The Switchover to Canvas

March 21, 2023

As many know, North Central University made the switch from Moodle to Canvas halfway through the school year. At first, students were less than thrilled by the news, however, with midterms coming to an end this semester, students and faculty have had an abundance of time to navigate this new platform. So why did we even switch to Canvas in the first place? What are students saying about it? These are questions we asked William Tibbetts, Dean of the College of Business and Technology, who handled the logistics of this big transition. 

Why did North Central switch from Moodle to Canvas? 

Tibbetts stated that “The most common question asked of us is, ‘Why make the switch in the middle of the semester?’ The answer is pretty simple: the contract for Moodle is about to expire and it’s not financially prudent to renew it. Though unconventional, the middle of the year conversion did allow us to have all of the ‘needed’ people on campus to assist, as compared to the summer when many are gone. 

Tibbetts continued to say that “NCU is committed to providing the best educational experience for our residential students and those students around the world who connect with us primarily online. Moodle served its purpose but ultimately failed to grow its features to keep up with the changing online education landscape. This led the university to explore new options starting a few years ago. Canvas was selected because it continues to rank at the top as the best learning management system (LMS) in the world. Noting that the university is strategically looking to grow its online education footprint, it only made sense to go with the best LMS available.”

Were there any difficulties on the back end?

Tibbetts shared with us that “Challenges with the Canvas conversion included broken links, missing content, and simply learning a new LMS. Nothing we’ve experienced is unusual for a conversion of this size. It makes even more sense if you know that there were 448 Moodle courses converted to Canvas for residential courses and 41 online A courses converted. This also includes 1,150 Quizzes with 10,000+ questions.”  

Our Instructional Design team, led by Executive Director Melissa Gear, is working 24/7 to make corrections and changes. “The best thing we can do is to continue to afford grace and flexibility as everyone diligently works to make it a great experience,” said Tibbetts.

What are your thoughts on the switchover? 

Tibbetts stated that “The conversion to Canvas has already established one significant benefit: more instructors have the majority of their content on the LMS than ever before; and, it’s consistently laid out. In the past, it was common for a student to have five courses on Moodle and all of them look different and has inconsistent levels of content available. Canvas now allows us to reduce the ‘structural’ stress experienced by many students in the past and provide a greater online journey. The same thing is true for our new syllabus! For the first time in the history of the university, all courses are using the same syllabus. This new format is stripped down to encourage the student to engage with Canvas to grab all the necessary details.”

What parts of Canvas do you find the most useful/ beneficial?

Tibbetts answered saying that “Providing feedback has never been easier than with Canvas! Instructors can comment directly on assignments while staying in the LMS, have a dialogue with the student in the DM window, and effectively use the grading matrix. So much more learning can occur with all of these channels of feedback! The residential courses are laid out exactly like the online courses to provide a seamless experience for students when they jump back and forth between them. This was important because over 70% of residential students also take online courses.”  

The Northerner hosted a number of Instagram Student Opinion Polls to understand the impact this change has had on the front end for users:

When asked which platform they believe is better, exactly 75% of students said they prefer Canvas over Moodle. When asked if Canvas has proven to be particularly helpful, 81% of students said yes. When asked if students missed Moodle, 56% of students said no and 22% said kind of. When asked to give Canvas a rating out of 10, only one student rated below 5. 

We are happy to say that the switch has proven to be more seamless and successful than originally thought. Additionally, students seem to enjoy the results of the switch despite the transition itself causing a few bumps. We hope this article clears up any questions students have regarding the intentions of this switch and we will continue to provide updates as this transition develops.

The switch from Moodle to Canvas seems to be a very favorable change among students and faculty.