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Learning Management Systems

Stanford Moves to Online LMS Campus-Wide

Stanford University is moving to an online LMS as its campus-wide learning management system following a pilot launched last year. The transition off of the school's current platform is expected to take another year.

The university has been piloting Instructure Canvas since the 2014-2015 academic year. The vice provost for teaching & learning (VPTL) said in a statement that about 80 percent of faculty in the pilot reported being "very or somewhat satisfied" with the new platform; even more students (94 percent) found it "very or somewhat easy" to use.

Alongside the pilot, two Stanford schools had already adopted the application independently. The Graduate School of Education moved to Canvas in 2013-2014, and the Graduate School of Business did so in 2014. Both adoptions were considered successes.

During this school year, the migration was accelerated. Some 300 classes switched to Canvas. And the plan is to migrate the remaining 4,200 classes still using the legacy LMS software over the next academic year.

Users of Canvas are finding it more flexible than the system currently in use. "The major impetus for moving forward with Canvas is that it's a truly modern learning management system," offering many of the features and functions long desired by Stanford instructors," said Kimberly Hayworth, an instructional designer manager on the VPTL Canvas team, in a prepared statement. "It's also a great opportunity to rethink course design since we're gaining many new tools that enable, for example, better peer collaboration and review, new ways to organize group- and project-based learning, and the opportunity to offer richer feedback in assessments."

She added that the software also is mobile device-friendly and gives instructors more options for organizing class interactions.

She noted that the university was also drawn to the use of open standards in Canvas, which will allow her team to "plug in different tools and apps that we or others develop to meet our needs." Already, the program is integrated with Axess, Stanford's student information system, enabling automatic population of Canvas courses "for every class that wants one."

However, Hayworth pointed out, a few gaps remain. For example, language teachers still lack the tools they need for specific kinds of voice recordings, and the program doesn't allow for submission of anonymous student papers. We have a development team on campus, so we can respond to those needs," she said.

In addition, Stanford is part of a group of schools that have adopted Canvas and are swapping tools and sharing ideas for new features.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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