Top 10 Pros and Cons of Canvas from Instructure

Canvas, a Learning Management System (LMS) developed by Instructure, has become a significant player in online education. As with any technology, it comes with its advantages and disadvantages. This article delves into the top 10 pros and cons of using Canvas, providing educators, students, and institutions with a comprehensive overview. It’s essential to critically analyze these aspects as they significantly impact the effectiveness of digital learning environments.

This discussion highlights Canvas’s capabilities and limitations, offering a holistic view for potential users. By understanding both sides, stakeholders in the education sector can make more informed decisions about integrating this tool into their learning and teaching processes.

Table of Contents

  • The 10 Benefits and Advantages of Canvas
    1. User-Friendly Interface
    2. Robust Integration Capabilities
    3. Comprehensive Communication Tools
    4. Reliable Customer Support
    5. Regular Updates and Improvements
    6. Mobile Accessibility
    7. Customization and Personalization
    8. Advanced Assessment Features
    9. Cloud-Based Accessibility
    10. Scalability
  • The 10 Drawbacks and Disadvantages of Canvas
    1. Steep Learning Curve for Advanced Features
    2. Inconsistent Performance Across Browsers
    3. Limited Customization in Standard Plans
    4. Occasional Glitches and Bugs
    5. Cost Considerations for Institutions
    6. Overwhelming for New Users
    7. Limited Offline Functionality
    8. Dependence on Third-Party Tools
    9. Inconsistent Mobile Experience
    10. Data Privacy Concerns

The 10 Benefits and Advantages of Canvas

Before delving into the multifaceted advantages of Canvas, it’s crucial to recognize that the strengths of this LMS are not just in its features but also in how these features synergize to enhance the educational experience. Each pro listed here is a testament to Canvas’s commitment to delivering a user-centric, flexible, and innovative learning environment. From its intuitive design to its robust integration capabilities, Canvas sets a high standard in digital learning, addressing the dynamic needs of modern educators and students alike.

1. User-Friendly Interface

Canvas’s user-friendly interface stands out as a primary advantage, setting it apart in Learning Management Systems. Its intuitive design ensures that users can easily navigate the platform, regardless of technological proficiency. This ease of use is a convenience and a crucial factor in enhancing the learning and teaching experience.

  • Intuitive Dashboard: The dashboard presents a clear overview of courses, assignments, and notifications, making it easy for users to stay organized and on track.
  • Streamlined Course Design: The platform allows for effortless creation and management of course content, reducing the administrative burden on educators.
  • Accessible Layout: With a layout that is easy to understand and navigate, Canvas reduces the learning curve for new users, allowing them to focus more on learning than figuring out the platform.

Real-Life Example: A high school in Texas implemented Canvas across its curriculum. Teachers reported a significant reduction in the time spent on administrative tasks, while students found it easier to access course materials and track their progress. This ease of use led to an increase in student engagement and improved overall academic performance.

2. Robust Integration Capabilities

Canvas stands out for its remarkable ability to integrate with a wide range of educational tools and apps, a feature that significantly enhances its utility in diverse educational settings. This integration capability streamlines various educational processes and allows for a more tailored and comprehensive learning experience. It reflects Canvas’s understanding of the evolving educational landscape, where flexibility and adaptability are crucial to success.

  • Seamless Synchronization: Canvas integrates smoothly with popular platforms like Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams, ensuring a unified educational ecosystem.
  • Diverse App Integration: It supports a vast library of educational apps, allowing educators to incorporate varied tools like Turnitin for plagiarism checks and Kahoot! for interactive quizzes.
  • API Access for Custom Solutions: Canvas provides API access, enabling institutions to develop custom integrations that fit their unique needs.

Real-Life Example: A university integrates Canvas with Zoom for remote learning. This allows students to access live lectures and recorded sessions directly through Canvas, streamlining their learning experience and making it more efficient.

3. Comprehensive Communication Tools

Effective communication is the backbone of successful online learning, and Canvas excels in this area. It offers a variety of communication tools that foster interaction between students and instructors, which is crucial for creating an engaging and collaborative learning environment. Canvas’s communication tools are designed to be intuitive and accessible, ensuring that the conversation flows seamlessly across the educational community.

  • Announcements and Notifications: Facilitates timely updates and reminders, keeping everyone in the loop.
  • Discussion Forums: Encourages vibrant academic discussions, allowing students to learn from each other.
  • Direct Messaging: Provides a private channel for students to contact instructors with queries or concerns.

Real-Life Example: In an extensive online course, instructors use Canvas’s announcement feature to disseminate weekly summaries, ensuring students are aware of upcoming deadlines and essential course materials, thus keeping the course structured and engaged.

4. Reliable Customer Support

Instructure’s commitment to supporting its Canvas users is evident in its robust customer support system. This support is crucial, especially when users encounter challenges or need guidance in optimizing the platform’s use. The availability of diverse support channels ensures that help is always available, making the Canvas experience smoother and more reliable.

  • Comprehensive Online Resources: Extensive guides and tutorials offer step-by-step assistance.
  • Responsive Support Team: A dedicated customer service team is ready to address issues or queries.
  • Community Forums: A platform for users to share insights, tips, and solutions.

Real-Life Example: An educator new to Canvas encounters difficulty setting up a grade book. By using Canvas’s online guides and contacting the support team, the educator quickly resolves the issue, illustrating the effectiveness of Canvas’s customer support.

5. Regular Updates and Improvements

Canvas is known for its proactive approach to updates and improvements, consistently refining its features based on user feedback and technological advancements. This commitment to continuous enhancement keeps the platform up-to-date and ensures that it remains aligned with the evolving needs of the educational sector.

  • User-Feedback Driven Updates: Regular updates are often based on feedback from actual users, ensuring relevant improvements.
  • Incorporation of Latest Technologies: Canvas stays ahead by integrating the latest in educational technology.
  • Focus on User Experience: Updates aim to enhance the overall user experience, making the platform more intuitive and efficient.

Real-Life Example: Following user feedback, Canvas introduces an enhanced dashboard layout, making it easier for students to track assignments and deadlines, thus improving their ability to manage coursework effectively.

6. Mobile Accessibility

The Canvas mobile app is a significant advantage, offering unparalleled flexibility and convenience to users. It allows students and educators to access course materials, participate in discussions, and manage tasks from their mobile devices, catering to the needs of the modern, on-the-go learner.

  • On-the-Go Learning: Enables access to course materials and interactions anytime, anywhere.
  • User-Friendly Mobile Interface: The app is designed for ease of use on mobile devices.
  • Notifications and Alerts: Keeps users informed about course updates, even when away from their computers.

Real-Life Example: A student commuting to work uses the Canvas app to review lecture notes and participate in class discussions from their smartphone, effectively utilizing travel time for learning.

7. Customization and Personalization

Canvas’s ability to be customized and personalized by educators is a standout feature. It allows instructors to tailor the learning environment to their teaching style and the specific needs of their students, creating a more engaging and practical educational experience.

  • Course Design Flexibility: Instructors can design courses to fit their unique teaching methods.
  • Personalized Learning Paths: Enables the creation of customized learning experiences for students.
  • Variety of Teaching Tools: Offers a range of tools that can be adapted for different teaching approaches.

Real-Life Example: An instructor customizes their Canvas course with interactive multimedia content and personalized assignments, catering to the varied learning styles of students and increasing engagement and comprehension.

8. Advanced Assessment Features

Canvas offers a suite of advanced assessment features that are integral to tracking and evaluating student performance. These tools provide educators with a comprehensive understanding of student progress and learning outcomes, making the assessment process more efficient and effective.

  • Diverse Assessment Options: Includes quizzes, assignments, and peer reviews, catering to different evaluation needs.
  • Automated Grading Tools: Saves time and ensures consistency in grading.
  • Detailed Analytics: Offers insights into student performance, aiding in targeted instruction.

Real-Life Example: An educator uses Canvas’s automated grading feature for quizzes, significantly reducing grading time and providing immediate feedback to students, thereby enhancing the learning process.

9. Cloud-Based Accessibility

The cloud-based nature of Canvas is a crucial advantage, offering high availability and secure data management. This feature ensures that users can access the platform and their data anywhere without worrying about data loss or system downtime.

  • High Availability: Being cloud-based ensures that Canvas is accessible at all times.
  • Data Security: Offers robust security measures for data protection.
  • Regular Backups: Ensures that data is regularly backed up, preventing loss.

Real-Life Example: During a power outage at a university, the faculty and students could still access Canvas and continue their coursework uninterrupted, showcasing the reliability and accessibility of its cloud-based system.

10. Scalability

One of the most significant advantages of Canvas is its scalability. Whether used for a miniature private course or a large university, Canvas can efficiently handle varying scales of educational programs. This adaptability makes it an ideal choice for institutions of all sizes.

  • Adapts to Different Sizes: Suitable for both small classes and large-scale educational programs.
  • Flexible Resource Allocation: Can allocate resources based on the size of the user base.
  • Efficient Management of Users: Streamlines the management of many users without compromising performance.

Real-Life Example: A rapidly growing college expands its online course offerings using Canvas, easily accommodating the increasing number of students and courses without any decrease in system performance or user experience.

The 10 Drawbacks and Disadvantages of Canvas

While Canvas offers many benefits, its drawbacks cannot be overlooked. These cons highlight areas where Canvas, despite its robust features, may fall short in meeting some users’ expectations or specific needs. Understanding these limitations is crucial for educators and institutions in making an informed decision, ensuring they know the potential challenges and the solutions they may need to employ when using this platform.

1. Steep Learning Curve for Advanced Features

Canvas, while celebrated for its comprehensive features, presents a steep learning curve, particularly when it comes to its more advanced functionalities. This complexity can be daunting for users who are not as technologically adept or new to digital learning platforms. Navigating its myriad options and settings often requires time and patience, which can be a significant hurdle in the fast-paced educational environment.

  • Complex Interface for Advanced Options: Advanced features can be hidden behind layers of menus and settings.
  • Requires Time to Master: New users, especially those with limited tech experience, may find it time-consuming to become proficient.
  • Potential Overwhelm for Users: The abundance of features and customization options can overwhelm users who prefer simplicity.

Real-Life Example: A school district implementing Canvas for the first time finds that teachers struggle to utilize the full range of tools effectively, leading to underutilizing the platform’s capabilities and frustration among the staff.

Resolution Approach: To mitigate this disadvantage, institutions must provide comprehensive training and support for educators and students. This could involve structured training sessions, easy-to-follow guides, and ongoing technical support to ease the transition. By investing in user education and support, the steep learning curve can be significantly flattened, allowing users to leverage Canvas’s power in their educational pursuits fully.

2. Inconsistent Performance Across Browsers

Canvas users often report varying performance levels depending on the browser they use. This inconsistency can lead to frustration, as some features might work seamlessly in one browser but not as well in another. It poses a challenge for users who have a preferred browser or are limited in their ability to switch due to institutional policies.

  • Browser-Specific Issues: Certain features may not function optimally in all web browsers.
  • Regular Updates Required: Users must keep their browsers up-to-date to ensure the best experience.
  • Potential Access Issues: Some users might face difficulties accessing all features if their preferred or available browser is not fully compatible.

Real-Life Example: A group of students using Safari on MacBooks experiences frequent glitches when submitting assignments, a problem not faced by their peers using Chrome.

Resolution Approach: To overcome this issue, Canvas and its users should focus on optimizing the platform for all major browsers. Regular updates and patches can be rolled out to address the browser-specific problems. Additionally, providing clear guidance to users on which browsers offer the best experience can help them adjust their preferences accordingly.

3. Limited Customization in Standard Plans

The basic version of Canvas might not offer extensive customization options, which can be a limitation for institutions or educators looking to tailor the platform extensively. While Canvas is known for its flexibility, this often comes at an additional cost, which can be a barrier for smaller institutions or individual educators.

  • Basic Version Constraints: The free or basic versions offer limited customization.
  • Need for Upgrades: Access to more advanced customization requires paid upgrades.
  • Possible Financial Constraints: Small institutions or individual educators might find the cost prohibitive.

Real-Life Example: A small community college struggles to embed specific third-party tools and must operate within the confines of the basic version due to budget constraints.

Resolution Approach: A possible solution is for Canvas to offer tiered pricing models that allow for more customization options at different budget levels. Alternatively, Canvas could partner with educational institutions to offer special packages that balance cost and customization needs.

4. Occasional Glitches and Bugs

Like any software, Canvas isn’t immune to technical glitches and bugs that can disrupt the learning process. These issues can range from minor inconveniences to significant disruptions, affecting the overall user experience.

  • Software Bugs: Users might encounter sporadic technical issues.
  • Update-Related Problems: New updates can sometimes introduce new bugs.
  • Impact on Learning Experience: These glitches can disrupt classes and delay coursework.

Real-Life Example: Following a major update, a university’s Canvas platform experiences a bug that prevents students from accessing certain course materials, leading to delays in coursework and confusion.

Resolution Approach: Regular software testing and prompt bug-fix updates are essential in addressing this issue. Canvas could also establish a more efficient user feedback system, allowing quicker identification and resolution of such problems.

5. Cost Considerations for Institutions

While Canvas offers a free version, full access to its comprehensive features can be costly, especially for smaller institutions or individual educators. The cost factor is a significant consideration, as it may limit access to the full range of Canvas’s capabilities for those on a tight budget.

  • Subscription Fees: Comprehensive features are behind a paywall.
  • Budget Constraints for Smaller Institutions: Not all schools can afford the full features.
  • Limitation on Access to Advanced Tools: Financial constraints may restrict access to advanced educational tools.

Real-Life Example: A small private school cannot afford the premium version of Canvas, resulting in their teachers and students missing out on advanced features available to larger, more affluent institutions.

Resolution Approach: Offering a more flexible pricing structure or discounts for smaller institutions and educators can help make Canvas more accessible. Additionally, providing essential features in the free version can ensure a more equitable digital learning environment.

6. Overwhelming for New Users

For users new to Canvas or less experienced with digital platforms, the array of features and options can be overwhelming. This can lead to underutilizing the platform’s capabilities and a steep initial learning curve.

  • Feature Overload: The extensive range of features can be daunting for new users.
  • Difficulty in Navigation: New users may find it challenging to navigate the platform efficiently.
  • Initial Resistance to Adoption: The overwhelming nature can lead to resistance or slower adoption among users.

Real-Life Example: Teachers in a rural school district, new to digital learning platforms, find the transition to Canvas challenging and overwhelming, resulting in a slower-than-anticipated adoption rate.

Resolution Approach: Simplified introductory courses and user-friendly guides tailored for beginners can help ease the transition. Canvas could also introduce a more streamlined interface option for new users, gradually introducing more complex features.

7. Limited Offline Functionality

Canvas’s reliance on internet connectivity limits its functionality when users are offline. This can be a significant drawback in areas with poor internet access or for users who are frequently on the move without stable internet.

  • Dependency on Internet Connection: Essential features require an online connection.
  • Challenges in Remote Areas: Users in areas with poor internet connectivity face difficulties.
  • Limitation for Traveling Users: Users who travel frequently may find it challenging to stay up-to-date with their courses.

Real-Life Example: Students in a remote area with intermittent internet access struggle to keep up with their coursework due to Canvas’s limited offline capabilities.

Resolution Approach: Developing an offline mode for Canvas where users can download course materials and work on assignments offline, syncing up once they have internet access, could greatly alleviate this issue.

8. Dependence on Third-Party Tools

For specific functionalities, Canvas relies heavily on integrations with third-party tools. This reliance can be a drawback as it sometimes leads to compatibility issues and the need for additional subscriptions or fees.

  • Additional Subscriptions Required: Users may need to subscribe to third-party services.
  • Compatibility Issues: Canvas and third-party tools can occasionally have compatibility issues.
  • Dependency on External Providers: Reliance on external providers for certain features can be risky.

Real-Life Example: An instructor wants to use a specific plagiarism detection tool but finds it’s not seamlessly integrated with Canvas, requiring additional effort and potentially extra cost.

Resolution Approach: Canvas could expand its built-in features to reduce dependence on third-party tools or work more closely with third-party providers to ensure smoother integration and compatibility.

9. Inconsistent Mobile Experience

While the mobile app is a significant advantage, it sometimes offers an inconsistent experience compared to the desktop version. This inconsistency can affect users relying heavily on mobile access for coursework and communication.

  • Limited Features on Mobile: Not all desktop version features are available in the mobile app.
  • Performance Issues: The mobile app may have performance issues like slower load times or crashes.
  • Interface Discrepancies: Differences in the user interface between mobile and desktop can be confusing.

Real-Life Example: A student primarily using the Canvas mobile app finds that certain discussion features are not as easily navigable as on the desktop version, impacting their participation in class discussions.

Resolution Approach: Enhancing the mobile app to ensure parity with the desktop version regarding features and user experience can address this issue. Regular updates and user feedback can guide these improvements.

10. Data Privacy Concerns

As with any cloud-based system, there are inherent risks and concerns regarding data privacy and security with Canvas. Ensuring the confidentiality and integrity of student and institutional data is a paramount concern, especially in an era where data breaches are increasingly common.

  • Risk of Data Breaches: Storing sensitive information in the cloud poses a risk of unauthorized access.
  • Compliance with Privacy Regulations: Adhering to various data privacy laws and regulations can be challenging.
  • Concerns Among Users: Users might have reservations about the security of their personal and academic information.

Real-Life Example: An educational institution faces questions from concerned parents about the safety and privacy of their children’s data on Canvas, highlighting the need for robust security measures.

Resolution Approach: Strengthening data security protocols, ensuring compliance with international data protection regulations, and transparently communicating these measures to users can help alleviate privacy concerns. Regular security audits and updates are also essential in maintaining high data security.


Canvas from Instructure emerges as a platform rich with features yet without limitations. Its advantages, such as a user-friendly interface, robust integration capabilities, and comprehensive communication tools, make it a powerful ally in online education. However, these benefits are counterbalanced by challenges, including a steep learning curve for advanced features, inconsistent performance across browsers, and cost considerations for institutions. Therefore, the decision to adopt Canvas should be weighed carefully, considering its potential to enhance the educational experience and the challenges it may present.

On the other hand, the drawbacks of Canvas, like occasional glitches and bugs, limited offline functionality, and data privacy concerns, necessitate a pragmatic approach. These issues highlight the importance of ongoing support, training, and a proactive stance towards technological adaptability. For institutions and educators, the choice of Canvas as an LMS should align with their immediate educational goals and their capacity to navigate and mitigate these challenges. Ultimately, Canvas stands as a testament to the complexities and potential of modern educational technology, demanding a balanced and informed perspective from its users.


Daniel Raymond

Daniel Raymond, a project manager with over 20 years of experience, is the former CEO of a successful software company called Websystems. With a strong background in managing complex projects, he applied his expertise to develop and, innovative project management tools designed to streamline processes and improve productivity. Throughout his career, Daniel has consistently demonstrated a commitment to excellence and a passion for empowering teams to achieve their goals.

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