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Canvas is a Utah-based company founded in 2008 that created an online learning platform used by more than 200 colleges and universities around the country, including Weber State University.
For the past few years, Sheree Josephson, the chair of the WSU Communication Department, has encouraged professors in the department to use Canvas. This semester, she asked that at the very least, professors post their syllabi online for students to access whenever and wherever they need it.
“I almost never hand out anything in class,” Josephson said. “The biggest reason I ask professors to do this is because we have a limited budget in the department, and doing this has probably saved a significant amount of money and paper.”
Josephson said she believes most students not only prefer, but expect classroom materials to be accessible online.
Canvas is accessible to students online as well as through smartphone and tablet apps. Compatible devices include the iPhone, iPad, Android, Palm and BlackBerry.
John Stewart, a freshman studying engineering, uses his iPad to do most of his schoolwork, but only recently found out about the Canvas app. However, he said it is difficult sometimes because some professors post information that is only viewable with Flash Player, and not accessible through his iPad.
Canvas links directly to a system professors use called Gradebook, making it easier for professors who use Canvas to keep track of student grades that way.
“It is a really logical, organized system,” Josephson said. “It does interface nicely with Gradebook, so, at the end of the semester, I can easily see what the grades are.”
Although in some ways it is convenient, it might be a little difficult for some students and faculty to adjust to the technology.
“It does increase the faculty’s workload to set everything up in Canvas,” Josephson said. “Especially for a first-timer, it can be really, really time-consuming.”
Stewart said that, although it is nice to be able to access his classes at his convenience, he thinks some professors don’t realize that, for students like him, it takes some getting used to.
“I haven’t taken many classes in the past that did most of their stuff on Canvas, and now that everything is on Canvas, it’s kind of hard for me,” he said.
Weston Wells, a junior studying microbiology and a member of the WSU Environmental Club, said almost all of his professors use Canvas almost exclusively and that he prefers it this way.
“I think all teachers should be on Canvas,” Wells said. “It makes it easier to access materials and it saves paper.”
Wells said he thinks that, although some students print the materials on their own anyway, most probably don’t. Out of all of his classes, Wells said, he only received one printed copy of a class syllabus this semester. He said he was happy to see professors doing what they can to decrease their usage of paper.
“It is a step in the right direction,” he said. “In the long run, every little bit counts.”