The Student News Site of Taipei American School




TAS joins Harvard, Stanford, in adopting Canvas

Produced by the Utah-based educational technology company Instructure, Canvas has replaced Blackboard Learn as Taipei American School’s Learning Management System for the 2017-18 school year. In adopting the system, TAS joins a group of over 2,000 Canvas-using institutions that includes Harvard University, Stanford University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University.
During its first two months of use, students experienced multiple schoolwide login failures. Electronic Systems and Information Specialist Mr. Jason Kiang says, “Students use their TAS Google accounts to login to Canvas; therefore, the sync has to go through an extra step for the seamless login to work properly. But as new technology comes out and as our school continues to make new changes, there will usually be startup issues to overcome.”
Despite these issues, student reviews of the Canvas user experience have generally been positive. Alex Huang (‘18) says, “[Canvas] looks better, and overall, I think it’s an improvement over Blackboard, because I can import events from the calendar to my Google Calendar.” Mr. Daniel Hudkins, TAS’ new Chief Information Officer, predicts that this calendar feature will be useful for the school’s frequent travelers. He says, “If you know that you’ve got that Model United Nations trip next weekend and you can tell what the homework is that’ll be due then…you have the option of managing that and pulling the workload back in.”

Shereen Lee/The Blue & Gold

In addition to the calendar, Canvas also offers a number of other novel features. Unsurprisingly, the Canvas gradebook, through which students can view their assignment scores and overall grades, is most appealing to Upper School students. In a survey of over 250 students, 69.5 percent indicated that they wanted their teachers to update this feature more. For teachers, on the other hand, Canvas discussion boards have proven extremely popular. English teacher Ms. Jodi Thompson’s use of discussion boards for free writing activities at the beginning of every class earned praise from many. One student says, “It allows us to be more engaged in learning.”  Another says, “We can share interesting ideas and insight about texts.”
Although Canvas has only been in use for two months, Mr. Hudkins says that the development of Learning Management Systems necessitates frequent change to allow schools to stay abreast of the newest technology. In the past five years alone, TAS has transitioned from to Blackboard Learn to Canvas. He says, “There are different systems doing different things in different ways, so to not look every five years and ask ‘is there something we should be doing differently?’ is not responsible. I would say the next time, if TAS were to follow my guidance, that we look in the direction of a new LMS, is 2021 or 2022.”

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