ABOUT a month into the start of Academic Year 2023-2024, Thomasians have yet to fully acclimatize to Canvas, the University’s new learning management system (LMS).

While some Thomasians interviewed by the Varsitarian found the new interface to be “user-friendly” and “easy to navigate,” many regarded the shift from Blackboard as challenging, considering its two-decade-long run as the University’s primary LMS.

“I’m still finding my way around Canvas,” psychology junior Jesrenn Pantaleon said. “As someone accustomed to the old LMS, grappling with understanding the platform becomes a struggle and a hassle, especially given that its introduction occurred just before the commencement of classes.”

UST announced the shift to Canvas in late April, following the LMS developer’s partnership deal with schools run by the Dominican Order. 

Aaron de Guzman, a third-year student from the College of Education, mentioned that while Canvas’s layout is clean and straightforward, it will take time for Thomasians to become accustomed to it.

“Blackboard, in my opinion, was easier to navigate because essential items were readily visible… but since this is a new LMS, we need to set aside time to explore and grasp the interface,” de Guzman said. 

Commerce freshman Fonzy Colarina said it took him only a few visits to the Canvas website to become familiar with the interface and features of the new LMS. 

Some Thomasians, including Ayo Marasigan, a communication junior, prefer Blackboard over Canvas even after using the latter for about a month.

“In contrast to Blackboard, Canvas lacked visual navigations that make it easier to identify subjects, application functions, and assignments,” Marasigan said. 

Marasigan added that the process of logging into and navigating Canvas was tedious and confusing. There were also issues in receiving announcements.

Biancamae Lim, a physical therapy junior who used Canvas during senior high school and Blackboard in college, said both LMS platforms came with advantages and disadvantages.

Canvas has a user-friendly interface that allows any new user to easily navigate course contents. It also offers mobile accessibility for both the students to view announcements and study materials,” Lim said.

“But what’s good about Blackboard is that it has a readily available ‘Activity Stream’ tab where a student is able to get a glimpse of recently posted material or announcements,” she added.  

Lim said the LMS switch should not have a big impact on a student’s academic performance.

“I don’t think the LMS used by the school [will have] a huge influence on how well a student does or how much he will learn, [but it would be influenced] by the capabilities of the professor and the student’s own effort to study,” she said.

‘Fast-paced’ training

To prepare teachers for the shift, faculty members were asked to attend a series of training sessions organized by the Office of Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

Asst. Prof Jolleen Balitaan of the College of Science, who attended the training session on May 19, said she found it “easy” to get accustomed to using Canvas.

“I think that the training was quite loaded and fast-paced. I was able to observe some faculty members having a hard time catching up with the navigation,” Balitaan said.

“The schedule of the training is also essential to ensure efficient completion of the training course. Most of us were busy and preoccupied with preparing the test questionnaire and table of specifications for the upcoming final examinations of the undergraduates,” she added.

Prof. Joyce Arriola of the Department of Literature said the features of Canvas were “easily navigable” and as accessible as Blackboard. 

“There will be quite a number of adjustments to be made. However, the increase in the number of onsite classes will make instruction more interactive, open, exciting, and more productive,” said Arriola.

During Academic Year 2023-2024, the University is expected to hold more in-person classes after it barred academic units from holding classes exclusively online.

For College of Commerce and Business Administration faculty member Romualdo Romualdo, the new interface requires practice on the part of educators but said the training sessions organized by the University were successful.

“I can personally say that this shift is on good timing as everyone, meaning in the industry, market, or at a learning institution, is in a restart mode,” Romualdo said. “Canvas is a breath of fresh start to everyone.”

Transition woes

Apart from the short transition period, students from the College of Fine Arts and Design (CFAD) and College of Architecture complained of having to use both Canvas and Blackboard at the start of classes.

In a memorandum dated Aug. 15, CFAD Dean Mary Christie Que announced that general education courses of the college would be delivered via Canvas to “maximize the online resources of the University.”

Major subjects will remain in Blackboard.

“We keep on shifting between the two LMS. Instead of using Blackboard only, I also have to open Canvas. And I have to get used to it again because it has a different user interface,” said John Sta. Ana, an architecture junior. 

Based on the MyUSTe portal, Blackboard will be used by students from the Senior High School, Junior High School, CFAD, and Architecture, while Canvas will be for students from the Education High School, other tertiary programs, and graduate courses. 

The Varsitarian reached out to the ICT Office and the Educational Technology Center about its plan to address students’ concerns regarding Canvas but has yet to receive a response as of posting time. Hannah Joyce Andaya and Fernando Pierre Marcel B. dela Cruz with reports from Jenna Mariel A. Gonzales and Mikhail S. Orozco


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