Wharton tests out webCafé replacement


Canvas, a new course management system, was well-received in spring and summer trials




Wharton has always been selective when sorting through applicants, but now the school is checking the resumes of course management systems.

WebCafé — which is used by the majority of Wharton students and professors to organize their coursework — may be increasingly challenged by Canvas, a new system that has been gradually introduced since last spring.

This new course management system promises long-overdue improvements, Senior Information Technology Project Leader Ben Adams said in a video presentation.

Canvas has expanded to both undergraduate and MBA classes, and received positive feedback.

“Our existing program lacked academic workflow,” Adams said. “We’ve been looking for something new, something exciting.”

Something new is exactly what Canvas offers, according to Devin Knighton, director of public relations at Instructure, the company that manages Canvas. “When you log in [to sites such as webCafé or Blackboard], it reminds you of websites that are ten years old,” he said.

Unlike these older sites, Canvas integrates with Facebook and supports mobile applications that did not exist when older course management systems were created, Knighton said.

Canvas can be set up to send students text message reminders. Professors may also download free applications on their iPads that allow them to edit essays and leave comments, while swiping between papers.

These additions make it easier for students to contribute to class discussions online and aid professors with grading, Knighton added.

So far, both Operations and Information Management and Product Design classes have tested Canvas.

Wharton senior Andrew D’Agostino participated in professor Karl Ulrich’s Product Design course that piloted Canvas last semester.

Although he was originally more comfortable with webCafé, D’Agostino found that he quickly changed his allegiance.

“I definitely liked it a lot better,” D’Agostino said.

For him, everything from the integrated interface to the cleaner layout made Canvas superior.

Wharton sophomore Siteng Ma is hopeful that there will be a switch, even though he did not get to test out Canvas.

“WebCafé is not just as user-friendly and not as intuitive as other resources that I’ve used before,” he said.

For Ma, the ideal course management system would be consistent across the University – even if this meant that Wharton turned to Blackboard.

But he doesn’t dread using webCafé this fall. “WebCafé is okay for me right now because it’s the only thing that I understand,” he said.

Although some may be hesitant to try a new system, Adams is confident that it will be worth the adjustment.

In Adams’ presentation, he cites that 79.1 percent of students who tested Canvas in the spring semester preferred it.

“I hope more classes that I’m in use [Canvas], because it’s definitely better than webCafé,” D’Agostino said.

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