Recipe for Success with Canvas Implementation

Posted on: October 8, 2015


Last month, 24 Technical Support Contacts (TSCs) from across the University sent a message to President Fenves commending staff from the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and Information Technology Services (ITS) for the outstanding team work during the transition of our campus to Canvas, the University’s new Learning Management System (LMS). This very thoughtful and well deserved message not only praised the implementation team, but provided a summary of the recipe for success that was used.

Here is the message sent by Quinn Stewart, University of Texas School of Information, on behalf of campus TSCs:

President Fenves:

We, the undersigned, represent the vanguard of one of the largest projects ever undertaken at the University of Texas, namely the move to the Canvas Learning Management System (LMS). While changing learning management systems sounds like some obscure IT project, the fact of the matter is that it affects every single student and faculty member on this campus. As we mark the end of the conversion from Blackboard to Canvas we want to take this opportunity and acknowledge a job well done.

Mario Guerra of the Center for Teaching and Learning quickly became the guiding force behind this project, and assembled a team to implement Canvas on campus. Mario and his team have sustained a continuous effort over the last two years to implement Canvas, and succeeded beyond all expectations. Implementing Canvas meant dealing with every teaching faculty member, all the while keeping the best interests of our students in mind. Mario and his team took on the impossible task of making these two user groups happy, and came up with a model of success that should be praised, emulated widely, and rewarded. This is our attempt to garner praise for this project, and our intent to emulate it in the future.

Here is the recipe for success that defines the Canvas Implementation Team:

  • Inclusion – Mario and his team recruited Technical Support Contacts, or TSCs. Few, if any of us, have this in our official job descriptions, yet it has been critical to the success of this project. Mario and his team included expertise from every department across campus, brought everyone together, listened with patience and respect, and implemented the best solutions possible. They built and sustained a widely diverse community focused on a common goal, and nurtured the plethora of paths necessary to achieve success in an academic environment.
  • Availability and Communication – Mario and his team were always available to us, and we were always treated with respect in a timely manner. Not just respect though, downright friendliness and genuine humor, an atmosphere of camaraderie in what always felt like a joint effort among us all. There were multiple paths of communication, and a constantly sustained flow of face to face meetings, that many of us grew to look forward to, which is simply not common.
  • Advocacy – the CTL/ITS team were tireless advocates for our faculty and students with the vendor, and were able to extract many positive outcomes and changes from the vendor. They funneled countless requests from faculty from the TSCs to the vendor, and succeeded in the aggregate in a timely manner.
  • Subject matter expertise – the diversity of knowledge necessary to succeed in a project like this is daunting to say the least, and could be overwhelming. Mario and his team became effective generalists in the art of LMS implementation, and leveraged the communication with and inclusion of the TSCs to the fullest. They tirelessly sought solutions to our disparate problems, and effectively connected people with problems to people with solutions, with the solution often being the subject matter expertise found in the team itself. This alone is an incredible accomplishment in a project of this magnitude, and is rarely seen.

We would like to take this opportunity to recognize the effective team that helped our University to successfully implement Canvas:

  • Mario Guerra CTL
  • Karyn Kondoff ITS
  • Noah Stroehle CTL
  • Lea Engle CTL
  • James Russell ITS
  • Patrick McCook ITS
  • Sejal Shah CTL
  • Dennis Klenk ITS

Finally, we want to congratulate you, who as the provost during the time of this transition provided the support and leadership needed to achieve this successful implementation.

In response to this message, President Fenves said: Thank you for this excellent summary! I appreciate the hard work of CTL and ITS staff, and the partners in the Canvas project. Changing enterprise systems, especially one that touches all faculty and teaching staff, has been problematic at many universities. Not at UT though. Great job to all!

Congratulations and appreciation to everyone involved, including Dave Moss–ITS Project Manager–for his tireless support of this monumental multi-year initiative. The transition to Canvas is an outstanding and inspiring success story for the University community one that will enhance teaching and learning for many years to come here at The University of Texas at Austin.

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