canvas allowed the evaluators to experience the features and functionality of the system. The links to these two sandbox systems were provided on the evaluation form that also outlined tasks and pathways that teachers or students should simulate. For instructors these tasks were categorized as communication/collaboration, quizzes/tests and assignments, grading/tracking student performance, and creating a and organizing content. For example, one of the tasks in communication/collaboration was to create a calendar due date. For students, these tasks included submitting a quiz, assignment, discussion post, a message to an instructor and checking a grade in the gradebook. In addition to the evaluation form and sandbox systems, 16 instructors were recruited to teach a course using the systems in Spring 2014. The evaluation results were reviewed by the core project team and supported Canvas by Instructure. The LMS was installed and utilized the following academic year and has been employed since then.

This transition occurred after my freshman year in college. I took two classes online with Blackboard my freshman year and since have taken at least one class per term online with Canvas. It was clear to me my freshman year that Blackboard was not the most effective LMS. This was because I had to save several bookmarks to my browser to take my online hw assignments, reach my course materials, and to access Blackboard. Canvas streamlined this process by  integrating several learning tools, for example adding links to online labs and other resources. In addition, with Blackboard I found that instructors were incredibly textbook dependent. Since the transition, I have found that instructors have taken advantage of the “Modules” tab in Canvas to provide powerpoint lectures and other materials instead of the incredibly expensive textbooks. I think this transition was well executed and resulted in a much higher quality LMS for OSU students.

Teacher Satisfaction Drives Learning Management Systems

Amanda Hooser

For instructors to be successful in using LMS, they must feel satisfied with the features of the system. Without this satisfaction, the instructors are less likely to deliver high quality education and instruction. Consequently, for students to be successful in online courses, they have to be offered high quality education and instruction from satisfied instructors. In my experience as an OSU student, teacher satisfaction drives LMS however, this correlation isn’t always present. I have taken over 50 credits of online courses during my four years here, and I have found instructors to be inconsistent with their quality of education and instruction. Why is this? I think that the instructors do not see the benefit of the system to be great enough to put in the work to develop new teaching programs. In order for them to see this, we have to understand how they determine benefit.

In a study conducted by Ibrahim Almarashdeh at the University of Dammam in Saudi Arabia, the factors that most greatly contribute to instructor satisfaction were investigated. It investigated how system quality (SyQ), service quality (SvQ), information quality (InQ), perceived ease of use (PEU), and perceived usefulness (PU) contributed to user satisfaction (SAT). Furthermore, the questionnaire evaluated how SAT contributed to the net benefit (NB). SAT was defined as the evaluation of the user’s experience and NB as the balance of negative and positive impacts on user behavior..

The results closely concentrated which indicated that the instructors shared a similar point of view on the questionnaire topics. This is important because it shows that demonstrating the benefits to instructors as a whole will be effective because they will interpret benefit in similar ways. In addition, the results suggested that the strongest relationship was exhibited between perceived usefulness and user satisfaction. I think this finding would be consistent with the views of instructors at OSU because converting to Canvas already increased SyQ, SvQ, InQ and PEU. Therefore, the only contributing factors to instructor satisfaction that need attention are PU and SAT.

For students to succeed in online courses, instructors have to all be on the same page. It is our job as students to continue to reinforce the usefulness of instructor consistency in quality education and instruction through teacher evaluations and blog posts to hopefully increase their satisfaction with Canvas.


Online Professors Facing Challenges with New LMS

Jake Wadleigh

As students, we must put our voices together and provide feedback to Oregon State University on how teachers are utilizing Campus. With the growth of new technology, there are more and more professors struggling to teach online. The problems that professors are facing are different from ones they may have faced in a traditional classroom. Teachers are being forced to come up with innovative ways to create a flexible but productive online experience. In addition, online teachers have to be creative in how they offer a supportive place for questions, resources, and overall help. The majority of us students are taking online classes so that they have the ability to work 24/7 and have flexibility with their instructors.

So, what is a LMS? Learning management systems are what allow online classes to function. In the past few years, Oregon State University switched from Blackboard to Canvas LMS which was ultimately a very positive change. However, professors struggled with the transition as there was little to no training and teachers are expected to learn and use the program efficiently. Many professors struggle with simply setting up the classroom prior to the term. This includes setting up a new syllabus aimed at online learners, inputting assignments, due dates, and more.

How to lead Professors to Success

Odyssey Wilson

In regards to opinions towards learning management systems, professors tend to fall into three general categories- those who are not interested, those who are interested but do not have time to learn more, and those who are interested and have seeked out information on their own. Because each of these groups have different backgrounds and opinions about learning management systems, it does not make sense to put them together into the same training. In order to organize training for these professors and cater towards their opinions, it is important to understand what causes these opinions.

Professors Not Interested in Learning Management Systems

Instructors who are more traditional in the way of teaching are reluctant to learn about learning management systems because they are intimidated. These instructors have generally been teaching for a number of years without having to implement learning management systems into their curriculum. Alaina T.’s article, “Why are some Educators Reluctant to Technology in the Classroom”, summarizes the concerns of these types of instructors saying they “usually think that technology can’t do a good job, they have security issues, they’re worried that students can easily cheat, that automatic systems calculate grades inaccurately, and more. Basically, they don’t want to be replaced with a learning platform and they’re afraid of losing control over their teaching methods.” While it is good to work off of a tried and true method, it is also important to update classes as time changes and including technology is one of these changes that must be made for ease of teaching and student success.

Professors Interested in Learning Management Systems with Limited Time

Ryan Grainger and Denise Tolhurst discuss the tendencies of these two types of instructors in their article “Organisational Factors Affecting Teachers’ Use and Perception of Information and Communication Technology”. Grainger and Tolhurst’s study reports that when the administration offered workshops, they were only offered after hours or offsite and “numbers soon ‘dwindled’ – not out of lack of interest, but because of the fact that staff were simply too busy … few staff members were interested because of the impact on their schedules”. Therefore, these instructors that already understood the importance of adapting with the times and using learning management systems and were interested in improving their skills were unable to because the administration assumed that they would be able to drop whatever they had planned after work hours to attend an optional training. By providing workshops at undesirable times, the administration prevents teachers who are interested but busy from coming and effectively discourages teachers on the fence from attending.

Professors who have Seeked Out Information on Their Own

Those who were interested in learning more and did have time did so according to Grainger and Tolhurst. Like most people when they are curious about something, instructors who want to learn more about the features of learning management systems do a quick Google search and then tend to have a solid understanding of the basics. These instructors then seek out training through their employer and end up in a workshop or training. This seems like a great solution, however since the workshops are available to employees of all experience levels, it is difficult to cater to each instructors needs. Those who were relatively new to their learning management system reported that training was “too ‘high-level’, compared to the ‘step-by-step’ training needed”. Meanwhile, instructors who had more background in using learning management systems responded negatively to the workshops as well. One anonymous attendee reported “There was too little presented, with not enough time. It just wasn’t appropriate to my level. I’m more experienced than other teachers, but I’m in training with novices, so I end up just playing around”. Because both the beginner and researched instructors felt they gained little from attending the workshops, they are unlikely to recommend them to their colleagues and therefore even fewer instructors will be exposed to adequate training in using learning management systems.

How to Provide Adequate Learning Management System Training

The administration should survey faculty on their understanding of Canvas to make sure that they are comfortable using it. Those who do not feel they understand all of the features that Canvas has to offer should be offered to do a Canvas workshop outlined in the following paragraphs. Additionally, part of the end of the term professor review should include a section on if the way professors format their Canvas page was helpful to students or if there is something they could change. The professors would then be able to take these comments into consideration for the next term.

Those professors that do not report being able to use Canvas proficiently should be grouped together by level of understanding and learning goals into a few sections of Canvas training. If possible, the university could reach out to a Canvas representative to see if they are willing to teach a couple of workshops. Otherwise, maybe a few professors who feel they have a thorough understanding of Canvas would be willing to help. While this may be an expense to the university, it would help teachers be more competent in online education which would help the students in the long run.

New-hired professors should be required to participate in a paid training to ensure that before they implement their curriculum into Canvas they understand all of the features it has to offer. For example, a number of my professors do not use the calendar feature and some of those that do do not have accurate due dates on it which causes confusion when I am planning my schedule. By making sure that each teacher is on the same page of what to do, each student will have more consistency in their scheduling which will allow for better student success.

Helping the Students Directly

Odyssey Wilson

While it is important that teachers are using Canvas to its full potential, there is no point in doing so if students do not know how to access all of the features that teachers are using. Because of this, it is important to consider the way that students at OSU are introduced to Canvas.

When I came to this school last term, I had never used a learning management system and had never heard of Canvas. Since I placed into higher level classes for my first term, most people in my classes already knew how to use Canvas and the instructors did not bother going over it. In fact, after talking to 13 people in my dorm I discovered that not a single person had been given resources for how to use Canvas and only one had used a LMS in the past. I understand that if every teacher had to go over how to use Canvas at the beginning of every course it would waste a lot of time, so I propose that there be a module in Canvas to walk students through the features that their professors will be using. This module would be assigned to students at the beginning of the year, around the time when they are assigned alcoholEDU and Haven. Students would be able to go through the module and understand how to access assignments, modules, the calendar, and doing group work and peer reviews.

Creating a module to introduce Canvas to first year students would take minimal effort and could be used until Canvas is no longer relevant. In fact, all of the information to help students has been published in an article by Canvas. The article is laid out with clear headers and sections of information with examples. OSU would simply take this information and format it into an interactive module where students would be able to practice using Canvas by following along with the instructions. I know that if I had a navigation module for Canvas when I started my first term it would have saved me lots of time and stress and allowed me to spend more time on the coursework.

What can be done to Help Online Teachers who are Struggling?

Jake Wadleigh

It is only fair that instructors at Oregon State University are given paid training prior to setting up or teaching any online course. In addition, there needs to be brush up training available online for those who may need a refresher. Also, whenever Oregon State University wants to or decides to change their LMS, it’s vital to hear input from the staff and to provide necessary training before and after implementation. If enough students and staff provide feedback, it was help everyone be more successful.

Why is it so important that we set up our online teachers for success? When instructors are educated on and aware of all the resources Canvas offers, students will be able to learn more effectively. More technology will be used and we will be able to take advantage of what is offered. New technology can be intimidating, but with Oregon State University’s support and help, both teachers and students will benefit and be successful. It can be tough and difficult at times to implement and utilize new technology. With that said, it’s vital that all students at Oregon State University provide adequate feedback and ensure our instructors are given the training and resources they deserve.