Wits moves to a cloud software that can host the full scope of the university community using the platform at once, without strain, that offers a modern, easy-to-use interface. 

Wits University has switched learning management systems (LMS), from Sakai to Canvas. This means migrating all course information to the new platform which has been titled Ulwazi, which means ‘knowledge’ in Nguni languages.

Ulwazi, launched on January 27, is a cloud service that is available on the web and on a mobile application to all Witsies.

According to Professor Diane Grayson, senior director: academic affairs, the university is working on a site that will be used for Canvas training. In the meantime, the Wits Centre for Learning, Teaching and Development (CLTD) has uploaded basic tutorials onto the Wits website.

Grayson told Wits Vuvuzela that Wits had been moving to Ulwazi for two years through consulting with experts at the university, international experts and various LMS providers.

“We knew that Sakai didn’t have the modern design and functionality we needed to implement our plan to move to blended learning and increase fully online programmes. Our experience with [emergency remote teaching] on Sakai confirmed what we already knew and provided extra impetus to do what we needed to do.

“Our ICT staff worked crazy hours to keep it running. Ulwazi (Canvas) is [software as a service] SaaS, so the company does all the updates, improvements and maintenance and ensures it’s up and running 99.9% of the time,” said Grayson.

According to the Wits news update, Canvas hosts up to 30 million users worldwide. Prestigious universities such as Oxford and Stanford are among 4 000 institutions all over the globe that use the software.

Academic trainee in the faculty of commerce, law and management, Francisca La Bercensie (23), told Wits Vuvuzela that the simple interface of Canvas makes it easy to navigate with a much cleaner look than Sakai.

“One thing that I really like is the collocations function, where you can work on documents with other people. It’s a nice way to do group projects without having to get everyone’s email addresses, because you can communicate using Canvas,” said La Bercensie

Although there had been a technical difficulty in the initial training that commerce faculty members received, La Bercensie said that the video guides provided by Wits have been quite helpful.

“They still need to do divisional training, which is supposed to be more detailed though, so hopefully that’ll help a lot,” said the academic trainee.

Webinars will also be hosted via Microsoft Teams until March 31, to assist Witsies with setting up their Canvas properly. Alternatively, students may contact faculty online learning designers, whose email addresses have been made available on wits.ac.za under ‘Ulwazi updates’.

FEATURED PHOTO: The front cover of the Wits Ulwazi update, pictured on a computer screen. PHOTO: Leah Wilson.