By Ana Lima, Senior Lecturer Romance Languages and Literatures
I accepted the invitation to join the Canvas pilot group out of sheer curiosity. I wanted to see what was in it for me and how it would compare with Chalk (I was one of the early Chalk users as well). So far the experience has been extremely positive and it has changed the way I organize my classes because of the one Canvas feature that is completely useless in Chalk: the Calendar.
My system has always been to print a calendar and write in all the assignments and class plan for every class period I teach per quarter. Then, on Chalk, I would create a folder for each class meeting and copy what I had written on my paper calendar. The students would then have to click on Assignments --> Homework --> Date. It was labor intensive and time consuming for me.
Canvas allows me to create my assignments directly on the Calendar, and a cool feature is that it lets me see with a click of the mouse what was the previous assignment and what is planned for that week. I have been discovering new and useful ways to use the Calendar almost on a daily basis, and I have both my classes on one calendar only (they are color coded). Everything is there in one page and it is easily accessible.
The Scheduler is also another game-changer -- it is easy to set up and it shows me who has signed up for conversation practice right on the Calendar. The sign up process through the Scheduler, right on the Calendar, eliminates the back and forth between instructor and student to find an empty slot. It also allows me to see who needs a reminder to sign up.
I am using many Canvas features that I did not use or see on Chalk. Maybe Chalk had more to offer, had I had time to explore, but the point is that Canvas is intuitive, smart, has a great customer support system and is answering my immediate needs more fluidly and with less layers than Chalk ever did. I did hit some bumps during my first few weeks setting up classes and importing materials, but I quickly learned how to think Canvas and now we are getting along smoothly.