Canvas logo

Technology evolves and changes around us every day. What is here now becomes past tense overnight. This is true for systems both large and small.

To explore one of these changes this summer, ten UI instructors will be piloting a new course management system called Canvas.

With support from the Office of Teaching, Learning & Technology (OTLT), instructors from Biomedical Engineering, Dance, Management and Organizations, Nursing, and Political Science will implement this new technology to teach their courses and test and evaluate features, usability, and system reliability.

Like the current Desire2Learn system, Canvas could become the “engine” of ICON, providing instructors with familiar tools such as gradebooks, discussions, and content management and assessment tools.

In addition, Canvas supports more contemporary functionality such as learning analytics, native mobile accessibility, and the ability to easily connect outside learning tools such as e-texts and other emerging digital learning platforms.

Conceived by two former Brigham Young University students who were frustrated by their own experience with course management systems, Canvas is an open-source software that allows for greater flexibility and more timely development and implementation of updates and learning tools.

“The ICON team is excited to partner with faculty and students across disciplines to help explore opportunities for a more engaged, active and easy-to-use learning platform,” says Annette Beck, Director of Enterprise Instructional Technology at OTLT.  “Initial responses from participants in the summer pilot is positive.  And we’ve learned that for a number of tools, Canvas requires fewer steps to get the same thing done, which in turn saves faculty members time.”

During the 2015-16 academic year, OTLT will collaborate with additional UI instructors to conduct a series of pilot studies to determine the usability of the Canvas system and its impact on course design and delivery.

The Canvas pilot will be part of the larger UI campus engagement with Unizin. A multi-institutional consortium, Unizin seeks to bring together a platform of tools and technology systems to better support student learning in the 21st century.

Along with 9 other peer institutions, the University of Iowa is a founding member of Unizin and is actively participating in the development and formation of the consortium governance and a strategic plan with a focus on the enhancement of pedagogy and student learning.

Once the consortium structures are in place, members will have the opportunity to use the service for a range of modern instructional scenarios, including in-person courses, online courses, blended learning, and potentially massive open online courses (MOOCs).

“The University’s participation in Unizin provides us with an exciting and unique opportunity to influence and shape the future digital learning ecosystem,” says Maggie Jesse, Senior Director of ITS Office of Teaching, Learning & Technology.

For more information about the Canvas pilot or to learn more about how you might be involved, please contact Annette Beck (

For more information about Unizin, please visit the project webpage: