Canvas update from the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to thank you for ongoing support for the Canvas, and to provide an update on the platform as the programme to support its implementation comes to an end.

Our progress so far

In 2018 I announced that Canvas had been chosen to replace WebLearn for teaching and learning at Oxford. At the time of that announcement, I had high expectations that Canvas would play a key role in delivering a more consistent and high-quality learning experience for our students. I was extremely encouraged by the work of our early adopters, who were very generous and patient with their time and who provided innovative examples of what it was possible to do with Canvas, even at that early stage.

Canvas and the pandemic

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have found ourselves in circumstances we could not have imagined. The Canvas team has been working closely with the Centre for Teaching and Learning since Trinity term to support the move to remote teaching across the collegiate University. Much of the very valuable work that took place involved moving hundreds of courses into Canvas, enabling students to have a single entry point for course information, teaching materials and asynchronous learning activities. 

At the same time, the Programme team continued with the task of rolling out Canvas across the University, moving whole departments in time for Michaelmas term and working with them to ensure they could support the requirements for flexible and inclusive teaching, a key feature of academic year 20/21.  

Canvas use has risen significantly during the pandemic, firmly placing a modern, responsive virtual learning environment at the forefront of our digital teaching strategy for the future. This period has also highlighted the quality and acumen of staff at Oxford, both those on the programme and those who have used Canvas in innovative ways to support teaching and learning.

What happens next?

The new term marks the final phase of the rollout across the University. The Canvas team will provide hands-on support to new users throughout the rest of the term through their early life support process. They will also continue to work with the Centre for Teaching and Learning to help staff across the University with ongoing queries related to flexible and inclusive teaching.

Staff can request help through the teaching remotely service desk, which was set up in Trinity term 2020 to support the move to remote teaching. Work will also begin on transitioning the Programme’s activities to the Centre for Teaching and Learning by March 2021.

Thank you

I would like to offer a huge thanks to all the staff and students at the University for helping us get to where we are now, from our early adopters to our new users.

I also want to offer special thanks to Dr Kate Blackmon, as programme sponsor, for her dedication and support, and the Canvas team for their hard work and resilience under very trying circumstances.

I would also like to thank Professor Rhona Sharpe for her leadership of the Centre for Teaching and Learning at this crucial time; she has had something of a baptism of fire in the role, but has proved more than worthy of the task.

Looking to the future

We are at the start of a journey with Canvas, one made all the more important by the challenges of the pandemic, and embodied by the original programme vision of 'advancing education at Oxford by providing an intuitive digital platform for all'. Our academics are already providing innovative examples of what is possible using a virtual learning environment to support teaching and learning.  

As we continue to focus on the flexible and inclusive approach that will inform teaching this academic year, I believe that Oxford can be leaders in this new digital learning landscape, as we are in so many other areas of academia. I look forward to seeing what we will achieve. 

Martin Williams
Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)