Will Canvas crash or soar?


Bellevue College is blazing the trail by being the first institution of higher education in Washington State to completely transition to the new Learning Management System, Canvas.


The name of this LMS, owned and operated by Instructure, sparks a lot of discussion here on campus among recent technical errors experienced by both faculty and students.


BC put on a Canvas pilot project that took place at BC this summer, where a small group of faculty employed the LMS in their summer quarter classes as a trial. All Washington colleges are switching to the program from other systems, and BC bears the distinction of being the first to completely transition from its current LMS, Blackboard Vista.


On Nov. 15, some faculty members were unable to access their courses on Canvas and were unable to notify their students due to this error. These errors sparked a large email discussion between several BC faculty and staff members about Canvas.


The errors that occurred were corrected by BC’s computer services department. Jason Aqui, director of computing services, elaborated on what exactly happened: “Canvas is cloud-based LMS…For data storage, [Instructure] use Amazon web services…and to control enrollment, what courses or classes BC has online, who is teaching that course and who is enrolled in that course, we [computing services] tie in to the HP system here that the registrar uses.”


The Canvas system is referred to as the HP system and it is not clear whether or not it is owned by Hewlett Packard. Aqui continued: “It’s a big data warehouse. So whenever you as a student would register, you would go to registration and select [a class] and that information gets uploaded to the HP. Some colleges, or some LMS systems in general do manual enrollment, so if you are taking this class, the LMS administrator would manually enroll you into a course. So what we do here at BC is we automate that… so what happened last week is, that automated process failed, there was a glitch with it.”


Essentially, the registrar’s HP system updates information about course registration to Canvas and the computing service department that manages it here at BC. What occurred was an error in this updating process which threw course registration into confusion on campus. This is likely the cause of the absence of courses noted by some BC faculty on Nov. 15.


Any data errors in the cloud are handled by Instructure itself. BC’s information resources services uses a tiered troubleshooting program to handle on campus errors, like the one that occurred on Nov. 15. Computing  Services is tier  two for Canvas related issues, after the Technology Help Desk and before the Technology Development and Communications Group, which is consisted of software engineers.


Although MyBC will still be used as a student interface for email and personal sites, most course work and document housing will completely transition to Canvas by spring quarter. Students looking for more information should check out BC’s Canvas website at http://bellevuecollege.edu/canvas/