June 8, 2020
Canvas Learning Management System (LMS) is now available
The Canvas Learning Management System (LMS) is now available to all authenticated MIT users now with full documentation and 24/7/365 support via the Help menu in Canvas; processes and resources are in place to support faculty transitioning to Canvas and remote teaching more generally.
I am pleased to report that MIT is making the Canvas Learning Management System (LMS) available to authenticated users across MIT. This applies to every department and school, for anyone who wants to use it for teaching in time for the fall semester.
We reached this point building upon the work begun by an ad hoc faculty committee led by Professor Gareth McKinley last academic year, which assessed the needs across MIT for a modern LMS. Not surprisingly, the decision and implementation has been dramatically accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic and the transition to remote learning last semester. Credit and gratitude go to Mark Silis and his team in IS&T for deploying Canvas in such a short timeframe, as well as to our colleagues in Sloan, who have used Canvas for more than two years and provided valuable expertise and insights.
Canvas will become part of, not replace, the broader learning management ecosystem at MIT. Most MIT instructors currently use Stellar and LMOD as their learning management system, and they may choose to continue to do so. Yet, while they were innovative 20 years ago and have served MIT well, the overarching approach at that time for systems/application design was largely monolithic, which constrains us today.
By contrast, Canvas provides the power and flexibility that comes from integrating Zoom, Gradescope, Piazza, Residential MITx, CAT-SOOP and other tools into a seamless learner experience. Specific benefits that may also be of interest to instructors include: embedding videos for viewing on phones and tablets; synching calendars; natural ways of creating engaging and interactive content; grading student work within the LMS; and setting up student teams, collaborative work, and student content sharing. For more, including live Zoom Canvas training sessions, see MIT Canvas Resources for Instructors.
Next steps and support
Over the remainder of this summer, building Canvas sites for Fall 2020 classes will be a key priority. Below are some of the ways we will support departments, instructors, and faculty.
- Department point person. Your department has selected a point person who will help coordinate enhancing remote teaching, including the transition to Canvas. Within the next few days, the department point person will contact respective faculty and instructors and introduce the student learning technologist(s), per the below. If within a few days you don't know who your department point person is please email email@example.com.
- Learning technologists. We have hired and trained 45 student workers to serve as “learning technologists” for the summer. They will support faculty and instructors in building Canvas sites for Fall 2020 subjects, including migrating content from your existing Stellar sites and/or using other content. There will be at least one learning technologist working in your department. Their goal is to help you to create engaging and effective learning experiences.
- Draft Canvas course sites. We have created skeletal course sites for every Fall semester class in the Registrar’s database. These sites include a basic course template for faculty to populate with their content and activities and they can be customized or removed as needed. Those who want to start building future classes and non-course sites can request a temporary sandbox via their department point person or by sending request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Resource website. We have developed an MIT-specific site to help connect you with relevant information and a rich range of materials. Further documentation, and full 24/7/365 support by email or phone, is available. Visit MIT Canvas Resources for Instructors.
I am also pleased to report that, as recommended by the LMS committee last year, an LMS group has been formed to lead the implementation and subsequent development of Canvas across campus. This effort is directed by Sheryl Barnes from the Office of Open Learning and will draw upon experts across IS&T, Sloan, and the Teaching and Learning Lab (TLL). Gareth McKinley has also agreed to chair a new LMS Advisory Committee that will build upon the work of his committee from last year, bringing a broad perspective to bear in advising Sheryl and me as we go forward.
Looking toward the fall, whatever option is implemented, you should expect that what can be taught remotely should be taught remotely. Also, consider that a significant portion of our students may not be on campus at any given time or, even if they are on campus, will be doing much of their learning online, not in traditional spaces.
Unlike with the rapid transition to remote teaching last spring, however, we have more experience and more time to prepare, with the aim of providing a learning and teaching experience for our students in keeping with our standards of excellence. Working together with TLL, IS&T and people across MIT’s departments — including Digital Learning Lab Fellows with their deep online learning expertise — we are here to support you as you plan and prepare.
With new tools like Canvas providing a stronger foundation for this effort, coordinated departmental support, as well as existing and planned resources and best practices, we look forward to faculty and instructors developing effective and engaging learning experiences for all MIT students.
All best wishes, and stay well,
William A. M. Burden Professor of Physics
Dean for Digital Learning