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Texas State begins transition from TRACS to Canvas


Starting Spring 2020, Texas State has implemented a new learning management system, Canvas, in place of TRACS. Following the end of 2020, the university has scheduled TRACS to be completely erased from curriculum. Photo credit: Rebecca Harrell

Texas State begins next phase of replacing TRACS with a new learning management system — Canvas.
Texas State has begun implementing Canvas to faculty and students, and could grace your laptop screen as soon as this semester.
Learning management systems, or LMS, are online software applications that allow administrations to compile and apportion courses, tests, grades, announcements, assignments, classes and other educational materials online. The current LMS in use by the university is TRACS.
According to Director of Learning Technology Research Kevin Huffaker, a lack of technical support and vigorous workloads to keep TRACS going influenced the Texas State Information Technology division to move onto the more modern and up-to-date system known, Canvas.
Huffaker said that because TRACS is an open-source software it requires a consistent resource of developers from the universities that took part in using TRACS, such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale University. As more universities withdrew from contributing to TRACS, the software became smaller in terms of partners and subsequently put more strain on Texas State.
“As apps would come out in the marketplace that faculty would want to use in their TRACS course we would find we couldn’t create the compatibility that would allow that, whereas other schools were using platforms like Blackboard and Canvas could. (Blackboard and Canvas) keep software up to date,” Huffaker said. “We thought maybe we need to compare ourselves to the outside world because it had been a while. So that’s why we looked outside and asked if here is anything better than TRACS right now.”
The new Canvas system presents users to a dashboard where all of the user’s courses, a to-do list and a sidebar allowing users to navigate through the different pages are displayed.
Kenedi Ortega, theater sophomore, said that experience with Canvas makes the new system more favorable than TRACS.
“I prefer Canvas. We used it at my previous university for most classes. Coming here and having to learn TRACS was a little confusing,” Ortega said. “From what I remember, Canvas has a to-do list as soon as you log in, so rather than checking every class individually to see what’s due next, it’s all there for your convenience.”
According to Texas State IT’s Canvas timeline,” Canvas is scheduled to be implemented into the classrooms fall 2020. Canvas will be coexisting alongside TRACS for the 2020 school year, with fall 2020 being the last semester that TRACS will be available for classroom use.
In the meantime, the university will be releasing an online tool called “Where’s My Course?” to help students sort out which site will hold their course materials.
The Canvas timeline details that all new faculty must teach their courses through Canvas and current faculty have the option of remaining with TRACS for spring 2020. Beginning 2021, all courses will be taught with Canvas and TRACS will remain in an archival state until its scheduled decommission in 2023.
Director of marketing and communications for Texas State’s IT division Scott Ayers said involving students and faculty helped the university decide which system to choose.
“There was about a two-year process that went on campus with faculty and students involved where we looked at all the potential vendors for this kind of system,” Ayers said. “In fall 2018 we had a sort of sandbox environment where people could test the systems and, without fail, the feedback we got was that Canvas was the choice of everybody because of its more modern advantages it had compared to TRACS.”

The IT division plans to stay in communication with faculty and students during the transition of systems.
Any students having difficulty navigating through TRACS and/or Canvas systems may have their questions directed toward ITAC’s Canvas support page.

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