Chris works at computer

LMS Support team member Chris Carnohan helps a faculty member who is experiencing issues within Canvas.

During the 18-month transition from ANGEL to Canvas, faculty, staff, and students have reached out for help more than 22,000 times. Of those emails, phone calls, and submitted tickets, more than 3,600 were handled by Penn State’s Learning Management System (LMS) Support Team.

Faculty, staff, and students who click on “Help” in Canvas initially reach Instructure, the Canvas vendor, which provides assistance for general Canvas problems. Questions or issues with Penn State-specific tools or features, typically denoted with a Penn State shield in Canvas, are redirected to Penn State LMS Support, said Christian Renoe, LMS Support transition lead.

The seven-member LMS Support Team, which is composed of staff from the Penn State Service Desk, was assembled after Canvas was chosen to replace ANGEL in late 2015. In addition to providing 24/7 support to faculty, staff, and students, they have created 7,000 Manually Enrolled Courses, which are not official LionPATH courses but can have student enrollments. These course shells are used as either master courses for the development of course content or for non-credit bearing courses. The team also supports third-party learning tools being integrated into Canvas, such as TurnItIn, an online plagiarism detection tool.

“I think one of the greatest accomplishments is the translating between ANGEL and Canvas,” said team member Chris Hirsh, who serves as LMS Support technical lead. “One of the biggest things is, ‘Hey, I did this in ANGEL. How do I do this in Canvas?’ I know my team definitely tries their best to figure out a solution with the help of Instructure and with the help of all the other teams.”

For example, the team is currently working with the Development Team to support units who want to link external sites in Canvas so faculty and students won’t have to leave the LMS to access them.

LMS Support has agreements with the Pollock Testing Center and Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence to be available in the event of an issue during an exam in one of the secure testing environments. “This is to ensure immediate response and turnaround for any time-sensitive Canvas issues involving exams,” Renoe said. “This mirrors our relationship with the testing center back when we used ANGEL.”

Next spring, the team anticipates adding in-house chat support. Hirsh said Instructure currently provides that service to Penn State, and it is their most used channel for people seeking Help with Canvas.

Every three weeks, Instructure releases new features and fixes to current features in Canvas, so the LMS is constantly evolving. “I think there’s a lot of potential with Canvas that people just don’t see yet. I think there’s a lot of things that they’re going to get excited about, a lot of things that are going to come up, especially as this is a continually developed product, continually improved product, built in the current age of technology,” Hirsh said.

The LMS Support Team can be reached by emailing or submitting a ticket through the ServiceNow portal at

(This is the seventh 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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