Canvas at SMU: A New Era of Course Management

Canvas LMS LogoAs we begin the 2016-2017 academic year, Southern Methodist University begins a new era of course management. Consistent with the announcement and transition plan set forth in last August’s message to faculty from the Office of the Provost, Canvas has been transitioned into the sole course management system for university courses of record. If you haven’t heard by now, Canvas is a cloud-based course management system which offers a modern interface designed to better support the increased teaching and learning demands of higher education in functions such as blended learning, “flipping classrooms,” and providing a more robust overall foundation for current and future online education and distance learning activities.

After almost 13 years of long and faithful service, Blackboard was officially retired from course management duty this past summer; all course shells and course enrollment data is being published exclusively to Canvas.

Academic Technology Service Directors

In conjunction with this transition to Canvas, SMU’s embedded Academic Technology Service Directors in each academic unit are available to assist you to get started building courses in Canvas and to answer your questions and provide direct support of our campus learning technology systems. If you require direct consultation using Canvas and have not yet connected with your department’s Academic Technology Service Director to make a plan, please refer below to the contact for your school or college:

Meadows School of Arts Mousumi Tanha
Cox School of Business Jeff Liew
Dedman School of Law James Pan
Dedman College Dr. Michael Robertson
Simmons School of Education Scott Martin
Perkins School of Theology James Pan
Lyle School of Engineering Merlin Wilkerson

All SMU faculty and students can log in to Canvas using SMU campus login credentials. For SMU courses of record, course shells, instructors, TA’s and students are all automatically populated from enrollment data from my.SMU.

Canvas Training

Between now and continuing into the fall term, OIT will be offering webinars, Bootcamps, and other Canvas training opportunities which cover basic usage to more advanced topics such as utilization of the Gradebook and Assignments. Please find a training that meets your needs here.

If you require individual training or coaching—don’t worry—your Academic Technology Services Directors will be hosting and scheduling Canvas Open Labs within each school as well to help you directly with Canvas course migrations.

As we’ve transitioned fully into Canvas, we’ve also had to audit and adjust many of SMU’s course management policies to align with institutional security and compliance standards, especially for courses of record.  To comply with institutional standards for data retention and consistency, all Canvas course materials will be maintained for at least five years.  To ensure that Canvas courses accurately reflect my.SMU data, all course participants (additional instructors, TA’s or students) must be added through my.SMU and can no longer be manually edited or changed within Canvas by instructors.  For future terms for the purpose of ensuring data integrity for course evaluations and for institutional assessment – the merging of course sections will no longer be supported.

Canvas Integration

In recent months, Academic Technology Services has added several exciting integrations to Canvas, such as BOX (for the purpose of centrally hosting teaching materials and teaching data for easy access and management), ExamSoft, Qualtrics, Zoom, GitHub, and Piazza.

To offer even more support for faculty directly within Canvas, OIT has added the “WalkMe” tutorial button to the Canvas interface which walks faculty actively through various “How to’s” for common system utilization questions.  Directional bubbles “walk” faculty how to click through various tasks toward specific system outcomes.


In coordinating with the SMU Office of Assessment and Accreditation, we are in the process of piloting a new, Canvas-based UC-Outcomes reporting system directly within the Canvas interface for more simplified reporting of UC-Outcomes.  While this new system will require substantial training and communications, we’re excited to partner with SMU in this new venture.

For more information about any Canvas-related news item or for assistance, please contact the main SMU IT Helpdesk at 214.768.HELP or by emailing  Have a great semester.


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Cassidy Porter