Canvas knocks out Etudes

The interface for all online Valley classes is changing this year due to a statewide improvement effort.

By Solomon Smith, Staff Writer

This summer semester, Valley College students will see Etudes replaced with Canvas, an online system with a modern Google-like interface, faster access speeds, and mobile apps.

Canvas will feature a familiar interface, similar to some Google services students may already be used to: a cog symbol for settings, cards that display posts and notices, and a blue-color scheme with a streamlined login. The interface, or dashboard, also features tabs, giving the user an at-a-glance look at their classes and a to-do list. Students will also be able to personalize their experience through the dashboard and the use of avatars, creating a better looking interface.

“That’s one of the things that we’d heard, is that it is much more aesthetically pleasing,” says Israel Ortiz, the Online technical support assistant for Valley.

Speed will also be improved with Canvas, which was designed to handle a much larger student body from its inception, and will run much smoother, according to Ortiz. This was an issue with Etudes some students have complained about as well as low speeds during peak hours, like finals and midterms, plaguing the system.

“I think Etudes crashes a lot,” says Daniela Isaza, a student at Valley. “Professors would say, ‘It’s your computer.'”

Valley’s Dean of Career and Technological Education, Laurie Prada, has overseen Canvas’ implementation, and worked closely with several staff members. Canvas is part of the Online Education Initiative, a collaborative effort by the California Community Colleges with a statewide goal to enhance online, hybrid, and face-to-face classes. Representatives from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office and the California Board of Education have also chipped in.

Professor Jackie Hams the Valley Distance Education Coordinator has also served as an indispensable member of the team, coordinating information between the vendors, professors, and the old Etudes website.  She has assisted in setting up the meetings between the different groups, organizing the training programs, and acting as a liaison between faculty and the vendors who run the website.  Canvas will act as the unifying Learning Management System, or LMS, according to Ortiz. It will absorb Etudes, hybrid classes and replace the My LAVC Portal. He is training to bring these things together in a series of teleconferences, web videos and mock-ups of the program itself. As the main technical support specialist for Valley, his job will be to assist both students and teachers.

Dean Prada has begun reaching out to prepare training classes for staff, and support personnel and for many key members has already begun.  With all of the changes on the horizon, the most exciting aspect for Prada is opportunity to expand the online learning programs far beyond what she was able to do before. According to Prada, “if they want, every instructor can have some type of web presence.”

Budget limitations were a primary concern before, but with the implementation of Canvas comes the added bonus of having the State Chancellor’s Office foot the bill for the next two years. Prada was not able to share the exact cost of the program, but is very enthused about how this will affect the new curriculum.

“I used to have to ration the number of web enhanced classes—and now I don’t have to do that anymore,” said Prada.

This summer semester is the soft release of this new program due to its smaller course listing and is ideal for the live testing needed before the full force of a fall semester. For many students, online classes are essential and the online experience is important. When asked what they would like to change about Etudes, Valley students were clear. One student, Davion Maldonado, would like to see, “more fresh innovations,” which is exactly what Prada has in mind.

According to Prada, “I really think that this is a game changer in California.”

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