Canvas pilot underway for possible ANGEL replacement

February 09, 2015

Students, faculty and staff from across Penn State are participating in a pilot of the Canvas learning management system (LMS) during spring semester 2015 as part of the University’s membership in the nonprofit technology consortium Unizin.

The pilot is evaluating the LMS’s mobile features; customizable navigation; in-line grading; personalized email, text message and Facebook notifications; and integrations with third-party learning applications including AdobeConnect, MediaCore, Turnitin and VoiceThread. The pilot has 2,415 students, 63 faculty and 60 instructional design and support staff in 81 course sections from 16 campuses and 10 colleges.

“It is terrific to have such a diverse set of courses in this Canvas pilot,” said Jennifer Sparrow, senior director of Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT). “As we examine the landscape of emerging learning technologies, we continue to use input from students, faculty and staff to influence decisions about the tools we adopt.”

This is the sixth LMS pilot Penn State has conducted. Sparrow said feedback from pilots is important because it helps create the best user experience for Penn State learners. One important function of the Canvas pilot is exploring the system’s ability to migrate existing course content from ANGEL, Penn State’s current course management system (CMS), into Canvas.

“During fall semester 2014 alone, there were 13,000 active course sections in ANGEL, so migrating course content from one LMS to another has been a major evaluation criteria in each pilot we’ve conducted,” said Terry O’Heron, director of operations for TLT. “Content can range from syllabi to completely online courses. The degree of success in migrating content has a direct impact on time and resources, which ultimately affects user satisfaction.”

The LMS pilot team has been working with instructors, students, designers and support staff throughout the past several years to find a replacement for ANGEL. The team has conducted pilots with several platforms including Moodle, Desire2Learn and Blackboard.

The Canvas pilot is taking place after Blackboard, Inc, ANGEL’s parent company, announced an end-of-life date for ANGEL in October 2014. Most instances of ANGEL won’t be supported after Oct. 15, 2016. Penn State has a contract for the CMS through December 2017 and will continue to receive operational support until then.

Canvas is available to Penn State through the University’s membership with Unizin, which was formed in 2014 as a way to enable universities to reach their goals with digital learning. The consortium focuses on improving the way educational content is shared by providing a common digital infrastructure. In November 2014, it was announced that Penn State had become a founding member of the organization.

Additional information on the Canvas pilot as well as previous LMS pilots at Penn State are at

Last Updated February 10, 2015