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Frequently Asked Questions
Why are we retiring CourseWork?
CourseWork, the learning management system that has served teachers and learners at Stanford since 2005, is based on an “open source” platform called Sakai. Stanford, along with 4 other universities, founded Sakai in 2004. We have continually contributed to the platform during the last 12 years, adding many features that have been requested by Stanford instructors.
Software platforms, such as Sakai, require frequent updating in order to stay current with emerging technologies and the increasing expectations of users. Occasionally, a major rewrite is required in order to ensure a platform’s continued supportability and extensibility. Although there was an effort by the open source community to develop a successor to Sakai, the project did not result in a platform that could meet the basic needs of users upgrading from Sakai.
At this point, Stanford is the last of the 5 founding universities to still be using Sakai. Although the platform continues to provide benefit to many institutions worldwide, it is no longer viable for us to maintain and enhance the platform to meet the growing needs of teaching and learning on campus here at Stanford. In choosing Canvas as the successor platform we are following in the footsteps of 3 of the 4 Sakai founding institutions and leveraging their experience and migration tools to minimize the impact on our instructors and students. As a participating member of the Canvas R1 Peer Group, which is comprised of 20 universities from across the country, we are collaborating with other universities to lobby Instructure to address major functional gaps.
How are we addressing feature gaps between CourseWork and Canvas?
As with any software migration, there is not a one-to-one mapping of features from CourseWork to Canvas. There are many new features in Canvas and an overall improved user experience. At the same time, there are features, especially ones that we have developed in response to instructors’ requests, that are missing in the new platform. Please see the Canvas Feature/Functional Gaps List and the CourseWork vs Canvas Comparison Chart for more information. The Canvas platform, although commercial, is extensible. The team is developing additional features to help fill the gaps that exist between the two platforms. For example, we developed a Roster Photos tool that will be available in Spring 2016 and are in the process of developing an Anonymous Grading of Papers feature.
Some of the differences that you will experience are more deeply rooted in the platform and cannot be changed through the development of additional tools. We are working with Instructure, the company that provides Canvas, to make the changes that will continue to improve your experience. We are working closely with peer institutions, via the Canvas R1 Peer Group, that are also Canvas users to apply pressure to Instructure in areas that are of mutual interest. Even with all this development and lobbying, there will inevitably be differences in behavior that you, the users, will have to accommodate through changes in your practices. Many of these will be minor changes in your workflow. However, others may be less efficient than your experience with CourseWork. We have a support person who is available to work with you with regards to efforts to minimize the impact of these workflow changes. At the same time we will work closely with Instructure to address your top concerns.
Why a new Learning Management System (LMS)?
Although Stanford had used CourseWork (Sakai) LMS since 2005, over the last ten years there have been many changes in LMS technology. Modern learning management systems offer exciting features and functionalities to create engaging and meaningful learning experiences.
Collaboration and content creation for students and faculty:
- Allow students to create and comment on pages
- Set up video-based web conferences instantly
- Submit and grade group projects easily
- Record videos and audio via webcam
- Assign papers and readings easily
- View Word and PDF submissions directly in the grading interface
- Create a rubric for added grading speed
- Let students grade peers using rubrics
- Bulk upload and download through drag and drop, selection or zip
- See assignments and other items that need your attention on the Dashboard
- Receive notifications via email, text, or in your calendar
How is Canvas different from Coursework?
CourseWork-Canvas Feature Comparison Chart
Who is using Canvas?
During the VPTL Canvas pilot from Fall 2014 through Summer 2015 approximately 2000 faculty and students used Canvas in over 100 courses.
In 2014 the Stanford Graduate School of Business moved to a separate Canvas instance, and the Stanford Graduate School of Education has made a locally hosted Canvas instance available to its members since 2013.
In addition, several of our peer universities – who had previously used Sakai, the LMS that CourseWork is built on – have piloted and adopted Canvas, including Indiana University, University of California at Berkeley, University of Michigan and Yale University.
When can I start migrating my courses to Canvas?
Winter 2017 Canvas courses are available now. Just login to canvas.stanford.edu to get started.
Will I have to manually enroll students or create a new account or request a Canvas course?
No. Your Canvas course is created automatically each quarter. Your roster will be added to your Canvas and synched with enrollment updates, so enrolled students will be able to see the course after you publish it. You and your students will login to your Canvas course using your SUNet ID and password.
Is there a recommended browser for Canvas?
Are there mobile apps for Canvas?
Yes. Students, instructors and TA’s can download the Apple iOS Canvas App for iPhone and iPad or Android Canvas App. See the Canvas Mobile App Guide for more information.
Instructors and TA’s can also download the SpeedGrader App for iPad or SpeedGrader App for Android. See the SpeedGrader Mobile App Guide for more information.
Will I be able to move my CourseWork course content over Canvas?
As you make the move from CourseWork, we encourage you to consider how you might take advantage of the new features and functionalities in Canvas to increase collaboration, communication and engagement in your courses. Here are some tips for making the most of Canvas to develop meaningful student-centered learning experiences.
Are there any classes that are not a good fit for Canvas right now?
Although Canvas is robust for most users, for some classes it is not yet suitable. There are some types of classes for which it is not yet a good fit.
- Languages courses (Limited support for recording – can’t set limits on recording duration or number of attempts)
- Large classes with section-specific content
Are you still supporting CourseWork?
No. CourseWork was retired on December 21, 2016. The VPTL Canvas team migrated all CourseWork courses from Fall 2014 through Fall 2016 to Canvas. If there is other CourseWork content that you’d like to use in the future you can request it be migrated before the January 23, 2017 deadline.
When will CourseWork be retired?
December 21, 2016 (Visit our CourseWork Retirement page for more information.)
Can you provide a Canvas overview for us at our department/faculty meeting?
Absolutely! We’d love to give a Canvas overview at your department meeting. Please contact us with some possible dates, times and locations. We’d be happy to tailor our presentation to your needs if there are any particular Canvas features or functionalities you’d like to learn more about.
Please see our Upcoming Events section for information about our schedule for Canvas orientations, demos, workshops and events.