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Reconfiguration of Learning management system for a great learning experience

Project Background

Canvas is not only a leader in the Learning management system market—it’s “The Learning Platform that Helps Great Education Happen” and also one of Northeastern’s next steps toward digital transformation through online teaching and learning. Initial research, and feedback from the Northeastern community, revealed that Canvas has the ability to support a university of Northeastern’s size and the needs of all of its campuses and learners


Digital Experience Designer 

  • Conduct user research

  • Collaborating with designers solutions


12 weeks 


2 Designers

1 Developer

1 Business Analyst

The Challenge

As the pandemic hit, the university had to​ transition to Canvas a year earlier than planned. Many courses were moved to the Canvas Learning management system as a pilot version, faculty had to learn quickly how to set up the classes and course materials, and students had adapted to it, but students (our primary users ) faced many issues and faculty received a lot complaint emails about their course materials, assignments, etc.

Project Goals

Understand what is the experience of our users with Canvas

Understand difficulties are the users facing

Create a seamless, intuitive experience that is natural and easy for the student to navigate




User Research

We began our user research by sending out a survey to a large audience and then decided to conduct usability tests to better understand the frustrations and goals of the users with the application

Surveying 700 users


of the surveyed people mentioned that their work has been hindered due to difficulties/confusion presented by the interface


of the surveyed people mentioned that they were not fully satisfied with the Canvas.

Usability Tests

We wanted to understand what was the reason behind so many users mentioning that they were facing issues canvas. We conducted user testing, We tested five participants for an hour each which gave us first-hand insight into how students navigate and think about the application currently.




Hour per participant

“The professor turned off access to the files section of the course, and poorly set up their documents on canvas. This took a while to get the hang of how this prof. set up their page”

“All the tabs are mentioned but require only the one which is in use. Instructors should remove tabs, not in use”

“When taking a quiz or completing a timed assignment, the countdown is at the top of the page so you constantly have to scroll up to see the amount of time remaining”

Research Insights

We categorized our research insights into two categories, prioritizing issues that need immediate attention as Primary and Secondary issues.

Primary Issues

Lack of knowledge about Canvas

A lot of students mentioned that their instructors didn’t post the content in the expected locations. They mentioned instructors should learn more about Canvas and how to organize content within it

Lack of Hierarchy

All of the content is styled and presented similarly, so much that students have a difficult time finding assignments, announcements, and updates

File-sharing problems

Students face difficulty in finding files and sharing media on Canvas.

Secondary Issues

Unsupported Browsers

Users were not able to access all features of Canvas on different browsers like Safari and Lockdown browsers

Inept Preview mode

The preview mode for submitted files was really small and when users maximize it goes full screen, users did not like this and they mentioned it was better on the blackboard


Card sorting & Information Architecture

We needed to understand how and where the users expect the content to be, for that we conducted open card sorting with three participants. This information helped us in making informed decisions about the kind of content hierarchy that works best our template, along with the appropriate methods of categorization.

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Results & Impact

We tested the final prototypes with 5 users,  users were truly happy about the experience, they mentioned they are more likely to use the application if the template was used. 




Increase in findability of course content 

are satisfied with new template

mentioned the experiences is smoother and better


I realized that the needs of graduate students are very different from undegraduatestudents and thus understanding whom to interview was an important part of the process. I am extremely thankful to get this opportunity, I got to work on two projects simultaneously and it has been a great learning experience. It taught me how to organize my thoughts in a short period of time and prioritize things accordingly. I also got an opportunity to perform data analysis as the survey got huge responses. 

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