Many elements involved in Canvas upkeep

Updates have been made on Canvas for both faculty and students recently, involving several different administrative offices at the University.

Most students on campus could describe what Canvas is and how it is used, but many may not be able to describe how it is maintained and updated.

Paul Cesarini, executive director of the Center for Faculty Excellence, said that many different administrative offices need to be involved in Canvas upkeep, because one office could not accommodate the variety of reasons that students, faculty and staff use Canvas.

How is Canvas maintained and updated then? The three basic stages start with faculty, staff and student feedback gathered from surveys, seminars and Canvas training sessions. Using that input, administrative offices like the CFE discuss what changes would make Canvas better for everyone. Once those changes are decided, a department like Information Technology Services implements the actual coding so that a changed Canvas appears when everyone signs in.

University administration are not the only ones making changes on Canvas though. The Canvas learning management system, or LMS, is owned by the education technology company Instructure, and they periodically update Canvas too. Some of these changes happen without the permission of the University.

The University administration does have a choice in what learning technology integrations, or LTI, they use and do not use though. For instance, Turnitin is the plagiarism detection software that the University uses, but there are other similar LTIs that administration could have chosen instead.

Think of Canvas as an iPhone: the LTIs are apps and the whole LMS is like the version of iOS. A user can choose whatever apps they want from the app store, but when a new version of iOS comes out it is necessary to upgrade.

Instructure gives the details of their updates in their release notes on the community section of their website (

Some of the Canvas changes that students will notice is the ability to do anonymous peer reviewing and that the “submit” button for assignments is more noticeable. Other updates include being able to see the details of a locked assignment and an icon in place of a grade when a quiz is not completely graded.

Most of the recent updates have been for staff and faculty. Donald Schumacher, senior applications developer for ITS, said that the recent updates enable faculty to excuse individual students from assignments and also assign individual students assignments instead of a whole class section. Faculty can now also enable liking on discussion pages.

In addition to all these changes, Instructure has created a new beta version of Canvas with a more streamlined home page that resembles the Windows 8 tile layout with a left-hand toolbar for other options. University administration has not commented on whether they want to try this new beta version or not.

Information about the beta version of Canvas can also be found in the release notes on Instructure’s community section of their website.