It’s been nearly two months since the Wharton School adopted Canvas as its official online learning management platform, and students are now weighing the benefits and drawbacks of the new system.
The entire transition took three years to complete, as Wharton gradually phased out webCafé in favor of Canvas.
Although webCafé and Canvas allowed students and faculty to accomplish similar tasks, such as viewing assignments and keeping track of key dates on an online calendar, webCafé’s lack of both user-friendliness and aesthetic appeal contributed to the change.
“WebCafé hadn’t been enhanced in a significant way for over seven years,” said Wharton Computing Senior IT Project Leader Rob Ditto, explaining that the school’s administration was looking for a newer, more up-to-date system to manage classes and coursework.
Many students have been pleased with the school-wide change, agreeing that the layout of Canvas is more user-friendly.
“Canvas is more organized with a better tab system and it feels more modern overall,” College and Wharton sophomore Jilon Li said.
In terms of differences in cost, there was ultimately little to separate between shifting from webCafé to Canvas.
“While the pricing structure is different, it did not work out to be much different in the end,” Ditto said. “Canvas is a subscription. We’re not paying for the servers that Canvas works on.”
For College and Wharton junior Yibo Jia, who has used both webCafé and Canvas in the past, Canvas’ multi-layered home page gives it an advantage over webCafé.
“Canvas is very easy to navigate because all of your classes are there at once and there’s a dashboard that has all the announcements for those classes,” she said. “It’s really convenient.”
However, some students believe that webCafé still has some value.
“It’s not like I felt hindered in any way by using webCafé,” College sophomore Neel Koyawala said. “I don’t think it was an essential change, but Canvas is still more appealing to use.”
Additionally, others believe Canvas and webCafé do not seem to differ drastically in terms of the amount of content they convey to the user.
“WebCafé was really straightforward,” Wharton and Engineering sophomore Steven Xing said. “They present the same information, so there’s not that much upgrade in terms of functionality.”
With respect to Canvas’ lifespan as Wharton’s online learning management system, Wharton Innovation Group Managing Director Don Huesman is optimistic that it will be able to naturally remain up to date.
“WebCafé lasted from 1998-2012 so that was a long time, probably too long,” he said. “Canvas is built on open source technologies, so I hope that it stays up-to-date in an organic fashion.”
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