Canvas is coming to an SFU campus near you

Next month, Simon Fraser University will complete its switch to Canvas—a new learning management system (LMS) used as a stand-alone platform by only one other post-secondary institution in Canada.

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Blackboard Inc., the company that provides SFU’s current LMS (WebCT), announced it would end support for the platform in December 2012. That’s what prompted SFU, along with many other North American universities, to look for a new LMS.

The university spent a year looking for a new LMS. This process involved faculty, staff and students across its three campuses. SFU conducted in-person interviews, open forums, focus groups and a student survey that resulted in 6,800 responses.

Canvas is forward looking and mobile friendly. 

“Canvas has a forward looking attitude that encompasses mobile, social media and plug and play,” explains Canvas functional lead Lynda Williams, who is also SFU’s manager of learning technology within the Teaching and Learning Centre. “It’s user focused and flexible. Instead of being all things to all people, Canvas allows us to plug into other technologies.”

While Canvas is an open source, easy-to-use, cloud-native LMS, the university will host Canvas locally; that is, on servers physically located at SFU.


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Other post-secondary institutions are looking to SFU to lead the way.

Ever since the university decided to adopt Canvas, other post-secondary institutions have been asking for details about SFU’s experience.

In 2012, the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, a consortium of 34 institutions, chose Canvas to replace Blackboard’s ANGEL learning management system. Globally, more than 500 institutions use Canvas.

Notable quotes:

“The choice of Canvas clearly responds to the community’s desire for a flexible and practical, yet dynamic, and forward-thinking approach to our learning technologies. This choice gives substance, direction, and dedication to the university’s commitment to boldness, openness, and engagement in all of its endeavours.” – Jon Driver, vice-president, academic, Simon Fraser University

“If conceptualized as much more than a course management tool, Canvas can contribute to a richer, and thoroughly participatory experience for students.” – Martin Laba, director of academic community engagement, Canvas@SFU and School of Communication, Simon Fraser University


“With my courses, I was able to develop and integrate a range of participatory options for students— from personal learning pages, to social media for course learning, to lively discussion sites, to media resources and links, and more.” – Martin Laba

Learn more:

Open Source Gifts for the Holiday” © 2012 by, made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. 

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