North Park University - Chicago North Park University - Chicago

Reasoning and Justification for Canvas Selection

Reasoning and Justification for Canvas Selection

In an effort to better meet the pedagogical needs of faculty and students, the LMS Selection Committee commenced work to identify and select a new learning management system (LMS).

Our Reasoning

  • Moodle has been the University’s LMS for many years and has a steep learning curve, especially for faculty members who develop hybrid and online courses.
  • Faculty and students have indicated Moodle does not meet their expectations and needs.
  • COE are unable to provide stable services due to technical issues within the Moodle software and inability to provide features that are needed by some schools. Other growing higher education institutions have reported similar difficulties with Moodle.
  • The marketplace has evolved since Moodle’s implementation. Tools and functionalities are now available that enable new teaching and assessment methods to support North Park University undergraduate and graduate students in education initiatives.

Our Process

A committee was formed in July 2016 to undertake an initiative to visit North Park University’s learning management system (LMS) to determine if it was appropriate for the university and its students, especially for web-enhanced courses and hybrid/online coursework. The charge was to make a determination if NPU’s current LMS, Moodle hosted by Moodlerooms, was sufficient to assist with learning or if an improvement/upgrade was needed. The effort to examine the institution’s LMS was undertaken by the Center for Online Education (COE).

Twenty committee members, covering many constituencies across campus and composed of faculty, staff, students, and administration, were selected based on their interest and tendencies to be early adopters of technology, experience with an LMS, and availability to serve on the committee. Alternate members were also selected to serve in the event committee members were unable to attend meetings. Individual committee members were charged with representing their constituency and informing them of happenings and decisions made by the committee. Three students, two undergraduate and one graduate student served on the committee and represented the student body during the decision-making process. The committee was co-chaired by Margaret Haefner, Professor, Communication Arts, and Rich Schultz, Associate Dean of COE.

A list of committee members and alternates and the schedule for project completion is available in One Drive here.

As the committee first assembled in August, 2016, no LMSs were eliminated from consideration. However, as features and needs from an LMS for North Park University became evident via committee discussion, several LMSs were eliminated because they either did not possess the required features or they were not in a sufficiently usable interface for students and faculty. Several schools and departments made their individual needs for an LMS, including the need for a video conferencing system and the need for an e-portfolio system that would be suitable for student use.

In September, 2016, five LMS vendors (BlackBoard, Canvas, Schoology, Desire2Learn, and Moodle (eThink)) were determined to be the semi-final LMSs to be considered. The committee was then organized into subcommittees to further investigate each of the five LMSs. The subcommittees’ findings were presented to the full committee in October, 2016.

The Committee selected the final three LMSs for consideration; BlackBoard Learn, Canvas, and Moodle (eThink as service provider). Desire2Learn was eliminated because of its difficulty with the gradebook and steep learning curve; Schoology was eliminated because it was not compatible with some publisher course cartridges needed in the future for one of the School’s programs. The committee determined that our current service provider for Moodle, Moodlerooms, was to be eliminated from consideration because customization with third party software was not possible, whereas it was possible with eThink as the service provider.

In November, 2016, the vendor finalists were contacted and identical RFPs were sent out to each vendor with a fourteen (14) day turnaround time to provide responses to the RFP. Only one vendor (Canvas) responded on time. One vendor (BlackBoard) was three weeks late submitting their bid. The vendors were invited to campus for 90 minute presentations to which all members of the NPU community were also invited (the Moodle eThink presentation was done remotely). Recordings of all vendor presentations were made available to the entire university community immediately after the presentations.

As a result of the request for bids, test environments and vendor presentations:

  • Sandboxes to test drive all three LMSs were available to all university personnel throughout November and December, 2016.
  • Vendor bids were shared with LMS Selection Committee members as they arrived from the vendors.
  • Bids from vendors were summarized and shared with the Provost and Executive Vice President and CFO in mid-November, 2016.
  • Numerous emails and announcements have been shared with the greater North Park community regarding the status of the LMS selection process, including a presentation to the Faculty Senate in November and periodic email updates to the entire campus.
  • Vendor presentation dates:
    • November 6, 2016: Moodle (eThink as service provider)
    • November 16, 2016: BlackBoard
    • November 30, 2016: Canvas
  • A survey was distributed on December 1 (immediately after all the vendors had presented) to elicit feedback from all NPU community members regarding potential LMSs: BlackBoard, Canvas, and Moodle (eThink).
  • A total of 34 responses from faculty, staff, and students were collected and taken into consideration during the committee deliberation. LMS Selection Committee members also reported detailed comments and feedback from their constituencies.
  • In addition to the 34 forms submitted, LMS committee representatives reported that a number of faculty members preferred not to complete the survey form, but shared responses verbally and provided feedback to the committee members.

Once all feedback was compiled from the LMS survey, the LMS Selection Committee discussed the findings on Wednesday, December 14 and set out to generate final rankings and recommendations for the LMSs.

On December 14, 2016, the LMS Selection Committee voted unanimously to recommend that NPU adopt Canvas as its LMS. Blackboard was considered acceptable by the committee. Moodle eThink was eliminated as a viable option.

LMS Implementation Committee

The LMS Selection Committee members will transition to serve in the role of “LMS Implementation Committee” throughout the Spring 2017 term. The purpose of the LMS Implementation Committee is to provide direct input into the Canvas launch so that it meets the University’s pedagogical needs and is ultimately used by a majority of faculty.

The objectives of the LMS Implementation Committee are to:

  • approve the Canvas Rollout Plan going forward
  • address course migration concerns for faculty by collecting feedback and bringing them to the committee, and
  • evaluate professional development opportunities for Canvas users during the Spring 2017 and Summer 2017 terms.

The responsibilities of Committee Members include:

  • committing to using Canvas in their courses
  • listening to other faculty in a representative role through transition and implementation
  • representing a wide range of faculty voices and opinions in recommending the process of professional development,
  • conferring with selected COE staff regarding decisions related to pedagogy and faculty interests in the implementation of Canvas, and
  • actively promoting the use of Canvas.

Committee members have agreed to continue to meet on a regular basis, respond to email within 24 hours, and document feedback from stakeholders to bring to the larger committee for discussion.

Next Steps

Future plans for implementation and rollout of the new LMS, as determined by the LMS Selection Committee, include:

  1. After the LMS Selection Committee’s rankings and recommendations had been submitted to the administration in mid-December, 2016, and the decision from the administration is final, the new LMS contract was signed and issued in approximately late January 2017.
  2. The new LMS is to be implemented and installed in late January 2017 or early February 2017.
  3. The training, to be led by the Center for Online Education (COE), for the new LMS will include the following:
    1. Face-to-face workshops (priority to faculty members teaching Summer 2017 classes) starting in February 2017 and available throughout the Spring 2017 term and Summer 2017 terms;
    2. A self-paced online tutorial in Canvas will be available in February, 2017. Users may register and complete this online tutorial at any time. It will be available until further notice. There will be separate ongoing, online, self-paced tutorials for faculty and staff and one exclusively for students.
    3. Periodic webinars, concerning the features and actions of Canvas, will be conducted during Spring 2017 and Summer 2017 terms and available to all NPU community members. Webinars will be recorded and archived for future viewing.
  4. Summer 2017 will be the pilot of Canvas with a planned total of approximately 60 online courses to be taught using Canvas.