Embracing Diverse Learning: Multiple LMSs Benefits U of I

Author: Mag Shou
Mag is a student employee with Technology Services and is a senior at Illinois majoring in Communications.


Canvas, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s widely adopted learning management system (LMS), serves the entire student and faculty population, totaling over 141,000 users since its 2019 launch on campus. This intuitive platform consolidates course management, content distribution, and academic interaction in one secure, user-friendly location, significantly enhancing educational engagement for both instructors and students at Illinois.  

Canvas has become popular for its wide range of design elements and robust technical support. Gabrielle Venatta, a Senior eLearning Professional at Technology Services, highlighted its advantages, pointing out that Canvas operates on a cloud platform, ensuring it is accessible around the clock with continuous support. This accessibility is enhanced by its mobile applications, available to both students and instructors. Similarly, Peter Zhao, a neuroscience undergrad, appreciates its user-friendly interface, highlighting the clear and navigable homepage with its course list and updates on grades and course content. Canvas also integrates with Media Space, a campus video platform, facilitating video uploads for remote learning and presentations, enhancing its utility for students’ academic tasks.  

The choice of LMS is determined by the instructors’ preferences and different LMS features. For example, finance courses might opt for Cengage, which best meets their course content needs, while some computer science instructors create their own LMS for teaching students.  

Moodle is another popular LMS. Educational Technology Specialist and Moodle Service Manager Riana Beachy-Hasenick explains that Moodle was launched in 2005 at the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (LAS) and has become the most popular platform for fully online courses in LAS. It is a free, open-source platform designed for the efficient creation and sharing of web-based instructional content, boasting robustness, security, and ease of use. It’s especially favored by LAS for its flexible design, comprehensive quiz functionalities, superior peer review tools, and several other distinctive features, according to Beachy-Hasenick.  

While the practicality of multiple LMSs available for different courses is evident, using different LMSs can sometimes be confusing for students. “Sometimes I will forget assignments because I am using various LMSs. When I had finished all of my assignments on Canvas, I used to assume I had completed all of my assignments. But I sometimes still had an assignment on another LMS that I just forgot about,” said Finance freshman Marty Zhang.  

Recognizing the complexity and diversity of needs, LAS leadership still sought to streamline the educational experience for students. In the summer of 2023, LAS leadership announced that faculty were required to use Canvas for all registrar-affiliated courses by Fall 2024. This decision was made to address student concerns with using multiple LMSs. For more information on the decision about transition, please visit Moodle to Canvas Transition webpage. 

Despite students’ wishes for a single platform to manage all their courses, achieving this goal remains difficult. Beachy-Hasenick points out the diversity within the College of LAS, highlighting the different needs across disciplines. She claims that a universal solution isn’t feasible because courses like Chemistry and English have varying requirements. Similarly, Venatta notes, “No single solution can meet every need of any program, department, or college, but Canvas does satisfy the broad requirements for our campus’s educational delivery.”