Canvas, a possible replacement for ANGEL, shows strong potential

Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

During spring semester 2015, students, faculty and staff from across Penn State have been participating in a pilot of the Canvas learning management system (LMS) as part of the University’s membership with Unizin. The Unizin Consortium is a group of universities coming together in a strategic way to exert greater control and influence over the digital learning landscape.

Canvas is being explored as a possible replacement for ANGEL, Penn State's current LMS. After December 2017, ANGEL will reach its end-of-life date and no longer receive operational support from parent company Blackboard.

The pilot of Canvas -- comprised of 2,415 students, 63 faculty and 60 instructional design and support staff in 81 course sections from 16 campuses and 10 colleges -- is evaluating the LMS’s mobile features; navigation; grading capabilities; customizable email and text message notifications; and integration with such third-party learning applications as Adobe Connect, MediaCore, Turnitin and VoiceThread.

Faculty involved in the pilot have given Canvas high marks, with SpeedGrader being one of the highest rated features. Canvas has also received positive reviews by students at Penn State. Students in IST 110 (GS) Introduction to Information, People and Technology, a World Campus course, have highlighted key benefits of Canvas such as its intuitive design, user friendliness, and its compatibility across all mobile devices and computer platforms. The main features beyond the mobile capabilities that students have identified as beneficial are the modern design of Canvas, social media-like interface with profile pictures and integrated text notifications, as well as the To Do list of assignments where students can see exactly what assignments are due each week, along with their due dates.

In addition to the pilot itself, faculty and staff from Information Technology Services, Penn State World Campus and other areas across the University have developed an LMS requirements document that outlines a list of categories for evaluating future LMSs. The document, while not intended to be a comprehensive list of all the features and functions required in Penn State's next LMS, will be used as part of the criteria for the final report on the Canvas pilot.  

More information about the Canvas pilot, including the LMS requirements document, is available at To view the Canvas pilot mid-semester report, visit

Last Updated May 11, 2015