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As if things haven't been stressful enough moving from in-person classes to online classes, VCU has decided to make life more difficult and switch the school's learning program from Blackboard to Canvas. To help create a more fluid return to campus, I've combed through Canvas to learn more about the academic platform. Here are my thoughts on the new system. 

At first glance, Canvas appears to be more organized and easily accessible than Blackboard. On the left side of the site, there are icons displaying your dashboard, courses and calendar, which are pleasing to the eye and create a friendlier environment. When you click on the dashboard icon, it displays all of your courses and assignments, while the calendar option displays the due dates of your assignments. Another, helpful tip about Canvas is that you can create notifications for each of your assignments, and Canvas will notify you when a due date is approaching. This is especially helpful now that most of VCU's classes are online and it's easy to forget about an assignment. 

One of my favorite features of Canvas is the ability to see all of your completed assignments while also looking at the assignments that are in progress and the projects you still need to complete. This can increase your time-management skills and hopefully alleviate your stress from online assignments. 

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The inbox feature on Canvas is really helpful when you need to send your professor a quick question about an assignment or grade. The inbox or chat feature also makes it easier to talk to your fellow classmates. It's also especially helpful when you have those annoying group projects. Even though classes are mainly online, some of my professors decided to make life even more difficult and assign group projects this semester. Group projects are already stressful enough, without the online obstacle to hurdle. However, the chat or inbox feature on Canvas makes it easier to chat with your professor and complain about your group members who aren't contributing to the group project. I'm just kidding. Canvas makes it easier to work better as a group and help you crush that difficult group project. 

Gone are the days of discussion boards, and the complicated "create a thread" button is no more. With Canvas, discussions are easier to find and create. Students can now create or edit their own profile to make discussions more personable. Instead of clicking and searching through dozens of discussion posts to find one to reply to, now you can simply scroll down through all of the posts. Discussion posts also have a reply feature at the bottom of every post. Now you don't have to click a hundred buttons just to agree with everything your classmate said in order to get credit for the assignment. 

Online learning may not be ideal, and it may be hard to stay motivated, but Canvas can provide some structure to your learning routine, and hopefully, these tips on how to navigate Canvas can help you smoothly transition back to school.

Sarah is a junior at Virginia Commonwealth University and is majoring in Mass Communications and minoring in Fashion Merchandising. Sarah enjoys reading, writing, and discussing sustainable fashion brands. Sarah spends most of her time, and money, on Depop fueling her shopping addiction. Follow her on instagram @Sarah_parker9 and Twitter @_parker_9
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