They say it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to implement Canvas as the college’s new learning management system. The Canvas Transition Team—Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and Information Technology (IT) staff—earned this year’s Dave Sarther Teamwork Award.

The team members from CTL are: Dr. Cindy Anderson, dean of academic development/academic outreach; Lisa Dyrda, manager of learning management system and online learning; Scott Leturno, academic technology professional and learning management system administrator; and Anthony Marcasciano, manager of instructional development services. IT team members include: Sue Gray, director of infrastructure and network services; Bill Helmold, director of client services;
Jonathon Miller, Microsoft SQL DBA and systems administrator; Donna Parks, IT project manager; Lori Sanders, director of IT project management; Kamlesh Sanghvi, chief information officer; Kevin Scalzo, applications developer; and Sherita Tyler, director of application and web service.

Starting this semester, faculty and students could no longer use Blackboard as their learning management system and instead had to use its replacement—Canvas, a more streamlined, consistent, mobile-friendly, and flexible system employed by many feeder high school students. But this project started nearly two years ago.

The project proposal was first delivered in 2015 followed quickly by staff training in April 2016 and a pilot program in the 2016 fall semester. More than 600 faculty are now using Canvas and over 1,500 class sections are using it, more than had been on Blackboard. The adoption rate is 60 percent, but the CTL offers continuous trainings to get as many people comfortable to increase usage.

“I was sitting in the CTL office almost in tears looking at the work that lay ahead and not yet being able to grasp the nuances of Canvas. The CTL staff walked
us through the arduous task until finally something clicked, and we were functional and building our courses independently,” said one nominator. “As we use Canvas, we discover there is more to learn, and their teaching continues with the same patient, kind and knowledgeable support.”

A number of additional groups and people on campus were instrumental in helping transition to Canvas as well, especially to make it happen quickly.

“We had to involve so many people on campus. IT and CTL worked closely and collaborated a lot. We were joined at the hip, but other groups were involved with this project as well, such as faculty and Marketing. It was definitely a group effort,” Dyrda said. “This was our baby for two years, so for people to notice it and be supportive is really nice.”

Added award winner Gray, “Winning this award is fantastic. The team worked like clockwork, and it was fun to watch. Every person played a role in making it all happen. There were many parts to the puzzle, and the end result is a beautiful thing.”

The quick turnaround for IT to set up Canvas in addition to learning how it works before CTL taught it to others was no small feat, demonstrating why the groups deserve the award.

“The continuous and timely communication from the team, facilitation of advisory groups and teamwork in accomplishing this year-and-a-half-long process was completed without any major problems,” said one nominator. “The team always remained positive, enthusiastic and open to ideas from faculty and staff. The dedication and effort shown by the team were remarkable. Lisa Dyrda even dressed as a panda bear to promote Canvas to our students during the first weeks of classes and engaged in troubleshooting and answering questions.”