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UC Davis Canvas - FAQ

Share URL:      Article: KB0000692 Published: 2016-01-11 Last modified: 2017-07-29


I'd like to learn about the new UC Davis LMS announcement?


We've prepared a helpful FAQ to assist with some of those questions

What’s changing?

The campus is moving to a new learning management system, UC Davis Canvas. The main campus LMS for the last decade, SmartSite, will be retired.

When will the transition happen?

In phases. This chart shows the general timeline. Early adopters will be able to use UC Davis Canvas for instruction in fall 2016. Mainstream use of UC Davis Canvas will begin in winter quarter 2017. Starting in spring quarter 2017, SmartSite will remain available only on a limited basis; it will not be possible to teach with it. During the first half of 2016, the campus will set up UC Davis Canvas in preparation for the first implementation this fall.

There will be multiple opportunities for individuals to choose the best time for them to move to UC Davis Canvas.

Why did the campus choose Canvas?

Canvas, created by a company called Instructure, offers many attractive features and works well with other campus systems. Please see the campus announcement for more information.

The choice followed a thorough review that began in 2013 with an assessment of what UC Davis needs from a LMS going forward, and ended after pilot instructional tryouts of three finalists. Faculty were involved in all stages of the review and decision process.

Instructure, which will host UC Davis Canvas, is a large company with the resources needed to securely support the service. Canvas by Instructure has offered a 99.9% guaranteed uptime Service Level Agreement to all its customers.

Why is the campus moving away from SmartSite?

Canvas has much more of what UC Davis needs. SmartSite, which runs on Sakai open-source software, was a good choice when the campus adopted it more than 10 years ago, but Canvas is now a much better LMS.

What are the main differences between SmartSite and UC Davis Canvas that I’m likely to notice?

The answer will depend on how you have used SmartSite, and how you’ll use Canvas. Some changes are immediately apparent—for example, UC Davis Canvas displays much better on smartphones and tablets than SmartSite does—and other differences will surface as you use the new LMS. For example, UC Davis Canvas integrates well with many third-party apps you might want to use.

What are the benefits of moving to UC Davis Canvas?

Large research universities equivalent to UC Davis already use and trust Canvas, and its adoption here follows a thorough evaluation by our own faculty and campus. Faculty at UC Davis and at other institutions have regarded Canvas as dependable, rich with features, and intuitive. It can be integrated with campus systems and data sources, and with relevant third-party applications. Canvas has demonstrated that it can meet UC Davis’ high-level requirements in terms of usability, accessibility, learning tool integration, mobile use, and frequency of updates.

Where can I get more information about the move to UC Davis Canvas?

Move to Canvas’ main page is a good place to start. If you have specific questions or concerns not addressed in this FAQ or on the website, please send them to

In the future, we will have many choices for places and modes to learn about UC Davis Canvas, including online information and tutorials; workshops, training and drop-in sessions; consultation, and individual assistance. Details about specific events will be posted on the website.

Where can I talk with other faculty about using UC Davis Canvas?

Watch for information about workshops and other information sessions. You might also wish to subscribe to The Wheel, UC Davis’ instructional technology blog, or consider one or more of these faculty events, such as the monthly Discussing Online Learning and Collaborative Education meeting.

I was about to create a course site in SmartSite. Should I create it in UC Davis Canvas instead?

If you’re teaching the class before fall 2016, use SmartSite. If you’re teaching the class in fall 2016 or later, use UC Davis Canvas.

Do I need to move my materials from SmartSite to UC Davis Canvas, or is it better to just start using Canvas?

Move (or otherwise save) the materials you need or want to keep. However, depending on your circumstances, you might find it easier to start fresh in UC Davis Canvas.

How do I move materials from SmartSite to UC Davis Canvas?

The Faculty Support Team at Academic Technology Services will have instructions and training, and can offer some assistance. Meanwhile, you are encouraged to back up all teaching materials outside of any learning management system.

What should I do now to prepare to move to UC Davis Canvas?

  • Learn about UC Davis Canvas by reading about it, and/or by attending one of the workshops or training sessions that will be offered.
  • Think about which of its features you want to use, and how you might use them.
  • Identify materials you have stored in a SmartSite course or project site that you want to move to UC Davis Canvas.
  • Look for updates on the transition. We will regularly post information at, and periodically to Information and Educational Technology’s other communication channels (primarily TechNews and social media).

Can I start using UC Davis Canvas right now, even though the summer 2016 beta phase has not yet started?

It’s best to wait a bit, because it will take time for the UC Davis and Instructure team to set up Canvas for UC Davis use. Initially the implementation team will focus on key integrations, including course information, enrollments, and final grade submission. Over time, UC Davis Canvas will progressively include integrations with campus systems as well as third-party tools and offerings from academic and textbook publishers.

How can I familiarize myself with UC Davis Canvas before it is released for teaching?

Visit the Canvas Community’s Getting Started page to learn about the Canvas learning management system and its community of users.

How long will SmartSite be available for use in teaching courses?

SmartSite will be available for teaching through winter 2017. As of spring 2017, UC Davis Canvas, as the campus LMS, will be recommended for active course and project sites.

Will I have access to historical information and grading data in SmartSite once it is no longer in use?

Yes. SmartSite will enter a legacy mode in August 2017. At that time, instructors will be able to request data and materials from their courses for grade disputes, incomplete courses, or a move to UC Davis Canvas.

Can I have an auditor, guest lecturer, or guest student included in my site?

Yes. The UC Davis and Instructure team will be working to set up UC Davis Canvas to allow instructors to invite guests to participate in their courses.

Will I be able to access UC Davis Canvas from my mobile devices?

Yes. You will be able to access UC Davis Canvas on your mobile device through any mobile browser. However, Instructure recommends using Canvas mobile applications for an improved user experience. An especially popular choice is the SpeedGrader app.

Will UC Davis Canvas be accessible?

Yes. Ensuring an accessible and pleasant experience to all users, regardless of disability, is a key focus of Canvas. The Canvas platform was built using the most modern HTML and CSS technologies, and is committed to W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative and Section 508 guidelines.

If I have questions not addressed in this FAQ or on the website, who should I contact?

Please send your questions to

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Email with any suggestions, updates, or comments regarding the UC Davis Knowledge Base.