Romans’ Icy Response to Canvas


Screenshot of Latin Barstool poll: Canvas vs. RomanNet

With every new school year comes some level of uncertainty and mayhem, and this year, an academic tool intended to create order has erupted with its own special chaos. Reviews are mixed regarding Latin’s recent rollout of Canvas, an online system for viewing assignments, organizing work, and posting grades.

There has been some debate over the relative benefits of Latin’s old organizational system, RomanNet, versus the new software system, Canvas. According to a poll by a student-run Instagram account, Latin Barstool, 85 percent of 160 respondents said they prefer RomanNet over Canvas. The majority of Latin Barstool’s followers are current Upper School students.

While Canvas was supposed to be a better organizational system for students, some find it harder to manage than RomanNet. Sophomore Emily Goodman said, “Canvas is pretty difficult to stay organized on since everything is in different spots.”

The Student Academic Board (SAB) was established to discuss school-wide issues like Canvas and to represent the student body’s opinions when the administration is making important decisions. Senior Sanaiya Luthar, a co-Head of SAB, said, “I remember people favoring RomanNet because we are not just talking about people who have been here for three years, like me, but people who have been here for 14 years.”

One of RomanNet’s most popular features was the ability to see all assignments on one page, in the order that they were due. While the dashboard does show you all upcoming assignments, teachers don’t always switch the due date from the default of 11:59 p.m., so whether an assignment is due before or after class can be unclear.

Junior Ellery Axel, who is also a member of SAB, said, “I feel like RomanNet was easier to navigate and more straightforward, and most of my classmates have agreed with this so far.”

For teachers, however, grading on Canvas is easier than on RomanNet because they can post grades to specific assignments, a feature that RomanNet did not have.

Upper School history teacher and SAB advisor Ingrid Dorer-Fitzpatrick noted that while there are clear benefits to Canvas, she has reservations about making the switch from RomanNet. “The thing that concerns me is that there are developers out there that are saying that they are going to develop a new system that works better than Canvas,” she said. Ms. Dorer’s concern is that by the time Latin has fully switched to Canvas, the school might introduce a new organizational system that will create similar challenges to what students and teachers are facing right now.

In a meeting, SAB discussed the concern of using two organizational platforms. In past years, some teachers used RomanNet while others used Canvas. In an effort to make class systems more uniform, the school decided to switch to Canvas a few years ago, although they hadn’t fully gone through with the switch until just this year.

Latin has not fully downsized to one platform, however, as students’ schedules are still on RomanNet. “We still use RomanNet for some things, and if everything was in the same spot it would be much easier to stay organized,” Emily said.

Ms. Dorer said, “The impact on students partly was so uneven because we had teachers who knew Canvas well, and we had teachers who switched at the same time as the students.”

For some students, this switch wasn’t too challenging, because they had classes in previous years that used Canvas. “The transition wasn’t as bad as I expected,” senior Anton Schuster said.

But for students who haven’t had any previous experience with Canvas, this transition was confusing. “Canvas can be confusing to navigate,” junior Ava Gowder said.

Only incoming ninth graders received a tutorial on how to use Canvas during their orientation.

While students have had mixed emotions about the transition, Latin’s long-term goal is having one system with more global users than Blackbaud, the platform RomanNet uses. Canvas is also used in higher education, an indication of its reliability. Unfortunately, this year will serve as an introduction to Canvas for seniors, so they may not reap the benefits for their high school career.