Canvas, a web service for educators being used at Orange Coast College, has been met with mixed feelings by OCC faculty and students.

Canvas is a learning management system, a type of web service which provides an online platform for instructors to post classroom material and students to review it and engage in discussion. OCC formerly used Blackboard, but switched to Canvas along with the entire Coast Community College District in an effort to reduce costs and provide a more consistent user experience. Said who?

Students say they have noticed that their professors are having varying experiences with the system.

“One of my professors uses it a lot, and another one pretty much just uses it for grades,” said 21-year-old marine biology major Evan Anguiano. “I think it’s good for some classes but not so useful for others. Also, if a teacher relies on it too much, it’s easy to forget about assignments unless you check it periodically.”

Other students say it seems to be more difficult for instructors than students.

“Most professors don’t like it. They say it’s confusing,” said 20-year-old undecided major Sophia Cuneo. “I didn’t think it was too hard when I used it though.”

Not all professors have had bad experiences with Canvas, however. For some it’s just another tool, albeit with an interface that leaves something to be desired.

“I’ve worked with a lot of LMS. I’ve found Canvas to be reliable. There’s nothing especially great or terrible about it,” said computer science instructor Steven Gilbert. “It’s designed for the lowest common denominator. People who want to make red flashing text and things like that can’t, but the pages are also very plain and flat. It’s not incredibly ugly. It’s a little ugly, but it’s not unusable.”

For English as a second language instructor Laurie Barton, Canvas has been an incredibly useful tool.

Regarding grading assignments, Barton cites a learning curve to the program but overall, the process is worth it to her. 

“I love that I can post assignments and due dates and they’re just there forever. Some students don’t need that, but some do,” Barton said. “I have discussions on Canvas but assignments are due on paper. For the discussions, I can type comments and corrections or privately message students. I prefer to use email to comment on students’ assignments.”

Barton has also appreciated the customer support offered by Canvas.

“The only time I’ve ever had a technical issue, I was able to call at about 7:30 in the morning and talk to a person,” she said.

(2) comments


Canvas is not just cost saving; it is a standard throughout all 114 California Community Colleges. Under a fantastic program, the LMS makes course designing much less painful so that the teachers can spend more time with the students. Canvas can let learners turn in their assignments online, take quizzes online and do discussions if done correctly. Granted there is no more flashing text because they violated accessibility laws and for many, those pages are too busy. The pages Canvas produce can be stunning, again, if done effectively and efficiently. Here is a missing fact: OCC’s online department consists of four people supporting and training over 1,000 faculty and 2,500 students. Keep in mind the current password issues is NOT in our purview and is not a Canvas problem. On another fact: we had a transition period so faculty could be trained on using Canvas effectively and efficiently; only 42% attended these pieces of training. Those people who do not attend training are then not benefiting the entire system. The training is still on-going, and we are available. I wish the author of this article has come to us and get some additional information and facts to make this a more balanced story. [wink]


I am happy to see an article about Canvas. For a follow-up you might consider covering the OCC Instructional Innovation Center (IIC)- a team of four, dedicated to supporting students and faculty in their use of Canvas. [beam]

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