Painting Canvas in a better light— why the virtual learning platform isn’t all that bad

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Graphic by Fiona FitzSimons

Kavita O’Malley

In an attempt to improve virtual learning, DCPS has now made it mandatory that all teachers use only two platforms to conduct their classes. I strongly agree with this choice as I think that Canvas is an excellent platform.

This decision makes perfect sense seeing that last year every teacher had about three different platforms each––none of which they knew how to use all that well. Confining learning to only two platforms helped clear up some of the confusion with online school by creating uniformity across classes. 

Last year, trying to remember where each teacher was posting work and where or if they were even having class was a struggle. Juggling at least four different softwares was frustrating and stressful, especially because we were also trying to adapt to distance learning as a whole. It created a chaotic environment, the kind of environment one does not wish for in a school setting.  

This year, it is relaxing to wake up knowing that all of your work is on Canvas and all of your classes are on Teams. If I’m being honest, I don’t think that DCPS made the best choice regarding their decision on the designated video class platform, but that’s an argument for another article (The case for Zoom). As for Canvas, I actually think it is a highly efficient platform. 

Upon entering Canvas, you can easily see all of your class information. You get notifications when teachers post new work, change due dates, grade an assignment, etc. All present and future assignments are clearly sorted by day based on class and color, and when you have turned in an assignment it’s marked “submitted.” This simple organized system is perfect for me. As someone who always uses lists in attempts to organize her life, the To-Do feature is my favorite thing on Canvas and the first place I always look for work.

Another plus for Canvas is that teachers can assign a variety of homework and classwork activities. In addition to regular assignments where you submit a file entry or textbox, teachers can host discussions and post announcements. This allows for a more diverse array of engaging assignments that can help gauge comprehension and involvement.

Canvas also has a useful teacher contacting feature. Sometimes when you only have a small question it can feel weird to write an email. But because the Canvas communication platform is less formal and more similar to texting, it makes the teachers feel more accessible. 

Sadly, there are still some downsides to the Canvas platform. Even though the To-Do feature is amazing, teachers don’t always use it. For example, I have one teacher who never puts due dates on her assignments. That means that they don’t show up on the To-Do list and I am forced to venture into the more chaotic Assignments and Modules pages. I find both disorganized and overwhelming, so I try to avoid using them as much as possible. 

The final flaw I would point out for Canvas is the conference feature. It’s just another video conference platform and I would rank it last when comparing it to Zoom and Teams. The screen looks super disorganized, with the chat and random pop ups taking up a lot of the screen space, and when you turn your camera on, you only see your face next to the teacher’s. I find all of this extremely distracting. When you can’t see the other people in the class, it’s a lot less engaging and far less reminiscent of an actual classroom. 

However, despite the few flaws, Canvas is overall an efficient platform for sharing and submitting assignments.