Opinion: Canvas roll out less than perfect



Canvas by Instructure

Canvas began to roll out this year as our district’s, along with many others, only way of keeping online learning organized and feasible while COVID-19 rages on in the background. However, the current state of the program, at least at the high school level, is hard to wrestle with at best, and at times, completely unusable.
While these examples may be anecdotal, from both mine and many other students’ experiences with the program, it has been documented that because of the increased usage of the program nationwide, problems like these are not uncommon.
The first problem encountered with Canvas was how quickly it had to be adapted to our school. For those unaware, Canvas was a relatively last minute switch because of a problem with the previous program, giving teachers and staff little, if any, time to properly set it up. On the first day of school, problems with students not having their classes in the program, along with some being in the wrong classes all together did not make for a warm reception for the program. This feeling has only continued to persist as online learning rolls on.
Problems with submission of assignments and documents was the next big issue that arose. Canvas actually has only a few file formats that it will accept, the most common of these being .PNG images and .JPEG files. As most students are using their phones to take a picture of work done by hand, this presents an issue out of the gate, since most iPhones since the iOS 11 update have had their default file changed to an HEIC type.
However, not all problems with Canvas can be directly credited to the program itself. Teachers are using it in multiple different ways, with it not being uncommon to have completely different Canvas course structures for every class. This lack of a unified, standardized system has made many students very upset in the first few weeks of online.
Another problem that is not directly pointed at the program, rather its usage, is teachers tend to have older computers than most students on campus. Normally, this is not a problem, but as an example, I have a Mac computer. It is what I am currently writing this on. If I tried opening a Word document, with the suffix of .docx, I would not be able to. This is an issue I encountered last week for the first time, but I expect to see it again.
This presents an issue of file compatibility, since those programs cost money to own. It cannot be expected that students spend money on specific programs in order to be able to view their homework. But then, it becomes a question of what files and formats Canvas supports.
The creators behind Canvas actually did address this to some degree, allowing students to connect their Google accounts directly to Canvas. This gives access to Google Drive from inside the system, meaning no hassle with changing around formatting or worrying about not being able to upload, at least for assignments that are able to be opened.
Normally, this is where I would bring up the benefits of this being how we are handling digital learning, but I have yet to see any benefit. Once the year is in progress, and we are multiple months in, maybe then teachers will have had a chance to set everything up and work out any kinks. But as it stands right now, Canvas seems like a harder, more needlessly complicated way of handling online school when what was done last semester with Google Classroom actually worked.
In case this has been a problem for anyone, a quick fix for that right now. Go to the settings in your phone, down to camera, and tap on “Format.” While the HEIC file is better for keeping storage open, the JPEG is what you need to submit to Canvas.