After about one year of research, the State College Area School District has decided on a new online learning management system that it says will better connect students, teachers and parents.
The district assembled a committee of 23 students, teachers, parents and district technology personnel to test 14 platforms. After narrowing the list down to three, the committee viewed presentations from the finalists and decided to move forward with Canvas LMS.
Nicole Steele, director of computer services and telecommunications, told the school board on Monday that the decision was made based on not only the platform’s look and feel, but how it easily integrates with the Google educational programs the district uses, allows teachers to provide feedback using video and audio, and is compatible with the student information system.
“We’re really excited about it moving forward,” Steele said. “It will provide a one-stop shop, so to speak, for our teachers and students to be able to access all of the tools and information that they need in one system.”
The district is using Moodle LMS, but Assistant Superintendent Vernon Bock said the platform is not helping the district to reach its engagement goals. In an effort to consolidate and streamline communication between students, teachers and parents, Bock said studying other available platforms was necessary.
Bock said Canvas offers excellent customer service and tech support, which he said were important factors in making the decision, considering the district’s planning for online courses, blended courses and experiences.
“We know that teachers and students are mostly working on lessons in the evening,” Steele said. “That’s when they are going to need a lot of support in using the product, and Canvas is able to provide that support.”
The platform subscription will cost the district $30,000 for the first year and $20,000 annually, said Randy Brown, district business administrator. The additional $10,000 for the first year covers training, implementation and support.
Canvas will be used for secondary students, and elementary students will continue to use Google Classroom, Steele said.
“We know we have a large teacher community that is really interested in using the product,” Steele said. “We’re going to provide them with the opportunity to use it first and then hopefully move the rest of our faculty in that direction.”
The school board will vote on implementation of Canvas on Monday.