Frequently Asked Questions


What is Canvas? How is it different from Chalk?
Canvas is a learning management system like Chalk. It has all of the core functionality found in Chalk, but each system operates under a different paradigm. Chalk is instructor-centered and focuses on document distribution; Canvas, a Web 2.0 platform, emphasizes the student experience and focuses on instructional interaction and collaboration. See Chalk-to-Canvas: Similarities and Differences (PDF) for 5 differences instructors need to be aware of and a Chalk-to-Canvas feature comparison chart.
Why are we moving to Canvas?

Chalk has served the campus well in the past 18 years. However, the academic use of technology has changed over time, and a modern LMS is expected to support more, and increasingly complex, activities in a user-friendly environment.

In light of this, IT Services collaborated with the Board of Computing Activities and Services (BCAS) to bring together an LMS Review Faculty Committee to recommend a direction for the next LMS for the campus.  After careful analysis of UChicago’s needs, review of the current learning management system landscape, and receiving feedback during the Canvas pilot that encompassed 65 courses, 86 instructors, and 2420 students from Fall 2014 to Fall 2015, Canvas was selected as our new LMS for the benefits it provides, including:

  • A modern and uncluttered interface
  • Easy to use, intuitive features
  • Improved mobile experience
  • Better collaboration features through Google Docs and UChicago Box integration
  • Robust environment for content authoring

Getting Started

I am interested in using Canvas now, how do I do this?
You can start teaching courses with Canvas as early as Winter 2017. Email to request a test course now or you may request Summer 2017 (CNetID login), as long as the Registrar has released your course information. You can check to see if your course is available by using the public course search. Not teaching this summer? You can get a head start on September and request your or Autumn 2017 courses now.
NOTE:  Canvas transition for faculty in Booth, Law and Pritzker will be supported by their local support staff and has already begun.  Check with them to find out more about your transition timeline and support.
What type of support will be available during the transition to Canvas?
To help faculty, instructors and students transition to Canvas, we are providing workshops and support in a variety of formats:

We will also be reaching out to academic departments to offer departmental demos/workshops. Visit our Workshop Schedule page for the calendar and sign-up information. Descriptions of each workshop offered can be found on our Workshop Descriptions page.

Access and archiving

How long can I retain access to student grades, discussions, etc. in Chalk?

Beginning in summer 2017, no new for-credit course sites will be created in Chalk. Instructors and students will retain access to Chalk for reference through autumn 2018. We will begin the transition for non-credit and organizational sites in autumn 2017.

After autumn 2018, all student data (including grades and assignment submissions) will be inaccessible. Instructors may request a copy of their course material (primarily announcements, course files, and quizzes) by emailing with the course number, course title, course section number(s), academic year and quarter. However, students should download their material before Chalk is decommissioned.

Instructors and students with incomplete grades for courses in Chalk should also make appropriate arrangements to save course material, submitted work, and any other relevant material before access to Chalk ends. Students can check their final grades for all courses at

Will Chalk material be archived?

Instructors will retain access to Chalk for reference through autumn 2018. Afterwards, Chalk courses will be archived. We highly recommend that you migrate your Chalk content to Canvas while you have access to Chalk for reference since there is no clean one-to-one migration between the systems. If you are concerned about your content in Chalk, please request a consultation for a consultation and recommendations.

Content Migration

How do I copy course materials from Chalk into Canvas?

The simplest and most efficient way is to download your files from Chalk and upload them to Canvas as you build your course.

To download your files from Chalk, 1) go to your course; 2) on the left navigation, scroll down to Course Management > Files and click the link to your course name; 4) select the files you wish to download; 5) click Download Package; 6) Save the zip file.

Once you have a .zip file, you can upload it to the Files area of a Canvas site, or your personal Files area (click your name after logging onto Canvas and you’ll find your personal Files). Uploaded zip files will expand automatically within Canvas, and maintain the original file organization.

See Migrate Course Content from Chalk to Canvas (PDF) for details.

What will happen to all the video and audio files I uploaded to Chalk?
If your files are uploaded to Kaltura, they will automatically be available in Canvas. If you uploaded them as files, you should download them with other course documents and reupload them to Canvas.

Teaching with Canvas

How will students know where to find their course sites if there are some on Chalk and others on Canvas?
During the 2016-2017 academic year, Canvas is an option for faculty to use instead of Chalk, and communication will be critical between faculty and students on where to go for their course sites. We suggest that you include the course URL in your syllabus and initial email to your class.

Organization Sites

What about my organization sites on Chalk?
Migration for organizational sites is scheduled for July to November 2017. We will be contacting organization leaders with information as the time approaches. If you would like to request a new organizational site on Canvas now, please email us at

Transition Scheduling

When do I have to start teaching in Canvas?

Starting with Summer 2017, our goal is to have all for-credit courses facilitated in Canvas. Depending on when you teach in the 2017-2018 academic year, you’ll want to plan to transition any Chalk courses to Canvas ahead of your first teaching quarter.

Non-credit courses and organizational sites are scheduled to transition later this year. Outreach to transition these sites will begin mid-late summer and continue through the autumn 2017 quarter.

NOTE:  Canvas transition for faculty in Booth, Law and Pritzker will be supported by their local support staff and has already begun.  Check with them to find out more about your transition timeline and support.

Keep in mind that you can begin migrating your materials over to Canvas ASAP even if you are not teaching in summer or autumn 2017.  We are happy to set up test courses where you begin moving and rebuilding content well in advance of the full transition in summer 2017 – just email us at to request your test courses.