Blog / Does Canvas work in China? How is it accessed In China?

Does Canvas work in China? How is it accessed In China?

Unfortunately, not off the shelf! Canvas does not work the same way in China as it usually does elsewhere.

In this article, we will go into the example of the MIT Professional Education Portal on Canvas which saw loading times upwards of 19 seconds and failed deliver
y of over 48% of their files.

It’s common for students to face technical difficulties in accessing course materials, lectures, and submitting assignments because of the way Canvas is built.

What is Canvas?

Canvas is an e-learning management platform with the reputation of being the #1 LMS in the world amongst other popular LMS’ such as Blackboard and Moodle with 100% of Ivy League schools using or invested in Canvas*.

The Canvas learning ecosystem includes the "user-friendly Canvas LMS (learning management system)", as well as open LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability) integrations, custom integrations with a university's SIS (Student Information Systems), and other educational apps.

Boasting a 99.9% system uptime with 100% of the platform in the native cloud results in Canvas being one of the top choices for universities when transitioning to online learning. Canvas serves as a platform that administers, documents, automates, and delivers educational resources and training programs.

Educational Sites including MIT, Harvard, and Oxford, all use Canvas (Source: University Site Pages)

What is accessing Canvas like from China?

A Canvas page on mobile used by Global Alumni for MIT Professional Education

As of this article’s publication date, the good news is that Canvas is not blocked or officially inaccessible in China.

The caveat, however, is that by default Canvas websites often fail to deliver its contents or feature functions consistently for visitors in China.

It is with such a crucial role to play in education, one must ask -

Why Doesn’t Canvas Work Properly In China?

Reason 1: Inaccessible or incredibly slow-loading Media Files

For example, video content on video-sharing platforms like YouTube and Vimeo are often set as class assignments or to show pre-recorded lectures. Because YouTube and Vimeo platforms are blocked in China, those media files are also inaccessible in China by default leading to broken content delivery.

In the example below, MIT’s website previously experienced issues with loading its content due to sites on which some of its resources including educational content were hosted.

Keep on reading to learn how Chinafy resolves this without you having to replace your Youtube and Vimeo videos manually. Not to mention, the hundreds of other resources that make up your website.

Reason 2: Poor Speed and Connection

Sites built by Canvas often have components and resources hosted across 3rd-party domains, most of which run into accessibility issues in China.

Not only are these 3rd-party domains typically built and hosted outside of China (and by default run into both latency and throughput challenges faced by websites in general when delivering digital content to China visitors), but also are not easily replaced, removed, or “resolved”.

Even when resources are delivered closer to students in China through a global Content Delivery Network (CDN), many of these resources are still not optimized to deliver and function fully in China.

Those are just the two key factors among others that contribute to poor loading times for class recordings, lecture slides, assigned readings, and more — if they manage to load at all.

Case Study: The MIT Professional Education Website

The MIT Professional Education Website uses Canvas as its LMS. In any other country, access to its site and delivery of its content would be straightforward.

However in China, the MIT Professional Education Learning Portal:

Took over 19.37 seconds to load on average

Failed to display hundreds of educational videos using its primary video player Vimeo.

Failed to load over 48% of files on key program pages and lesson modules

How can you make Canvas work in China?

At Chinafy, we help learning institutions make their websites work in China…

Effectively, achieving 6-8x acceleration on average across a website’s resources.

Quickly, with turnaround time for your site at two weeks or less Chinafy does the heavy lifting and bolts on to your site with a simple DNS update. Maintain full control of your global site with a China-optimized version working in parallel without having to build a website from scratch.

Consistently, with a wide range of clientele and case studies to showcase.

Before VS After Chinafy Comparison: Global Alumni for MIT

Chinafy Results for Canvas

In one example, Chinafy optimized the MIT Professional Education website to:

Load 214% faster in China

Display 100% of video content that was otherwise inaccessible via Vimeo

Deliver 52% more files for a more consistent, responsive, and effective learning environment

Click here to read the full article on how Chinafy works to optimize Canvas sites in China.

Of course, best practices don’t hurt to implement. Here are some that we’ve collected from experienced Canvas users who work with students both in China and globally.

Test whether your platform is accessible for students in China. Tools like our Chinafy Visual Speed Test can be used to visualize loading a page within China.

Be inclusive and accessible with your course design on Canvas. Be mindful of varying abilities for students to access parts of your Canvas site.

Do not ask students to use a VPN, as this may have potential legal consequences.

Diversify communication channels with students. Keep in mind that Google’s G Suite does not currently work in China.

Be mindful of uploading sensitive content.

Click here to learn more about how Chinafy works to optimize Canvas sites in China.


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