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Faculty, students express mixed feelings about Canvas

Miami University officially introduced students to a new online learning management system, Canvas, this fall. Over 800 colleges, universities and school districts in the U.S. are currently using it. Canvas will completely replace the old management system, Niihka, by fall of 2016.

Now that most students have used the program for a week, mixed feelings have risen to the surface.

"It's not more confusing, it's just inconvenient and unnecessary," said sophomore Caroline Hellman. "I have to go to two different sites for assignments instead of having them all right there ... Miami should just pick one and stick to it."

According to Miami's website, Canvas is specifically designed for online teaching. The goal is for students to have a simpler program with a wider variety of resources and more hands on learning tools.

In an effort to slowly familiarize students to the new program, Niihka and Canvas will both be used used this year and faculty may choose which program to implement in their classes.

Many students, including Hellman, have multiple professors on each program, causing assignments to be split between the websites.

"Most of my professors use Canvas right now," Hellman said. "I like it better but I'm more familiar with Niihka. Some of my professors are struggling with the switch."

Canvas, like Niihka, offers ways to check grades, assignments and due dates, and is a place for professors to interact with students.

Miami offers online training materials for students and faculty to better equip them for the change.

According to Miami's Canvas website, in 2014 the first phase of Canvas was released to 15 select and hybrid courses in Oxford and regional campuses, later to be expanded during Phase II in spring 2015 to 40 online courses. Faculty members were trained in summer 2015, and the full program was released in the fall.

Faculty training took place over the summer for faculty who could attend the sessions. However, many professors had time conflictions and therefore didn't receive training on running the program in their classes.

"I always had something else I had to do… and I had new faculty to meet with," said Italian professor, Gael Montgomery. "I am happy to have the option of continuing to use Niihka this year, because I was not ready for Canvas when the year began."

For the time being, Miami students will be using both Niihka and Canvas.

"I'm just worried because of the professors who aren't using Canvas…" Hellman said. "I hope eventually we can just all use Canvas and I won't have to think about which site my homework is on for what class."