Moving to Canvas from Sakai: perspectives from faculty, students
Learn about features, including a mobile app and 24/7 support, from instructors already using the learning management system.
For those who haven’t heard, the University is transitioning from Sakai to the Canvas learning management system. While Sakai has worked well for the University, it is receiving fewer updates and no longer integrates well with important third-party products like the student-engagement polling tool Poll Everywhere and the assessment tool Gradescope.
More than 30% of instructors are using Canvas to teach their fall 2022 courses. Many started teaching in Canvas even earlier, in the spring 2022 pilot.
Among those is Eric Hastie, an assistant teaching professor in the College of Arts and Sciences’ biology department.
“It was extremely intuitive, very easy to use, and it just looks cleaner. It’s more modern,” said Hastie.
Students agree. Some feedback ITS has received from students includes:
- “It is a smoother, cleaner website.”
- “The user experience was outstanding for me. Things were easy to find. Big legible text, organized, low extraneous information, and pretty.”
- “The forum system in Canvas was much easier to use and navigate. … It was also helpful to be able to open multiple tabs on Canvas, compared to Sakai where it forces you to close all other instances of Sakai.”
The ability to have Canvas open in multiple browsers lets students compose forum posts and take exams without fear of losing their work. Many students arrive at Carolina already familiar with Canvas because it’s used in more than any other learning management system in K-12 school systems and institutions of higher education across the country.
Spring 2023 courses and Sakai content
Spring 2023 courses managed by the registrar’s office have unpublished blank Canvas course sites ready for faculty to use. Additionally, faculty who taught spring 2022 courses in Sakai will have unpublished migrated copies of these courses available in Canvas. If desired, they may import content from these sites into their official spring 2023 courses.
Review help resources and log in at canvas.unc.edu now to see your courses. Sakai will remain available through at least fall 2023, but moving to Canvas in spring 2023 will let you take advantage of copied course content.
“The dashboard in Canvas is a game changer,” said Rebecca Kitzmiller, a clinical associate professor in the School of Nursing. Kitzmiller taught her first class using Canvas in spring 2022.
Kitzmiller says the Canvas dashboard helps her manage her time and plan for grading.
“The dashboard lets me quickly and easily see how much protected time I need in the coming week,” said Kitzmiller.
She says the dashboard “provides a list of what’s coming up and what to do next. It tells you when grading for an assignment starts. I use that as a cue to send a ‘friendly reminder’ to students about upcoming assignments. I used to keep a schedule on paper, but now I don’t have to.”
Canvas app for iOS and Android
“I like the mobile app. I can see all courses in one place. It gives a quick visual of the activity. I can easily see how many people have turned in an assignment and who has turned it in,” said Leslie M. Sharpe, a clinical assistant professor in the School of Nursing.
Students use the app to get push notifications about upcoming assignments to stay on track with coursework.
Canvas 24/7 support
Kitzmiller takes advantage of the extra support offered by Canvas on nights and weekends.
“Most of my students are doing their schoolwork on nights and weekends so that’s when we learn about issues. The 24/7 support helps us resolve issues without a delay,” she said.
“Twice I’ve had issues come up on a Friday night that Canvas support was able to address quickly,” Kitzmiller noted. “I’d need to wait until Monday morning for an answer if I was using Sakai, but the Canvas team was able to resolve it instantly over the phone.”
Moving to Canvas
ITS Educational Technologies has a Canvas site full of information to help you get started. On the site you’ll find:
- A list of live, online training classes to help you get up to speed on Canvas.
- A series of short videos with just-in-time topics like sharing files, using quizzes and setting up the gradebook.
- Information about how tools in Canvas and Sakai translate so that you can easily find the Canvas tool you need.
- Links to Canvas support materials including instructor guides and videos and student guides and videos.
- More information about the four ways to get your course content into Canvas.