Tufts begins replacing Trunk and TUSK with Canvas across all campuses

A student accesses Trunk, a learning management system (LMS) that is currently used by Tufts students and faculty, in the Mayer Campus Center on Oct. 19. (Ben Kim / The Tufts Daily)

Tufts has begun a three-year transition this fall to Canvas, a new learning management system (LMS) that will replace Trunk and Tufts University Sciences Knowledgebase (TUSK).  The new system has already been implemented at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) and the Master of Science in Engineering Management program at the Gordon Institute, according to Director of Educational Technology and Learning Spaces Paul Bergen.

According to a tentative schedule posted on the Canvas website, the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering are scheduled to make the transition to Canvas in the fall of 2018, along with the public health programs at the School of Medicine and the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences. The School of Dental Medicine will tentatively make the transition in summer 2018, the School of Veterinary Medicine in summer 2019 and the rest of the School of Medicine in fall 2020.

According to Christine Fitzgerald, manager of service marketing and communications for Tufts Technology Services (TTS), Trunk and TUSK will continue to be used at Tufts schools until they make their respective transitions to Canvas.

Bergen said the main reason for switching to the new system is that Canvas is a more modern LMS than Trunk and TUSK.

“Canvas is easy to use and offers a modern interface,” Bergen told the Daily in an email. “It will look and behave more like other sites out there, so it will be less like going to a museum for your course materials and then reentering the modern world when you leave for other sites.”

He explained that switching to Canvas will increase connectivity between the Tufts campuses that were previously on different systems, as well as between Tufts and other schools that use Canvas. According to the Canvas webpage, colleges that have already implemented Canvas include Boston College, Harvard University, Brown University and Emerson College.

“Fewer and fewer schools are using the software that underlies Trunk,” Bergen said. “Tufts will be far better off being able to collaborate with other schools than being alone at the table.”

Fitzgerald said that switching to a new LMS made more sense than trying to upgrade Trunk and TUSK because the sites are difficult and expensive to maintain.

“We have Trunk on the Medford campus and TUSK on the Boston campus, and most of the infrastructure with those two learning management systems is relatively out of date,” Fitzgerald said.  “So rather than try to upgrade those — and with the SMFA coming in with a separate one — they looked across platforms to find one that would work for all the schools.”

According to Fitzgerald, feedback from the Tufts schools that have already started using Canvas has been very positive.  Specifically, she explained, faculty liked the ability to use the system on their mobile phones.

“They like the app because they can send push notifications about assignments and announcements to themselves, so they’re getting their notifications right on their phone and don’t have to have their computer open,” Fitzgerald said. “And you can choose to get the notifications the way you want. You can get them text messaged versus emailed, so you can personalize it a little more than you could with the other [learning management systems].”

According to Bergen, the decision to switch to a new LMS was discussed over the past year with academic leadership and faculty across the university.  He also said that students who were interviewed about the possible change welcomed the idea.

Isabella Kiser, a second-year Tufts-SMFA combined-degree student, is using Canvas for one of her classes, and says she prefers it over Trunk.

“I think it is a much more user-friendly site, especially compared to Trunk,” Kiser told the Daily in an electronic message.  “I much prefer to use and navigate visually pleasing and well-organized websites and Canvas wins both categories this time.  Canvas also has this nifty feature where it sends you emails to remember to check your upcoming assignments.”

Bergen noted another key difference between Canvas and previous systems used at Tufts.

“Also, we are not naming the system after an elephant part,” he said. “It will just be called Canvas.”