Unizin recognizes Instructure’s Canvas as the top learning management system on the current market because of its incomparable interoperability, innovative content and analytics capabilities, and open standards. Currently, all of Unizin’s Founding Members have Canvas either fully implemented on their campus or are piloting the LMS. This summer, the University of Iowa and The Ohio State University, two Unizin Founding Members, completed their migrations from the D2L learning management system and are in full production with Canvas.

“We were looking to expand our learning ecosystem,” says Annette Beck, Director of Enterprise Instructional Technology at the University of Iowa, as she reflects on the university’s journey to Canvas. “Most LMS systems have very similar core capabilities, but we wanted to go beyond the basics to provide something more for our instructors, our students, and our institution. Doing that without Unizin seemed daunting, and even unattainable, at times.”

The Ohio State University was equally drawn to Canvas’ promising features. “Our evaluation of Canvas showed that students and faculty preferred the interface and ease of use,” says Valerie Rake, Associate Director of eLearning Support at Ohio State, on what prompted the campus to move from D2L. “As members of Unizin, we could also look forward to collaborating with peers to realize additional functionality.”

The transition process for Ohio State took only a year, with a preceding year-long evaluation and piloting phase. According to Rake and her team in the Office of Distance Education and eLearning, the campus saw higher levels of adoption earlier in the process than expected. Instructors and students quickly became comfortable with the user-friendly system. “By the end of our evaluation and two pilots, it was very clear that our faculty and students preferred Canvas,” explains Rake. “Encouraging the change on our campus was mostly a matter of setting up the new system and providing resources for making the transition. Our administrators were excited about the possibility of influencing the educational technology market through Unizin.”

At Iowa, the transition of all academic courses to Canvas only took two semesters, consecutive in the summer and fall of 2016. The Office of Teaching, Learning & Technology proactively created roadmaps and communications plans during the piloting phase in 2015 to roll out Canvas as efficiently as possible, aided by in-house innovation. “We created a homegrown tool using our old LMS’s bulk export tool and Canvas’ API to move courses quite easily from one LMS to the other,” Beck explains. “We ended up moving two years of content for faculty and a few more at an instructor’s request in those two semesters.”

The transition to Canvas at Iowa and Ohio State was much smoother and faster than it would have been had the two institutions taken on the massive effort individually, thanks to their sharing of resources, research findings, and migration tools. “We relied heavily on Unizin Members – both universities that had previously adopted Canvas and those who were transitioning on the same timeline,” says Rake. “We discussed evaluation strategies, support and staffing strategies, SIS integrations, communications options, and approaches to data management and archiving.”

Collaboration with a fellow Unizin Member helped as well: Iowa shared their content mover code with the University of Wisconsin-Madison who in return shared their training materials, including a self-paced training course, for new Canvas users. “We joined Unizin for the opportunity for strategic collaboration with other universities in order to have a greater influence on the future of teaching and learning,” says Beck. “During the transition, we were in constant contact with The Ohio State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.”

Communicating the university’s change to Canvas was one of the biggest challenges that Iowa’s Office of Teaching, Learning & Technology faced, but they were not deterred. “We offered over 230 opportunities for faculty to learn more about Canvas including local roadshows, point-and-click training sessions, individual consults, online training, and open-door ‘study halls’ where faculty could walk in and get help on a specific issue,” Beck recalls. “We also offered a toolkit spreadsheet for faculty to see the major differences from our old LMS to Canvas specifically for each tool.”

Ohio State offered similar solutions to its own challenges. “Because Canvas works with a different set of priorities and design principles, some faculty initially had trouble finding the functionality that they expect,” says Rake. “We met this with training resources specifically designed to build a bridge between the old system and the new.” The team offered a series of roadshows and created a central website that contained all the information instructors and students needed to successfully use Canvas. The website was advertised through emailing, social media, and even physically on kiosks and bus signs. Support staff, the faculty senate, and the student government worked closely with deans and IT staff to make sure that everyone on campus could easily engage with the new LMS. As on Iowa’s campus, faculty, staff, and students new to Canvas were supported throughout every step of the process.

Unizin is committed to improving the availability of top edtech resources for universities. With a consortium built on a strong foundation of collaboration, support, and synergy, the possibilities for Unizin Members’ teaching and learning environments are endless.