This semester, the University of Michigan-Dearborn launched Canvas, the new Learning Management System (LMS) for online courses and courses with online supplements. While the new online system has a lot in common with the familiar CTools program, it also offers new features such as Conversations, in which one can see his or her entire class list and message anyone on it; Collaborations, a forum for working with classmates on projects using shared sites like Google Docs; and a Calendar that allows each individual student to fill in events and assignments online. Canvas is definitely new and different, but is change always good? Here’s what UM-D students have to say about it:

Amanda Ghannam/MJ












“Canvas looks more modern and user-friendly, and more like a UM-Dearborn website – it looks more tailored to our school. It’s more colorful and visually appealing as opposed to the old website. I heard it was just for online classes, so I haven’t really had to use it yet, but think it will be better than CTools.”

–Natalie Farah, junior

Amanda Ghannam/MJ












“It’s definitely better than CTools, but it’s tough to get used to a whole new thing. And it’s definitely weird to have both CTools and Canvas. They’re pretty similar, so just one of them would probably be enough. It’s cool that Canvas has its own iPhone app, too, but I don’t want to be having to check both Canvas and CTools all the time. ”

–Alex O’Connor, junior

Amanda Ghannam/MJ












“I like that the professor is able to message the class with Canvas, and you’ll get the whole message in an email instead of just a link to the announcement like with CTools. It’s very organized. But it’s kind of confusing with both Canvas and CTools—I wish they would switch over completely to one or the other. I mean, they need to just choose one.”

–Pam Yaacoub, senior

Amanda Ghannam/MJ












“It looks really clean and organized, but some features are kind of weird, like being able to see and privately message every single person in your class. That’s probably unnecessary. All that new stuff might take some getting used to.”

–Deena Sleiman, junior

While Canvas is presented as a forum for “online learning,” it does include sections for each course a student is currently enrolled in, regardless of whether or not each class is strictly an online course. Much like CTools, then, it appears to be up to individual professors to decide whether or not to utilize the Canvas option to message the class, post grades, or require students to use Canvas features such as Conferences and Collaborations.  The introduction of Canvas might even imply that it is too soon to replace CTools completely. Student feedback could play a role in whether faculty and staff decide to rely on the new and more attractive Canvas to run their classes, or stick to the old but familiar CTools.

What do you think of the new online course system? To access Canvas, visit and log in with your Kerberos username and password. Weigh in on the new program by emailing us at