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Another Look at Moodle vs. Canvas

How do Moodle and Canvas Compare?

Moodle Canvas Key Characteristics within Canvas
Personal & Course Settings Course start Date Publish Course Canvas courses exist in three states:  unpublished, published and concluded course becomes read-only
Administration Block Two setting options:  Global Settings or Course Settings Includes:  Course Details, Set-up course navigation, Student view, Course Statistics, Copy Course, Important Content, Export Course Content, Reset Course content (course becomes blank)
  • Backup
  • Restore
  • Import from Archives
  • Import (current site)
Copy Course, Export Course Content Copy or import course content and Export course content functionality available within Settings
Notifications Block Notifications Includes:  Weekly option for notifications, applies to all your courses in Canvas.  Notifications via Twitter and other social media options
Edit Profile Profile Includes: Update personal information, biographical information.  Create links to your social media accounts and personal sites.  Users can reply to Inbox communications from any email address self-added to the Profile section.
Help Link Help Get chat or phone help immediately.  Link to documentation. Report a problem, or Submit a Feature idea.
Switch role to… Student view Student View allows instructors a full student experience as a “test student.”  Instructors can upload materials, take quizzes, and navigate the course functionality as a student.  “Test student” also appears in the Gradebook for assessment when instructors leave the Student View.


Moodle Canvas Key Characteristics within Canvas
Content Availability Restrict access

  • Activity Completion
  • Date
  • Grade
  • Group
  • Grouping
  • User Profile
  • Restriction Set (complex logic)
  • Unpublished
  • Restricted Access
  • Availability Dates
  • Prerequisites
  • Restricted Access available for course files.
  • Quizzes and Discussions can include Availability dates.
  • Prerequisites can be set on the module level (unlocking module) but not at the assignment level.


Moodle Canvas Key Characteristics within Canvas
People Participants People Includes:  Tracking interactions between student and instructor, last course access and total time, link to Student Analytics, Grades, Access Report, Outcome
Messages Conversations (inbox)
  • Functions more like Facebook wall than an email inbox.
  • Receive notifications via social web services, text, etc.
  • Send email messages to individuals or entire class from the Global Inbox. Messages are delivered to each user’s registered email address.  Users can reply-to messages.
Groups Groups
  • Create Group Sets within People section
  • Ability to drag/drop student into groups, allow self-assign, or randomize
  • Can assign a group leaver
  • A group workspace is created where students can create pages, announcements, collaborations, discussions, calendar events, and chat in real-time.

Groups Video

Reports (Core)

  • Today’s logs
  • All logs
  • Outline Report
  • Complete Report
  • Browser Sessions
  • Grade
View Student Progress Instructors can view student progress for required content within modules.
Calendar Block Calendar
  • Global for all enrolled courses
  • Look and feel more like Google Calendar.
  • Drag and drop to make changes
  • Assignment due date changes made in your calendar are automatically updated everywhere else in the course
  • Copy calendar feed link to view Canvas calendar in apps like Google Calendar, iCal, Outlook, etc.

Calendar Video



Moodle Canvas Key Characteristics within Canvas
Content Page Pages
  • Choose whether pages are editable only by instructors, both instructors and students, or by everyone
  • Link to course assignment when in the HTML Editor by using the content tools in the sidebar
  • Can use a page as a course homepage

Pages Video

Forum Discussions
  • There are two levels to Discussions in Canvas: create a topic and reply to a topic. Replies are then threaded within the topic. You can reply to the main topic post or an individual’s comment.
  • By default, students can only reply to a given topic and cannot create new topics.  Instructors can change the default to allow students to create topics.

Discussions Video – Overview
Discussion Video – Creation

Course File Block Files
  • Course-related files can be made accessible to students via a tab/page
  • Files on the course navigation display only course-related files.
  • Files within the Account section display all files for a course and personal files.

Files Video

Two options:

  • Latest news Block
  • News forum
  • By default, unless you change the setting, students can reply to announcements.

Announcements Video


Moodle Canvas Key features within Canvas
Activities Activities Block Assignments
  • Assignments can be submitted online through text entry, file uploads, media recordings, or URL’s
  • Easily set-up peer review assignments
  • Combine assignments to include %of total grade for weighting
  • Gradebook setup happens when creating an assignment
  • Includes all graded items
  • Ungraded assignments create a deadline in the calendar and syllabus, but do not create a column in the gradebook.

Assignments Video – Overview
Assignments Video – Creation

Quizzes Quizzes
  • Can also be created in Assignments
  • There are four quiz types to choose from: practice quiz, graded quiz, graded survey, and ungraded survey

Quizzes/Surveys Video – Creation
Quizzes/Surveys Video – Settings

Survey Quiz type Surveys are one of the four quiz types
Question Bank Question Banks
  • Question banks are a place where large imports of questions from a third party or library of questions are stored. However, there is no single repository for questions.
  • Question banks have to be added to each course you want to use the questions in.  There is no global option.
  • If you change or update a question in your question bank it does not change in the quizzes that the question is being used in. Those question will need to be replaced by the updated question.

Question Banks Video

Categories, within the Question Bank tool Question Groups
  • Ability to pick a certain number of questions from a Question Bank.
  • Must use a Question Groups for randomizing quiz questions
 Grading Choose “Rubric” from a dropdown in the advanced grading area of an Assignment. Rubrics
  • Are used for grade or feedback
  • Simply click to add columns
Grades Grades
  • Faculty can enter grades and comments directly from here, but if the assignment was turned in to Canvas, the best way to grade is using Speedgrader
  • Gradebook is automatically populated from the grade items in the Assignments list.
  • Student can figure hypothetical “what if” grades
  • Filter columns
  • Student submissions are highlighted in red if the submission was turned in late.

Gradebook Video

No equivalent Speedgrader
  • Displays submitted assignment, grading rubric, and media comment option all on one page.
  • Add comments directly to students’ assignments from within Canvas (Word, PDF, Excel and PowerPoint).
  • Add audio of video comments directly to assignments from within Canvas.  All you need a microphone or webcam.
  • Option to use Speedgrader iPad and Android apps to grade (include touch controls of rubrics and audio/video comments)


Canvas Bells and Whistles:

  1. Features
    1. Canvas can be used for courses, groups, and committees.
    2. You can copy a Canvas course (that you created as a teacher) from other institutions.
  2. System Wide Tools
    1. The calendar function shows due dates and events for each of your classes. You can click on an event to update information (events, assignments, etc.).
    2. Canvas can be integrated with social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Google Docs, etc.). Notifications can be sent to each of the channels (Facebook, e-mail address, cell numbers, and Twitter) at once.
    3. Users can create web-based publications. E-portfolios can be used for assessment, and Canvas has an online wizard to help in the creation of e-portfolios.
    4. You can record and upload video for your courses using Canvas’ Rich Content Editor, allowing you to create interactive content for participants (no need for external editors like Jing/Camtasia).
  3. Course-Level Functionality
    1. A screen displaying recent activity in the course is the default for Canvas. Research suggested that this is desirable for students. You can change the settings to suit your needs.
    2. Date changes on your calendar are automatically updated in other areas of Canvas. This saves you from having to manually update changes in due dates or other events.
    3. >Create Modules: You can create modules following a subject or theme. Modules can be set to become to students or participants at certain times or according to certain criteria. Once created, you can easily drag and drop course modules in the order you desire.
    4. You can add external tools (go to Settings – Class Settings) to Canvas, including apps such as TaskStream, YouTube, Khan Academy, Rosetta Stone, Badge Stack, Harvard Business, Smarthinking, etc.
    5. Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) integration allows users to embed content from YouTube.
    6. Insert Content into the Page – function contains tabs allowing you to add links, files, and images to your page. From there, you can repurpose content that you’ve created (e.g. add, manipulate, and resize content to a page, or use the filmstrip icon to record instructions or a message to students or participants.)
    7. Once you’ve uploaded an assignment, you can click a button at the bottom of the screen to add a rubric. You can create a rubric using Canvas or import one that you’ve already created.
      1. Find Outcome – allows you to import institutional outcomes in your rubric that correspond to your content
      2. Institutional outcomes can be preloaded into the options available to your department.
      3. strong>Multiple teachers in several sections of a course may choose to have access to one rubric to create continuity. To do this, each teacher will need to be listed as the Teacher or Course Instructor of the courses. This allows them to share one rubric.
    8. Quizzes
      1. When creating a question, a drop-down menu offers many options.
      2. The Formula option allows manipulation of formulas and variables.
      3. Question options include multiple-choice, essay, multiple-answer, formula, etc.
      4. Question banks can be aligned with learning outcomes.
    9. Analytics
      1. Canvas allows you to view outcomes reports for each student. Data regarding individual student performance is available in a graph format.
      2. Students and instructors can review charts and graphs that share their outcomes.
      3. Students can generate “What If” searches to determine what type of grades they will need on upcoming assignments to gain a particular grade point average.
    10. Cloud
      1. Canvas operates as a cloud-based application.
      2. It doesn’t need constant upgrades or new versions. The institution will have access to the latest content through the cloud.
      3. No content is ever permanently deleted from the cloud. You can type “undelete” and click “Enter” to recover information.
    11. Integrate with iPad and iPhone
      1. Canvas can interface with iPad Speed Grader app to view submissions and grade them.
      2. You can record video comments to provide feedback as you grade assignments. When a student opens the document, your comment will share your insights on his/her performance.
      3. Canvas allows you to make editorial comments directly to the student’s work. You can also open the rubric and add scores.
      4. Canvas integrates with mobile devices such as iPhone. You can use the iPhone to take photos and upload them directly to the course.
      5. Mobile devices can be used to send messages and notifications to participants.
      6. Canvas allows you to use mobile devices to perform many of the functions that you can do on your computer.
      7. Recent changes in your Grade Book will be saved in Canvas even if you lose your Internet connection.
      8. Grade Book allows teachers to send a brief mass message to students who haven’t submitted an assignment.
      9. CSV is a neutral database file that can be used to share content from one system or application to another.
      10. >Grades can be published to the Banner system.
    12. Other Functions
      1. Collaborations can be facilitated using Canvas and Google Docs. Click the Start Collaborating button to open a Google Doc that students can work on together. Students can submit the work as an assignment for a group project.
      2. >Synchronous tool: The BigBlueButton option can offer online conferences similar to Adobe Connect. It uses Flash technology, so mobile users may have difficulty.
      3. Users can view PDF files within Canvas without having to download an Adobe Reader.
      4. The Attendance feature uses photos and names of students to allow teachers to click on the students’ icons. The tool can mark a student as present, absent, or give a percentage based on whether they are late or leave early.

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