Student Voice


April 23, 2024



Campus transitions to Canvas

March 13, 2019

This semester UW-River Falls has replaced the previous learning management system, Desire 2 Learn (D2L) with Canvas, a Digital Learning Environment (DLE). This replacement was adopted by as well the entire UW-System.

Canvas is a DLE similar to D2L, and the transition to the new platform started during the fall semester of 2018. The change took full effect during the spring semester of 2019. Although it may be taking some time, students and professors are becoming more accustomed to the new platform.

A student utilizes the Canvas phone application. (Melissa Thorud/Student Voice)
A student utilizes the Canvas phone application. (Melissa Thorud/Student Voice)

Canvas was recently adopted at each UW-System school because the contract with D2L had expired and the university system decided to explore new technologies. Canvas was introduced to the UWRF campus in spring of 2018, and training for the new platform began and continued into the summer.

In the fall of 2018, professors were starting to familiarize themselves and their students with the platform for some classes. However, all classes were moved to Canvas only during J-term and spring semesters of 2019. D2l will officially be withdrawn from UWRF courses fall semester of 2019.

Canvas was introduced by the company, Instructure Inc. in 2011 and the software has continued growing over the past decade. The platform is becoming gradually more widespread across several universities and school systems, gaining popularity for its sleek look and in depth options.

According to the Canvas website, the DLE is "used by more than 3,000 universities, school districts, and institutions around the world." Several other universities all across the United States are also using Canvas including, Arizona State University, Iowa State University, The College Of St. Scholastica and Florida State University.

Some UWRF students have overall positive reviews about the new platform. Hallie Diekoff, a freshman at UWRF said, "As a freshman I was introduced to both Canvas and D2L at the same time. I liked using canvas better because I could find assignments and announcements easier because it is well organized in categories." Diekoff also said, "I also really like that Canvas has an app, it makes it easier to check my grades and announcements from professors." The overall transition for students hasn't been too difficult.

Noah Hinsch, a sophomore at UWRF said, "I'm glad that UWRF made the switch, I didn't find the transition from D2L to Canvas very hard because Canvas is a really easy to use program and the format is similar to what D2L uses." Hinsch also added that, "Canvas sends notifications to your phone through the app when the professor sends an announcement or puts a grade in so it is a lot easier to stay organized and on top of homework assignments instead of having to log onto D2L and check for any new assignments."

The mobile app for Canvas is very popular among students, as they find it easier to use and more efficient. There is also features to check grades, and calculate potential grades.

Professors have been easing themselves into the new platform. Some professors started using Canvas as early as spring semester 2018. There are mixed reviews among professors about the new DLE. Journalism Professor Sandy Ellis, said, "Canvas is okay, having used D2L for so many years makes it harder to adjust to the new change. I didn't have to think about how to use D2L."

Ellis talked more about how the instructor side of Canvas may be more difficult to use and adjust to because many of the functions are different from D2L. She said, "There is no easy way to make a bonus quiz or an extra credit assignment like there was in D2L."

Canvas is efficient and accessible for students to use and takes little adjustment, whereas for instructors the entire platform is a larger shift. Ellis did add that D2L maybe was not as expensive as Canvas and that she did like the new functions such as the assignment calendar that is built into the program.

Canvas is still very new to campus and will continue to take some more adjusting for both students and professors. There are several resources for both instructors and students that are having any difficulties with the new platform. There are lengthy guides for students and for instructors on the UWRF website under the Canvas link that go through many possible issues and instructions for the program. There is also a way that instructors and students can chat with Canvas, if there are any questions and this option is available 24/7. A phone number and email address for Canvas support is also available on the UWRF website.