Migration from Moodle to the Canvas LMS - a case study

14:38 | May 2016

Having run its full portfolio of e-learning programmes from within the Moodle learning management system since 2008, in 2015 InterActive chose to trial the delivery of a number of online courses using the Canvas platform.

The hope was that this successful test-phase would allow the organisation to roll out a significantly upgraded user experience, while eradicating issues of reliability and stability which had been noted by faculty members as a result of recent Moodle updates.

InterActive also hoped to combine a number of administrative and procedural operations with the new platform, such as online student support services, thereby creating a more responsive and integrated user journey overall.

The Decision

After reviewing a volume of anecdotal evidence about the inherent advantages of the Canvas platform, InterActive’s academic director and head of e-learning spoke to a number of institutions already using the platform, and found a high level of satisfaction across the board.

Jeremy Bradley, InterActive’s director of academic and student affairs, said:

‘’We learned that Canvas provides an architecture and design which makes it possible for all kinds of users to work with the platform in a more intuitive way than Moodle allows. Within Canvas, communication between learner and educator is a priority, which marries perfectly with InterActive’s instructional philosophy.

For instance, Canvas allows students to receive notifications both on the platform and via social media, lets them submit paperwork in a straightforward and secure manner, and gives them direct access to services such as student support - a lynch pin of InterActive’s learning framework.

For educators such as ourselves, we discovered that Canvas is the ideal platform on which to create a personalised learning experience based on our faculty’s vision of each programme. Our tutors can combine videos, blogs, wikis, and other channels of instruction, in a way that creates a highly engaging learning journey for our students.’’

InterActive’s e-learning manager, Iain Fraser, added:

‘’Canvas has built-in media features which make it easier to integrate a lot of the key learning resources which comprise InterActive’s online programmes, Audio podcasts, as just one example, can be hosted directly on Canvas and we don’t need to take any extra steps, whereas with Moodle, we were required to make these kinds of resources available via an additional media player using a plugin system. So overall, in terms of ease-of-use, Canvas came with a range of built-in possibilities that we could put to use right away.

Another major deciding factor for us was the enormous amount of accessibility offered by Canvas, especially with regards to users with disabilities such as deafness or visual impairment. For example, Canvas is fully compatible with accessibility applications such as Jaws, an online service for short or near sighted internet users. Overall, Canvas is ranked highly in this regard when compared to other popular learning management systems, conforming to Level A and Level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.0.’’

The Result

During an initial six-month trial period, InterActive found that student engagement on Canvas increased by as much as 100% when compared historical engagement figures from Moodle.

Iain Fraser continues:

‘’These preliminary engagement results made it clear for us clear that Canvas had to be fully implemented as soon as possible. However, with a large number of online programmes with various institutions running concurrently, it was vital that we found a way in which to migrate students and faculty to the new platform with the minimum interruption to their day-to-day schedules.

Ultimately, we decided to time our migration to Canvas with the introduction of new and revised programme content, which has given us the opportunity to introduce the new platform in a gradual and methodical way, and we’ve found that the ease of which new models of instructional content can be added to Canvas has reinvigorated the platform experience for students and faculty alike.

We also believe that Ruby on Rails, Canvas’s development code, holds a lot of advantages over the PHP code used by Moodle, particularly in terms of site responsiveness across different internet devices such as smartphones, tablets, etc., not to mention the capabilities it gives us in terms of fine tuning the user interface to our students’ needs.’’

Jeremy Bradley summed up the overall impact of moving to Canvas:

‘’We quickly discovered the numerous advantages of Canvas’s in-built automation, which means certain key functions are taken care of as a matter of course. When a student submits and assignment, for example, their syllabus, gradebook, and calendar is automatically updated too.

This high degree of automation means that we can spend our time more efficiently, that is, monitoring the things that really matter such as student engagement, progression, and retention.

Canvas has also allowed us to access more detailed data analytics, giving us a bird’s eye perspective of the entire LMS, which in turn lets us provide students with instantaneous feedback, evaluate the impact of individual features, and act responsively where needed. Additionally, the fact that Canvas allows us to integrate so many of our core processes, such as exams and assessments and student support, has meant that we can provide students and faculty with one centralised portal.’’