Learning Sketch

Learn to make a mark on the world

Six: Comparing D2L (and every other LMS I’ve used) to Canvas

I’ve worked with a few learning management systems (LMS) as well as the naïve cousin, the content management system (CMS). Drupal, Omni Update, WordPress, Joomla, are all CMS’s that I’ve had the pleasure or displeasure of using to develop web pages. I’ve also experienced the clunky old interface of WebCT—a noble product in its time, but quickly outdated due to a number of factors. WebCT Vista 8 and Moodle also make the list of LMS’s I have experienced; therefore, for this comparison, I’m using all of these plus the current LMS used by the University System of Georgia, Desire2Learn (D2L—soon to be Brightspace).

Many instructors, in my experience, quickly latched onto what they understood as an LMS, and then always demanded the features of their first LMS. It’s almost like everyone who ever watched James Bond likes the first actor that played the role they saw—or for scifi fans, Doctor Who. As I started my journey into working in an LMS, I too became steeped in expected features. Discussions, Assignments, Announcements, and Assessment tools must exist in an LMS for it to be a real LMS—or so the industry would have me believe.

As I started looking at how this LMS is put together I recognized streamlined interface elements from social media. They stylized edit buttons and their location gives them an “easier-to-find” quality. In D2L and several other CMS’s I have dealt with, finding those same edit buttons were tough. I did notice that to edit my discussion once it was published, I had to drill down an unexpected level, but ultimately there was the edit button.

To my surprise, I was able to directly copy the link to my discussion from the URL bar and enter it into the link option in the rich-text editor as I created my announcement. There were a few other minor features that made this LMS feel more like a social media deployment—and as Martha Stewart says, “That’s a good thing.”

The features that I wanted for the discussion are ones I encourage instructors to use for guiding students in D2L. They appear in Canvas exactly where I hoped they would be. I was able to release the discussion as threaded. I also setup the discussion to require students to post an original post first and then they would be given access to post their responses to other students. I easily assigned my points and made my discussion gradable—all on the same page. There were no extra tabs for setting up dates or settings. I have to admit, I like the streamlined features, but I also understand that inevitably an instructor will want more.

Often we see the “creeping featurism’ plague our beloved products and we ignore it. But once these features get in, they are hard to get out. I see a lack of several of these creeping-features that I see hinder an instructor’s progress occasionally. As I look at the interface, I see simple solutions that may require more knowledge on the part of the instructor, but a significantly less complication. Yes, there are less features, but the interface seems to favor modern user interfaces such as social media. Ultimately, I expect this to lead to a better user experience for instructors.

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