October 12, 2015

Classes test new course portal as improvement to Chalk

The University of Chicago is currently piloting a new online academic management system called Canvas that will ultimately replace Chalk.

According to the University of Chicago’s IT Services’s website, Canvas “offers new opportunities for online collaboration, enhanced use of media, and a strong mobile interface to support the needs of active faculty and students on- and off-campus.”

Canvas, first introduced last fall, is the most viable replacement for Chalk according to Christopher Higgins, the executive director for academic and scholarly technology services. Higgins indicated that the university hopes to implement the Canvas learning management system (LMS) for all students by the 2016–2017 academic year.

About 100 courses have used the Canvas LMS so far, and roughly 30 are using it this quarter. Departments using Canvas include biological sciences, chemistry, East Asian languages and civilization, history, romance languages and literatures, public policy studies, sociology, and statistics.

“There’s been a momentum across higher education to develop technology for the benefit of students,” said Higgins. “We’re still using 20th-century technology. We want the faculty to be more involved and restructuring their material, not recreating it.”

During the evaluation period, Academic and Scholarly Technology Services will continue to work with students and faculty to determine the best course of action for implementation.

“There is a faculty committee that will review all the data from the evaluation process and make a recommendation to the Board of Computing Activities and Services, a faculty board appointed by the Provost,” said Higgins.

Student feedback will be considered heavily during this process.

Eunice Larbi, a first-year student in the College using Canvas for her general chemistry class, prefers Canvas to Chalk. “I like the Canvas interface better,” said Larbi. “[Accessing] messages from our professor is easier. It’s really structured nicely.”

Larbi uses Chalk for two other courses. Although a fan of Canvas, she finds shifting between the two systems inconvenient.

The faculty committee performing evaluations, comprised of professors and lecturers, will be meeting in December 2015 or in January 2016 to determine an implementation date and to review the feedback of all students and faculty using the Canvas system.

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