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The Moodle to Canvas switch


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By | Sarahi Apaez

Humboldt State University’s 11 year long relationship with Moodle is coming to a close with the introduction of a new learning management system. During the past few years issues have arisen with Moodle and Canvas is stepping in to bring some stable change.

In an evaluation done in Spring 2016, HSU found many immediate benefits to switching to Canvas. No system is perfect but Canvas’ benefits include mobile support, not being down for several days at a time, saving grades as they’re entered, and cost.

Susan Glassett Farrelly, the new director of academic technologies, would call the costs a trade-off. Canvas is cheaper by about $35,000 to operate and run every year according to HSU’s Canvas evaluation report.

Canvas is a system run in the cloud, a key difference from Moodle which is run on hardware. With Moodle, more maintenance is required to install and support the hardware.

“The real difference, is the technical manpower that is necessary to run Moodle,” said Farrelly.

Since the start of this semester, Farrelly has been working to make sure everyone knows that our campus will no longer be supporting Moodle this coming Fall.

It’s very hard to get the word out because HSU has a reputation of saying they will switch to Canvas but not following through.

During this transition period from Moodle to Canvas, Information Technology, commonly known as IT,  is stretched very thin. The IT team are supporting both systems. According to Farrelly, they’re still looking for the exact percentage of Moodle and Canvas users on campus, but says it’s about half and half.

Raul Romero, a humanities and international studies major, works in the Moodle/Canvas IT office on the third floor of the library. Romero is a student assistant doing double the work by supporting two systems at the same time. In Romero’s experience, learning these programs involves a lot of self-teaching and watching video tutorials. Romero says he loves his work but sometimes finds it to be chaotic.

“It’s very difficult to convey what you see on the screen and turn that into words,” Romero said.

Recently, Romero dealt with a call from an upset math professor who is having difficulties with a plug-in on Canvas that does not have the same features as it did on Moodle.
“I thought, well, why doesn’t it work better and the bottom line is, it just doesn’t,” Romero said.   

Before the decision to switch to Canvas was made, some members of the Math Department reported issues that are exclusive to their needs. This is an area that is still under development.

When it comes to third party tools and plug-ins, the version for Canvas is not as diverse as the version for Moodle.

“There’s really no way to break that to somebody without striking their nerve,” Romero said. “Especially as a student telling that to a professor who wants to give their students the best.”

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