Brian Young smiles for camera

Brian Young, Canvas college/campus conversion project team lead

He runs the operations end of things when it comes to the Canvas learning management system (LMS) and he is there for faculty when they have questions or concerns about new integrations: meet Brian Young, Canvas college/campus conversion project team lead.

“It’s been a fun process so far,” Young said. “I think we’re doing a really good job connecting with faculty, especially through our liaisons.”

It is Young’s job to coordinate the Canvas liaisons for the various departments and colleges across Penn State, a group which has been working very hard to make the transition to Canvas a success. Young, who himself serves as a liaison for the western campuses, said he works with the liaisons to help them identify any problems, such as a campus that may need additional training for faculty or issues faculty are facing when they convert a course from ANGEL to Canvas. If a liaison needs assistance with a handful of faculty members who need conversion help, Young will work with the Canvas training team to set up a training session to make the conversion as painless and fun as possible.

To keep the Canvas conversion process running smoothly, Young meets every month with the other liaisons to discuss any issues they are facing and to share new updates on the project from the previous month. Young said these meetings serve to give everyone a better sense of what is going on with the overall Canvas project.

Each week is very busy for Young as the number of Penn State courses being transitioned to Canvas gets bigger. By the end of the fall semester, 62 percent of courses were in Canvas, and that number is expected to continue to increase through summer.

“I get about 200 emails a day, and I think the Canvas transition, from the perspective of the faculty member, is quite a bit different than the Canvas transition from my perspective, because I live in both worlds,” he said. “I live in the back-end world, where we’re talking about new integrations into Canvas to make it work better or make it possible for us to get off of ANGEL in June. But also, I work with faculty and the liaisons on the front end part of Canvas, where folks are having questions or maybe having some trouble with getting a certain type of content to load into Canvas. So my world is sort of split between the two.”

In addition, Young is part of the LMS Transition Steering Committee, which was formed in August 2015 and meets twice a month to discuss the technology aspects of the LMS implementation and other important matters regarding Canvas. He said he is essentially the “middle point” for the various Canvas project teams and gets out information as needed on the progress of the project.

For the various campuses and colleges, most of the Canvas work Young said he does is virtual, although in his pre-Canvas life at Penn State he visited every campus as an instructional designer. If there are specific training sessions at a specific campus, Young and other liaisons will show up for those sessions.

Overall, the transition to Canvas has been going very well for all involved.

“I think the transition has been really well planned and really well executed, so the folks that actually have to do this work, which for the most are faculty, are very happy with the transition and the resources that they have available,” Young said. “I don’t think there’s been one instance of an instructor or faculty member that feels like at the end of the day they did not get what they needed. I think we try to be available for any questions, any concerns.”

But faculty should not worry so much about the transition, and Young said 99.9 percent of Penn State faculty who have transitioned over to Canvas have been very happy without any issues when they moved their content to Canvas. As for the other 0.1 percent, they just needed a little help and were completely fine with the transition afterward.

“I don’t think the transition is something to be scared of,” Young said. “There’s a lot of opportunities to change the way that you teach certain content with using a new system, and I think that’s exciting.”

But if a faculty member does get stuck when he or she is transitioning, there is no shortage of help. Young said he recommends the use of Canvas Chat and talking with the Teaching and Learning with Technology Canvas Instructional Support Team, which has open office hours and can schedule time to work with faculty on either just a certain part of their course or to help transition a course into Canvas.

Aside from learning the LMS setup, faculty are encouraged to take advantage of some of the features Canvas has to make instructors’ lives easier. Young said that one such feature is the mobile app, where faculty can interact with students a lot more and grade assignments very easily on an iPad.

(This is the fourth in a series profiling each of 11 Canvas project teams: project governance, project management, training, college/campus conversion, migration/conversion, Outreach conversion, service desk support, Outreach integration, technical integration, marketing/communications, and project finance.)

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