Google Classroom vs. Canvas LMS: Compare Core LMS Capabilities and More

Google Classroom and Canvas LMS are two robust learning management systems (LMSs) geared toward schools. Each software solution allows teachers to create content and track their students’ performance while encouraging collaboration and social learning.

Here, we compare Google Classroom and Canvas LMS on several factors.

What is the Main Difference Between Google Classroom and Canvas LMS?

  • Google displays its pricing on its website, while Canvas LMS offers custom quotes to clients.
  • Teachers that use Google Classroom can engage in virtual learning via Google Meet or Zoom. Canvas LMS integrates with several web conferencing tools.
  • Google has a knowledge base and a community forum. However, Instructure provides more robust support.

Product Overviews

The following excerpts from our Google Classroom and Canvas LMS reviews summarize each software:

Google Classroom

Google Classroom targets teachers and students in both K-12 and higher education markets. One of its biggest benefits is it’s simple to use and encourages collaboration between students and teachers. Teachers can create a class and list educational apps, such as assignments, in a few clicks. They can add students by name or send them a code to join. Students can then see what assignments are due, participate in discussion forums or message the teacher (either in private or via group chat).

Canvas LMS

Instructure is a software provider focusing on dynamic learning management systems (LMSs) that streamline teaching tasks for various settings. One of those systems is Canvas, which was created for educational institutions. Developed in 2011, Canvas can help teachers to better engage their students in the learning process. It includes many features, such as mobile learning, content delivery, unlimited file size, SpeedGrader (adding grades to a gradebook), and audio, video and chat collaboration tools.

While Canvas is intended for schools, Instructure offers the Canvas for Corporate Education tool for organizations that want to develop employee training programs.

Features Comparisons

Content Development

Google Classroom

Teachers can set up assignments directly within Google Classroom, including uploading the necessary files. Not only does the software support other Google Apps (e.g., Docs, Forms, Sheets), but teachers can also upload videos, images or PDFs. Once the assignment is ready, students receive a notification. Additional content development features include the ability to distribute the same assignment to multiple classes, saved templates for future use and the ability to schedule a distribution date.

Canvas LMS

In Canvas LMS, teachers can create personalized learning paths with the MasteryPaths feature that specifically targets content to the student based on their learning skills. Another content development feature is the integrated Canvas Studio solution that lets teachers record, upload and share video content, and students can complete their assignments by video, too. Then, there’s the Module feature, where teachers can organize their assignments, quizzes and other content by subject, weeks or other factors. Once a course is created, teachers can publish it via their dashboard, and the software can then notify students the assignment is ready.

Bottom Line

Both software solutions have similar content development features. However, although Google Classroom allows teachers to create and upload videos, the Canvas Studio platform has more robust features.

Collaboration

Google Classroom

Students and teachers can access the same Google file, such as Docs or Sheets, simultaneously (based on access permission settings), including leaving comments, sending chats or making edits within the file. In addition, Google Classroom has a Stream feature that works like a social media feed. In it, students can create a post where they can add an image, file, link or video, and other students can add comments to the post. Teachers can use the Stream to make announcements. There’s also a Question feature for teachers to set up short questions for students to answer.

Canvas LMS

Teachers can send messages to individual students, the whole class or parents, and students can collaborate together via messaging, chats or video. The Collaborations feature allows students to work together within the same document simultaneously. In addition, students can work together on Google or Microsoft docs directly in Canvas LMS, as the software supports LTI integration with Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365.

Bottom Line

While Google Classroom has a social networking feed similar to Facebook or Google, it appears that Canvas LMS doesn’t. But Canvas LMS has a Discussions feature that’s similar to Google Classroom’s Question feature so students can answer questions and participate in conversations.

Virtual Learning

Google Classroom

Teachers can host virtual classes via Google Meet. Google Meet allows them to record the sessions, enable captions for accessibility and receive questions from students via chats. The basic Google accounts support up to 100 participants in one meeting, but depending on the pricing plan the school selects, Google Meet allows up to 250 or 500 participants per meeting.

Canvas LMS

With the Canvas Conferences feature that integrates with BigBlueButton, teachers can host virtual classes, have office hours for students, allow students to practice their presentations or connect with other teachers for professional development. They can also record classes so students can view them later. Note that Canvas LMS recommends up to 100 participants per meeting. While teachers can create and host conferences within BigBlueButton, Canvas LMS can also integrate with other web conferencing solutions via Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI)I, such as Blackboard Collaborate, Google Meet, Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

Bottom Line

Although Google Classroom primarily uses Google Meet for video conferencing, it can integrate with Zoom. However, it doesn’t integrate with Microsoft Teams or BigBlueButton. Canvas LMS, on the other hand, allows integration with several web conferencing providers.

Student Performance Tracking/Analytics

Google Classroom

With the Gradebook feature, teachers can see all of a student’s grades in one place, grade their assignments and share their feedback with the student. They can export the students’ grades to a Google Sheet or a CSV file. Google Classroom also has an unique feature called Originality Reports that detects plagiarism within a written assignment. Students can check their work for any recommended citations, while teachers can scan the piece for authenticity.

For more advanced performance tracking, Google Classroom integrates with Schoolytics, a student data platform. Educators can track student performance, compare competency patterns across different classes and measure grades against benchmarks. It has an early warning system that notifies teachers if specific students are failing or becoming disengaged with their courses.

Canvas LMS

Teachers can create rubrics for scoring students’ tests or assignments and share feedback directly within the assignment. They can also use the Gradebook for seeing and adding grades based on points, percentages, complete/incomplete or letter grades. They can see a master grades list by all assignments or all students as well as custom views based on Learning Mastery, Individual (student or assignment) and Gradebook History. In addition, there’s a Speedgrader app for mobile devices that lets teachers provide feedback and notes on students’ assignments.

Canvas LMS has released a new feature via LTI called New Analytics, where teachers can track course grades, weekly participation rates and attendance using chart graphs or data tables.

For more advanced features, Instructure’s Elevate K-12 Analytics (formerly called Videri) software solution combines real-time data from School Information Systems (SIS), learning management systems, attendance records and other sources in one place, so schools can monitor trends within a classroom, school or district. Some of its features include predefined reports, built-in report and visualization templates, multi-year analytics and role-based security.

Bottom Line

Both software solutions have similar grading and performance-tracking features. However, Google Classroom has a built-in plagiarism check feature, while Canvas LMS users will need to integrate with a plagiarism checking tool.

In addition, both software solutions require integration with a separate analytics solution if users are looking for more robust features.

Mobile Learning

Google Classroom

Both educators and students can download the Google Classroom mobile app to their Apple or Android devices. Teachers can set up a course, post assignments, add comments and contact students. Students can see and complete their assignments, add comments to discussions and reach out to their classmates or teachers. Note that teachers and students will need to add on the Google Docs, Sheets and Slides apps to fully use the Google Classroom mobile app.

Canvas LMS

Canvas LMS has a dedicated mobile app for Android and iPhone/iOS users. Teachers can manage courses, edit content, grade submissions or send messages, while students can see their grades, check out any announcements and send messages to their teacher. There’s also a Canvas Parent app where parents can see their child’s assignments.

Bottom Line

Google Classroom doesn’t have a dedicated app for parents, while Canvas LMS does. Also, Google Classroom’s app requires users adding on its Docs, Sheets or Slides apps, but everything’s included in the Canvas LMS app.

Download Comparison Guide

Pricing

Google Classroom

The Google Workspace for Education Fundamentals platform is free for qualifying institutions and includes Google collaboration tools (e.g., Docs, Sheets, Slides), communication tools (e.g., Meet, Gmail, Chat), data loss prevention for Google Drive and Gmail, and compliance with GDPR, FERPA and COPPA.

There are three paid plans:

  • Google Workspace for Education Standard – This plan costs $3 per student, per year and includes all of the features of the Fundamentals platform, plus a security center, advanced device and app management features, Gmail and Classroom logs for export into BigQuery, and audit logs.
  • Teaching and Learning Upgrade – This plan costs $4 per license, per month and includes all of the features of the Google Workspace for Education Standard, plus advanced Google Meet features (e.g., meetings with up to 250 participants, interactive Q&As, breakout rooms), unlimited originality reports and the ability to check for peer matches across a private repository.
  • Google Workspace for Education Plus – This plan costs $5 per student, per year and includes all of the features of the other plans, plus livestreams with up to 100,000 in-domain viewers, up to 500 participants per Google Meet session, syncing rosters from SISs to Google Classroom, personalized cloud search and prioritized support.

Canvas LMS

Teachers can use Canvas LMS for free with the Free-for-Teachers plan, even if the school isn’t a Canvas LMS customer. The Free-for-Teachers plan provides educators with features such as content creation, personalized learning, grading, the Canvas mobile app and integration with third-party software solutions. It also provides access to parents, students and administrators.

There are some features that are only available via Canvas LMS paid plans, such as course templates, the ability to upload Student Information Systems (SiS) data, multiple grading periods and a customer support ticketing system. Instructure doesn’t publicly release its pricing information, so prospects will need to contact the vendor directly for a quote.

Bottom Line

While both vendors provide a free plan for teachers, schools will need to purchase a paid plan for advanced features. Prospects can see pricing up front on Google Classroom’s site, but they’ll need to contact Instructure for a price quote on Canvas LMS.

Customer Support

Google Classroom

Google Classroom has the following resources for teachers and administrators:

  • The Help Center knowledge base includes articles and troubleshooting tips on various Google Classroom topics.
  • The Community forum is where users can ask troubleshooting questions and share advice with other users.
  • There are dedicated IT guides for schools’ IT administrators.

Google Classroom also offers users new features and other product upgrades each month.

Canvas LMS

Users can click on the Help button through their Canvas LMS Dashboard, which leads them to a Community portal that includes troubleshooting guides, a product roadmap and a Question Forum for asking and answering questions from the community.

Instructure provides additional standard support to IT administrators with paid subscriptions, such as a ticketing system and phone support during regular business hours. Its initial response time is within two business days. Note that teachers or students that experience technical issues should contact their school’s IT administrator for support.

The vendor offers three optional support plans for an additional fee:

  • 24/7 support – This plan adds on 24/7 phone, email and live chat support to administrators and an initial response time of within 12 hours. Up to three administrators per school can contact support.
  • 24/7 + Faculty Tier 1 support –  In this plan, Instructure provides Tier 1 support directly to faculty and staff. Faculty and staff members can contact support via phone, email or live chat. Instructure has a targeted one-hour initial response time to web/email tickets and a five-minute response time for phone calls and chats.
  • 24/7 + Tier 1 support – Instructure provides Tier 1 support to all users, including students. Users can contact support directly by phone, email or live chat. The initial response time is the same time frame as in the previous plan.

Bottom Line

Google doesn’t have phone, email or live chat support, while Instructure does. In addition, schools that want Instructure to handle all help desk support can purchase the vendor’s 24/7 + Tier 1 support plan.

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