VSpace replacement being tested

A new learning management system is being piloted in 50 courses this semester and may soon replace VSpace.

VSpace is SVSU’s branding of the Sakai project, a set of open source software tools designed to create online work spaces for collaboration between instructors and students.

It is used in most courses as a way to record grades, post announcements, share resources, take exams, participate in discussions, maintain blogs or submit assignments.

But it is quickly becoming outdated. A static system, VSpace is an inefficient option for Saginaw Valley’s ever-evolving campus.

Kim Lacey, assistant professor of English, sat on the selection committee for choosing a new learning management system.

“I was able to see about six presentations for different systems. Canvas was clearly the best designed and most user-friendly for SVSU,” Lacey said.

Canvas is a cloud-based learning management system, founded in 2008, that is used by more than 800 colleges, universities and school districts.

According to its website, “(Canvas is) a breath of fresh air. It’s an educational revolution. It’s a powerful new way to – pardon our optimism – change the world.”

Lacey piloted Canvas in two sections of ENGL 212 during the last summer semester, and is using it this semester in sections of ENGL 080, ENG 111 and ENGL 204.

“Student responses (to the new system) have been overwhelmingly positive,” she said. “Canvas has a much cleaner interface and looks like it’s made in this century.”

Riley Millard, a public administration junior, and Kaitlyn Cronk, a communication sophomore, are two students enrolled in courses that are also piloting Canvas this semester.

Millard is in COMM 275 and Cronk is in PSYC 100.

“(Canvas) is a bit more complex (than VSpace), but that does not hinder usability. While there is more to it, it is easier to navigate,” Millard said. “It is also a bit more appealing to the eye. VSpace was so boring and sad looking.”

Cronk said he has had experiences similar to those of Millard.

“I found it was pretty simple to navigate on my own … (but) there are tutorials that can help you navigate through the website if you’re not naturally tech-savvy,” she said.

In addition to increased aesthetic appeal and ease of navigation, Millard and Cronk agree that Canvas is straightforward and uncomplicated to use.

“It makes submitting assignments, viewing files and connecting with the class much easier,” Millard said. “It will definitely benefit the overall processes of academia here.”

“Canvas gives you so many more options. It helps to organize you better than VSpace does. Canvas is much more interactive and user-friendly,” Cronk said.

In addition, Canvas boasts many features that VSpace cannot support.

For students, it offers a an app with Android and iOS compatibility, a customizable profile, an inbox attached to a course-specific email client, a calculator for “what if?” grades, the ability to submit assignments or add commentary with forms of multimedia, e-portolios, recent activity streams and notifications according to each student’s preference, whether by email, Facebook or text message.

“It directly tells you exactly what assignments you have to do for each class and a schedule of when you have tests for that class. Everything … is in one place,” Cronk said.

Professors can also benefit greatly from Canvas.

“It’s helpful to upload many files at once, which is something VSpace cannot do. Additionally, the calendar function allows professors to change due dates in one place, so there’s no need to go through every assignment or page and update,” Lacey said. “Course copying is also easy — it was a very easy transition to take the content from past VSpace courses and transfer them into my Canvas course.”

They also have the option to incorporate apps, such as Khan Academy, WordPress or Google Charts, into their courses.

Unanimously, Millard, Cronk and Lacey believe that swapping VSpace out for Canvas will be useful.

“I think (the transition to Canvas) will be pretty seamless. Because users can customize (it) much more than VSpace, I think everyone will find their own level of comfort with the new system,” Lacey said.

“Switching to Canvas will be beneficial to students and faculty,” Cronk said.

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