Student Perspective: Technology in an Academic Environment

Jarrod Slavinskas is a sophomore majoring in Business Management and Information Technology. Here are his thoughts on the advantages of moving to Canvas (EC Learn) and the importance of technology in higher education.

You would receive different answers if you were to ask someone about how technology effects how they learn because everyone has a different style, preference, and approach when it comes to learning.

What makes technology great is that it can be manipulated to a user’s specifications. Emmanuel College’s new learning management system (LMS) Canvas is a perfect example of how technology can be tailor made to create an online academic environment for students and faculty to create, share, and learn from each other’s ideas. The two co-founders of Canvas, Brian Whitmer and Devlin Daley had a vision of a web-based learning platform which would emulate a classroom.

Emmanuel College has adopted this LMS in order to fulfill the needs of the students and faculty who wish to have a web based platform to create, share, and learn from each other’s ideas. The spring semester of 2013 will be the first time (besides the pilot program) that the student and faculty bodies of Emmanuel College will have the chance to experience Canvas.

I believe that Canvas will allow a more real-time environment for outside of the classroom learning. The LMS will give students the opportunity to create online chat rooms which will promote communication amongst students and professors. Canvas has implemented the feature of Google Docs which is enabled for anyone who has a Google account. This feature allows students to collaborate on any document which is uploaded to their Google account. This allows students to remotely work with each other. Another big attraction is real time video.  Canvas has also implemented the popular video conferencing software program called Skype. The reason why Skype is a huge deal is that it allows students to video chat when working on a “group” project instead of working individually in their dorm rooms. The emphasis on collaboration is a major reason why I think students will love Canvas.

Another reason why students will gravitate towards Canvas is that it offers a familiar landscape to the popular social network “Facebook” but offers a product with more substance. A big problem with college students is losing the syllabus and then bothering the professor for another copy or asking where to find it online. Canvas tends to this problem by allowing the professors to make an administrative decision of choosing the syllabus to be the homepage for the course. Having the syllabus on the homepage would remind students when everything is due in a easy-to-read fashion instead of black text on a white piece of paper. The syllabus is interactive too which can provide direct links to assignments or online discussions. The format would minimize confusion as to when things are due which is beneficial to the students and the professors.

Canvas also provides the feature of notifications for students and faculty as to when activity has been done within their course. Through the “notifications” tab students and faculty can set up their ideal way of being notified. Notifications can be preferences through social networks, e-mails, and text messages on phones. The notification feature also allows users to choose how often to be notified such as daily, weekly, or ASAP. Users can choose what to be notified on, too. Whether it be the addition of an assignment or an announcement made.

The final draw for students when using Canvas is the instant grading feature. Canvas allows faculty to create exams with preset times and answers. They are also allowed to grant permission of instantly notifying students of their grade once they click submit. Students will love this feature because it will decrease anxiety of whether or not they performed well on an exam. Canvas also provides a feature of “what-if”. The “what-if” feature allows students to enter a value into their grade of that course in order to see what they can potentially have as a grade if they received that “X” value inputted. This feature minimizes students bothering professors and academic advisers about their grades.

Students and faculty should be excited to use and take advantage of what Canvas has to offer Emmanuel College.

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