Isenberg graduate students will be among the first to experience a new learning platform known for its flexibility, ease of use, and mobile capabilities. Starting this fall, UMass Amherst will launch
Canvas logo

Isenberg graduate students will be among the first to experience a new learning platform known for its flexibility, ease of use, and mobile capabilities.

Starting this fall, UMass Amherst will launch Canvas, a new digital learning platform designed to provide a more accessible and inclusive learning experience for students and instructors. Canvas will gradually replace Moodle and Blackboard courses over the next two years. 

Canvas is the leading learning management system among public research universities, known for its flexibility, ease of use, and mobile capabilities, says Traci Hess, associate dean of graduate programs.

“Isenberg has a long history of pioneering innovative digital learning platforms,” Hess says. “Our Online MBA was one of the first in the country when it was launched more than 20 years ago. Today our graduate programs deliver outstanding, innovative courses in person and online. Our faculty members are invested in providing outstanding instruction to our students – mode of delivery, online or in-person, is how we make learning convenient for our students.”


Canvas was selected for the UMass Amherst campus because it offers a seamless learning experience, multiple personalization options, great calendaring features, 24/7 support, and is mobile-first, allowing students to access it from the device of their choice. A complete list of benefits can be found here.

Shirley Schmerling, Pamela Trafford, and Carey Baldwin teach in the Online MBA, On-Campus MBA, MS in Accounting, and MS in Business Analytics programs, and all have been using Canvas since the start of the summer.

Baldwin, a lecturer in operations and information management, teaches Business Application Development with Python and Data Science for Business.
“In using Canvas over the last few months, I have noticed an improvement in productivity on the instructional side through the modern and intuitive interface,” Baldwins explains. “I can see that students have also experienced this improvement through a reduction in the volume of questions I receive related to navigating the online course. The system makes it easy for students to find what they need and stay on track with the course content with features like reminders, to-do lists, announcements, and calendars that aggregate deadlines from multiple courses. 

“Not only does Canvas offer improved organization and productivity, but I have seen that the entire platform is built around the pillars of effective teaching and learning, including student engagement, transparency, communication, accessibility, and predictability. Canvas provides built-in tools to help students check their understanding of concepts, monitor their progress, and engage with the community.” 

Schmerling, a senior lecturer in operations and information management, teaches Strategic Information Management. She described other features: “I would highlight two benefits of Canvas and how it differs from Blackboard,” she says. “Groups can enable collaboration at the student level more easily, and there are more interactive discussion and feedback options that can be used to customize the course.”

Trafford, a senior lecturer in accounting, teaches Financial and Managerial Accounting and other accounting courses. She noted that Canvas is more flexible in terms of making changes in real time, such as editing content and adding groups. 

“Grading is generally more efficient in Canvas,” says Trafford. “Many more feedback options are available, for both instructors and students. This includes better rubrics, in-line grading of documents, and options for audio and video feedback.”

Among comments offered by graduate students who used Canvas as part of the pilot last semester were: "easier navigation and interface making things easier to find"; "better communicating with instructors"; "more professional, especially for graduate students"; and "much more modern."

Hess expects Canvas to be quickly and successfully adopted by Isenberg’s faculty members and students.

“Digital learning platforms are an essential component of all classes, but online classes are fully delivered through these platforms. Canvas enables us to improve that delivery and enhance the rich faculty and peer interactions in Isenberg’s online programs. That is what has made the program successful for over 20 years and will make it stand out as a leader in online education for many decades in the future.”