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California University Deploys Open-Source LMS

A California university has implemented a new open-source learning management system (LMS) after completing a review of the campus' needs.

San Jose State University (SJSU) in San Jose, CA, ultimately selected Canvas by Instructure after an advisory committee of 36 faculty and staff members conducted research and made recommendations for LMSs. When evaluating the systems, the committee was looking for an LMS that would "meet the needs of students and faculty, be sustainable in terms of cost, and provide continuity for the future," according to information released by the school. In addition, it wanted a platform that would be user-friendly and provide the best pedagogical flexibility.

After completing the review, the committee recommended Canvas for its grading and feedback features, analytics tools, mobile apps, and ePortfolio tools, and the university signed on with Canvas through the request-for-proposal process.

"Canvas is located in the cloud and thereby provides maximum flexibility and adaptability for users, and it features an unparalleled open architecture that permits faculty and students to easily integrate external applications directly into the LMS," said Ellen Junn, provost and vice president for academic affairs. "I believe that faculty and students will find this new Canvas LMS a welcome change because it's significantly easier and more intuitive to use."

Features of Canvas include:

  • A rich content editor, which allows professors to embed photos, audio, and video from across the Web;
  • Rubrics and SpeedGrader, for assignment grading;
  • Choice of delivering notifications via SMS message, email, or Facebook;
  • Exam creation choices, including development from scratch, or using a question bank;
  • Built-in video and live chat;
  • Online groups for extracurricular activities such as teams and clubs; and
  • Reporting and analytics of student progress in real time.

"The biggest affordance of Canvas is the automated peer review function. It cuts down on basic technical errors, so much so I was shocked. It is easy and minimal work for me," said Ted Coopman, lecturer of communications studies at SJSU. "Canvas' SpeedGrader really saves me time as does the instant video feature."

San Jose State University has more than 30,000 students enrolled in seven colleges through 61 bachelor's degree programs with 81 concentrations, and 65 master's degree programs with 29 concentrations.

For more information about Canvas, visit

About the Author

Tim Sohn is a 10-year veteran of the news business, having served in capacities from reporter to editor-in-chief of a variety of publications including Web sites, daily and weekly newspapers, consumer and trade magazines, and wire services. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @editortim.

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