Revisiting CANVAS


Haley Seymour, Co-Editor

Last year, The Mercury published an article titled “CANVAS dies in ‘Infinity War'”, which discussed that BFA would be switching from the learning management system “Canvas” to a new one, called “PowerTeacher Pro”.

BFA used Canvas from 2016 to 2018, and it was often the topic of a complaints within conversations. In 2018, BFA administration introduced the idea that they would be changing to PowerTeacher Pro, a pairing of PowerSchool Learning and PowerSchool, in order to provide a better system for collecting students’ grades, official transcripts, Personal Learning Plans, eportfolios, and manage an online-style class.

One of the main issues with Canvas was that administration was under the impression that it would connect to PowerSchool, however it didn’t, which made it extremely difficult to transfer grades, transcripts, and more.

Preston Randall, director of guidance, offered his opinions for “CANVAS dies in ‘Infinity War'”. He believes that making the switch to completely PowerSchool was a good choice for BFA students and faculty.

“What I use is the interface with PowerSchool, which takes the information and presents it in a way that students can access, that parents can access, and that school counselors can access. My experience with that, this year compared to last year, when I look in PowerSchool, I can, most of the time, get a pretty good sense of how a student is progressing in a class. With the same login I use for PowerSchool, sort of ‘one-stop shopping.’ It’s all in one place with a quick lookup, whereas last year, when teachers were using Canvas as their gradebooks, it was a separate login, and it was much harder for me to find that information. And so I was less likely to access it and use it when working with students,” Randall said.

According to “CANVAS dies in ‘Infinity War’,” Canvas was difficult to use because of the unnecessary amount of pages one had to open in order to find grades. Randall says that it is much easier to have everything in a centralized location.

¨I think that you can see in real time, through the same log and portal that you use through everything else, how you’re progressing. And you can look at it in terms of the assignments, what you have turned in and haven’t turned in, but you can also look at it in terms of the proficiencies and the different indicators to be able to determine, like it looks like I need some extra help with foiling in algebra versus, I’m doing fine with fractions,¨ Randall said.

In “CANVAS dies in ‘Infinity War'”, Randall mentions that switching to PowerSchool completely would highly improve communication between faculty, students, parents, etc. He finds this to be true.

¨This specifically is about the communication and not having to worry about having to wait for a report card or progress report to figure out how you’re progressing,¨ Randall said.

As well as communication, Randall mentions that teachers have been liking how much easier it is using only PowerSchool features.

“I think that the teachers I’ve talked with like [PowerTeacher Pro]. [I think] that PowerTeacher Pro, the gradebook feature, is not so very different than the gradebook they’re used to. And I think that it´s relatively intuitive to use. And teachers were needing to do double entry. So when they entered all of your scores, they then would have to go back and re-enter things in PowerSchool, to have anything show up in PowerSchool. So I think teachers especially appreciate that it has essentially eliminated duplication of their work,” Randall said.

Although there have been several benefits to switching to PowerSchool, there have also been some downfalls.

“I think it’s much easier to use and I think it’s been a major improvement in terms of how effectively BFA is communicating student learning and progress. The only part that I’m not sure about is the instructional supports that Canvas offered by being able to put assignments and things directly in Canvas, if that’s as effective in PowerSchool Learning or not, and whether that’s an essential feature,¨ Randall said.

PowerSchool Learning is the side of PowerSchool which was meant to replicate Canvas in the sense of having a place to get new assignments, turn them in, as well as doing Personal Learning Plans and having ePortfolios.

Randall mentions that although not many teachers are using PowerSchool Learning, they still miss the features that Canvas had.

“The only area where I´ve heard concern, but I don’t think most teachers are using it, is my sense but I may be wrong, is PowerSchool Learning. Some teachers had features and functionalities in Canvas that they really liked and appreciated, that I’m not sure are as available in PowerSchool Learning,” Randall said.

The most important element to choosing a learning management system is communication between parents, students, and teachers. Hopefully PowerSchool is the right system for this to succeed.