New grading system has learning curve

Morgan Koehler, Editor

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  The D.C. Everest school district has changed the platform on which teachers grade our work multiple times over the last few years, and this year they’ve chosen a website called Canvas.

  Canvas is a service meant to give teachers a way to grade work, along with giving announcements to students and providing a platform to give students the resources they need to complete their work or enhance their learning experience in the class.

  Diane Goetsch, the person in charge of helping teachers learn how to use Canvas at D.C. Everest, explains why the change to Canvas was made.

  “PowerSchool is part of a bigger company who were not developing the tool because they already had a similar program that was bigger and more well known,” Goetsch said. This other program was worth more to the company to invest their time and money in, so they decided to stop developing PowerSchool further.

  “The second reason was that we found PowerSchool was not a very effective tool for communicating,” Goetsch said. “Parents had problems seeing their children’s grades, and communication between parents and teachers and students was very difficult.”

  “Third reason was that Canvas is widely used in the university system in WI and Minnesota, as well as NTC, so they felt that it would help students stay one step ahead and feel more comfortable in the transition between school and college,” Goetsch said.

  D.C. Everest staff hope to achieve a few different things through the new learning management system, Canvas. One of them is giving the students a choice on how they want to learn and how to demonstrate their learning rather than a one-size-fits-all experience.

  Another is that being familiar with Canvas may open more doors when students meet with universities that use the application.

  Canvas will make it easier for parents to find grades quickly.

  Parents can log in to the website and be an observer. They can see all the teachers’ posts and their child’s assignments.

  The D.C. Everest school district is currently developing a resource hub to help parents learn how to navigate Canvas and teach them how to utilize the tool and Goetsch says it will come soon.

  Mr. Andrew Natzke is one of many teachers at D.C. Everest who has been learning how to use Canvas.

  “It’s been difficult to transition to the grading portion, especially since we’ve been changing programs for the last few years,” Mr. Natzke said. “It’s definitely been a challenge.”

  While Mr. Natzke hasn’t run into any problems so far, he said many teachers are confused about how the grading is going to work. “We’ve been waiting for grading to go live so we can actually grade. There is a lot of uncertainty as to what that is going to look like,” Mr. Natzke said.

  Since Mr. Natzke has worked with many other technologies before, he finds the transition to Canvas and the process of learning it not that bad.

  As for the benefits of Canvas, Mr. Natzke does note that Canvas seems to be more user friendly for students. Gathering information from different classes has been going more smoothly as well.

  He hopes that the program will stick and the school district won’t change the grading system again. “Consistency would make things easier for everybody,” Mr. Natzke said.

  Kaylee Kroening is a student at D.C. Everest who is learning how to use Canvas.

  “Learning the program was good,” she said. “It was very easy to figure out how to navigate.”

  She has noticed some downsides and benefits to the program. “Some of my teachers have  had trouble with grading.” Kroening said that some of the responsibility grades are being added to the overall grade when they are supposed to be separate grades. However, she does appreciate that all the resources she needs can be found on Canvas.

  As it is early in the year, she says she does not have a definite opinion on it yet. Some of her teachers like it while some of them don’t. She believes that using a program we are all comfortable with would be better than using Canvas, but it is too early to tell whether Canvas is here to stay or not.

  “Canvas is a complex program and not very user intuitive,” Goetsch said. “We are going to grow, as teachers, with Canvas and learn how to use all the tools and capabilities of the program. It’s a pretty big learning curve for everybody. We encourage everyone to be patient and help each other learn how to use the program,” Goetsch said.

  Goetsch said Canvas would not replace Infinite Campus. Infinite Campus is for the business side of things, such as paying fees and taking attendance, while Canvas is for grading and communication.