Pulling Apart the Venn Diagram: When Should You Use Digication vs. Canvas?

Pulling Apart the Venn Diagram: When Should You Use Digication vs. Canvas?

By: Jeff Schwartz, Instructional Designer, and Kellie Ferguson, Faculty Developer of Integrative and Experiential Learning 

The sheer number of educational technology tools and apps and websites and programs can sometimes feel utterly overwhelming. And to add to it, DU recently replaced its homegrown ePortfolio program with Digication, a more robust, secure ePortfolio program.  

According to Digication’s website, the program “can be used at all course stages: from syllabus, to creating teaching materials that aid the comprehension of the concepts presented in lectures, to assignment-creation and assessment” (Yan, 2023.) If that Swiss Army Knife of possibilities sounds familiar, it’s because Canvas also offers the same options to users.

So, if both Digication and Canvas have similar capabilities, how do you decide which tool is right for you? 

When to use Canvas

Canvas is designed to function as a course’s designated website, so the short answer to this question is that Canvas still can, and should, be used for the majority of your course content.  Instructors are expected to upload the course syllabus to Canvas and use its Gradebook for assignments. Beyond these core functions, Canvas also works best for a number of other classroom practices.  

  • Exams: Whether you elect to use Classic Quizzes or New Quizzes (and whether or not you decide to use LockDown Browser), exams, especially mid-terms and finals, should be facilitated through Canvas.  
  • Assignment submission and instructor feedback: Courses with an emphasis on written work can use the Assignments feature to provide feedback on and grade student work. The recent OneDrive integration also allows for easy file-sharing.  
  • Formative assessment and peer feedback: For courses that practice formative assessment, or in which larger projects are scaffolded into a series of steps that includes peer and/or instructor feedback, Canvas allows for the dissemination of feedback via Groups, Peer Review, and SpeedGrader. 
    • In Digication’s latest update, known as Digication Kora, ePortfolio assignments can be scaffolded into individual assignments and graded within Digication based on point values that will then sync with the Canvas gradebook. However, this option only makes sense if students are using these assignments to build out a larger ePortfolio project, as assignments are added to a template or to the student’s existing ePortfolio. Additionally, Digication does not have the capabilities to sync written feedback with Canvas just yet. 
  • Readings and Instructional Materials: Uploading readings and other instructional materials to Canvas not only makes it easy for students to access those materials at any point in the term, but also allows (and, in a way, encourages) supplementing readings with other types of content and media, which supports the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework of providing multiple means of engagement for students. 
  • Discussion boards: Canvas’s Discussion boards are great for getting students to interact with each other and the instructor, engage with course materials, and demonstrate knowledge of the course subject matter beyond simply participating in face-to-face discussions.  
  • Scheduling Zoom: Courses that utilize Zoom can use Canvas to schedule meetings for the whole class, group work, or office hours. 
  • Kaltura videos: The Kaltura Mediaspace integration allows you and your students to easily create and share videos, including Interactive Video Quizzes (which offer useful analytics on the back-end for instructors).  
  • Modules: Using Modules to organize course content by day or week creates an ease of navigation that allows students to access all the relevant content in one place. If you’re tired of students asking or messaging you with questions about where they can find something, using Modules thoughtfully is your best bet. 

All of which may now have you asking, “So if Canvas does all that, what are we supposed to use Digication for?” 

When to use Digication

Fundamentally, Canvas is the ideal system for creating and managing student work within the classroom. Digication, on the other hand, is the ideal system for “any assignment that wants to reach an audience beyond the classroom,” in the words of Madison Sussman, an Exhibits Librarian and Assistant Professor at DU. Sussman, who was part of a working group that tested out Digication’s capabilities this past spring, believes the program is especially good for facilitating exhibit/showcase-style assignments.  

These types of assignments include: 

  • Museum-style digital exhibits that synthesize multiple media modalities, such as text, video, audio, images, graphics, and more.  
  • Capstone projects that collect student artifacts from a class, or even across a whole program, and offer a space for students to make connections and reflect on their growth and future goals. 
  • Community-engaged works, such as oral histories, or reflective assignments in which students document and reflect on experiences, such as internships or volunteer work, outside of the classroom. 
  • Research projects, especially those that benefit from, or even require, data visualization.  
  • Digital resumes or CV’s, especially when you would like to document and demonstrate your work via images, videos, hyperlinks, and other media, rather than simply referencing a project as a line in your resumé 

In short, Digication is best used as a supplement, not a replacement, to Canvas. Think of Canvas as the place to conduct and enhance the day-to-day business of your class. Think of Digication as the place to get students doing the kind of work that encourages them to think about, create for, reflect on, and engage with the world outside the classroom. 

Still not sure which to choose? 

Of course, the wide array of programs and courses (not to mention students and instructors) at DU means that there are exceptions, nuances, and even ambiguities to the guidelines in this blog. If you find yourself still unsure which program to use – or how best to use each program –  you can always schedule a consultation with an Instructional Designer and discuss your circumstances. 

And if you’re interested more broadly in Digication or in using ePortfolios as a high-impact practice, contact Kellie Ferguson, the OTL’s Faculty Developer of Integrative and Experiential Learning, or check out some of the additional resources listed below. 

Additional Resources 

  • Digication @DU (n.d.). otl.du.edu. Retrieved June 15, 2023, from https://otl.du.edu/digication/ 
  • ePortfolio Directory (n.d.). digication.du.edu. Retrieved June 13, 2023, from https://du.digication.com/app/portfolios 
  • ePortfolios. (n.d.). aacu.org. Retrieved June 13, 2023, from https://www.aacu.org/trending-topics/eportfolios 
  • Haskins, M. & Cramblet Alvarez, L. “From DU Portfolio to Digication: How We Got Here” Office of Teaching and Learning Blog (8 Mar. 2023). otl.du.edu. Retrieved June 4, 2023, from https://otl.du.edu/from-du-portfolio-to-digication-how-we-got-here/ 
  • Sparrow, J. & Török, J. (2018). ePortfolios. In K.E. Linger Editor & C.M. Hayes Editor (Eds.), High-Impact Practices in Online Education: Research and best practices (pp. 142-157). Stylus.  
  • Yan, Jeff. (January 4, 2023). “EPortfolio Pedagogy at the Course Level.” Digication Help Desk. Digication. https://support.digication.com/hc/en-us/articles/235502047-ePortfolio-Pedagogy-at-the-Course-Level