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Monday, March 21, 2016 - 9:12am

Iowa Courses Online (ICON)—the system used to share course content, submit assignments, take quizzes, grade, and hold online discussions—will be poised for a host of promising new digital learning opportunities as the UI initiates the shift to a new Learning Management System (LMS) this summer.

The new underlying system that will power ICON is Canvas, a cloud-based, open-source LMS used by more than 600 colleges and universities. The UI evaluated Canvas in a series of summer and fall pilots that involved 50 faculty representing every college. Feedback from faculty and students was positive.  

Courses will be able to access the new system through ICON starting this summer, and staff from the ITS Office of Teaching, Learning & Technology have worked with all colleges to map out timelines for adoption and plans for training and support. The transition will be completed by May 2017.

New Tools for Digital Learning

The move is coupled with the university’s membership in the higher education consortium Unizin, which UI joined in 2014. Unizin enables institutions to draw on an evolving set of tools for managing course content, interaction of students and instructors, and learning analytics—using data to improve teaching and learning. 

“We believe learning analytics and flexible access to course content will be increasingly important for our students and faculty in the future,” says UI Executive Vice President and Provost Barry Butler. “We are excited to be able to explore these areas with the other members of Unizin."

Pilot Participants Favor New Features

Faculty who participated in the Canvas pilot commented that the SpeedGrader function made grading faster and more efficient, and that they could accomplish tasks with fewer clicks. They also appreciated the rubric function and a calendar feature that ensures students are aware of course deadlines.

Students were enthusiastic about a “what-if grade analysis” that helps to predict potential grades.

Overall, 99% of faculty and 78% of students were neutral, satisfied, or very satisfied with the new system; most dissatisfaction was a result of having to go between two systems during the pilot.

Training and Resources

ITS-OTLT, in partnership with collegiate instructional technology staff, will provide extensive training and individual support. Most course content can be seamlessly migrated from the old system to Canvas, although faculty may need to take a look at quizzes and non-relative links to ensure that those transfer correctly. Details on what content will be migrated for the faculty are available at the project website.

Comments or questions regarding the transition to Canvas are welcome; please share your feedback through the Feedback Form. More information on the new Learning Management System is available at: