AES vs. Canvas: What’s the Difference? Blog Feature
Chris Zook

By: Chris Zook on April 2nd, 2019

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AES vs. Canvas: What’s the Difference?

Digital Curriculum | Canvas

Here at AES, we get a lot of teachers who want to know how our digital curriculum system is different from the learning management system Canvas.

It’s a great question! After all, how different could two online curriculum options be?

To answer this question, we have to ask five shorter questions to give a full answer.  

  1. What are AES and Canvas?
  2. Who should use AES and Canvas?
  3. What problems do AES and Canvas solve?
  4. How are AES and Canvas structured?
  5. How are AES and Canvas used?

We’ll answer all of these questions on this page so you can know the major differences between AES curriculum and the Canvas LMS.

Let’s start with the easiest question — what are AES and Canvas?

1. What Are AES & Canvas?

AES is a digital curriculum system for health science, business education, computer applications, and career readiness teachers. It’s appropriate for grades 6-12 and some high school CTE programs.

Canvas is a learning management system (LMS) for any teacher who’d like to use it. It’s appropriate for every grade since it has no built-in student-facing features.

Both systems are examples of online teaching resources. You access AES and Canvas from a web browser on a computer, smartphone, or tablet, and both systems are available to you 24/7.

Even with those major similarities, AES and Canvas operate differently in some key areas:

  1. Tool introduction
  2. Tool use
  3. Intended audience

First, Canvas starts the same way for every teacher. It’s a blank slate, complete with a learning management system that’s just waiting for you to add information about your classes.

AES, on the other hand, introduces you immediately to the different options, lessons, and assessments that you have at your fingertips.  

So while Canvas wants you to add information about lessons you’ve made yourself, AES gives you the chance to use pre-made resources to create a full classroom syllabus (or round it out — your choice).  

Second, Canvas’s designers intend it to be used as an all-in-one communication, management, and curriculum tool. As a result, you have hundreds of different functions and features that you can learn to use.

AES is much more simplified. Instead of piling on a ton of different features, AES is focused on helping you create a class, enroll students, and assess their progress through your course.

It may not have the interaction or messaging power of Canvas, but that’s because Canvas and AES are simply made for different groups of teachers.

Finally, the biggest difference between AES and Canvas is that AES is made specifically for health science, business education, computer applications, and career readiness.

Canvas is a general catch-all LMS that you can use in more varied settings.

This point also brings us nicely into our second big question — who should use AES and Canvas?

2. Who Should Use AES & Canvas?


Like we said above, AES concentrates on a specific set of teachers while Canvas is available to all teachers.

This is intentional for both companies.

AES focuses on health science, business education, computer applications, and career readiness because those are the areas where teachers seem to be “forgotten” by other curriculum developers.

While alternatives to AES exist in the marketplace, none of them encompass the same set of information that prepares students to perform well in future careers.

More importantly, AES works best for teachers who aren’t classically trained educators. It’s also a great option for teachers who were told that they have to start teaching a subject they don’t know much about (like career readiness).

The result is a curriculum with helpful resources that align to many state standards and certification exams. Teachers can customize what they teach at any point, and they always have the basics at their fingertips!

AES exists to make teachers’ lives easier by taking the stressful edge off of their jobs. It works — especially when teachers aren’t used to teaching in a classroom or teaching a particular subject.

Canvas is a more generalized tool because their developers want to be the one-stop-shop for all teachers.

You get a lot of options for creating and structuring a curriculum, but there aren’t any pre-made or standard-aligned lessons immediately available.

As a result, you use Canvas and have to develop your own lessons at the same time.

While Canvas is a great tool, learning to use it can also take a lot of time.

That means you can end up with a lot of information to learn, a lot of lessons to create, and a whole class of eager students at the same time.

That’s a tough position for any teacher because it adds another layer of complexity to the classroom.

After all, you have to create your lessons and then use Canvas to its best potential in order for it to really work for your classroom.

If you don’t know it inside and out, that creates a lot of opportunity for errors to disrupt your class, frustrate your students, and simply not work.

However, when Canvas works, it it’s a lifechanging difference in your profession.

That all brings us to our next big question — what problems do AES and Canvas solve?

3. What Problems Do AES & Canvas Solve?

Because they serve different kinds of teachers, AES and Canvas also solve different problems.

The #1 problem that AES wants to solve is empowering teachers to do their jobs well.

That includes specific benefits, including:

  1. Providing up-to-date materials
  2. Updating those materials for free
  3. Helping teachers get students certified
  4. Helping teachers manage their classrooms
  5. Helping teachers accommodate student diversity

Canvas, on the other hand, solves a broader range of problems in a variety of different ways.

The chief benefits to Canvas are organization and structure.

Canvas essentially provides a teacher “sandbox” where you can upload, download, change, and manipulate anything you want within the confines of the application.

Your class is 100% customizable and up to you, which works well for teachers who have changing standards or want to use the latest educational resources.

And speaking of structure, it’s important to note that AES and Canvas are entirely different in terms of their layout.

4. How Are AES & Canvas Structured?

The developers of AES and Canvas have the same goal — they want their digital resource to be as helpful and easy-to-use as possible for teachers.

Still, AES and Canvas pursue that goal in different ways.

For Canvas, the solution is to onboard new teachers with a pop-up tutorial that guides you through essential steps while highlighting all of the options at your fingertips.

1.0-canvas-show-me-howFor AES, the solution is to walk teachers through the process of using the digital curriculum in a step-by-step process.

1.0-aes-create-your-classThis is a very different approach in terms of usability.

For Canvas, you have to follow a series of pop-up messages that force you to walk through a confined set of options. It’s a little confusing since you can see all of your other options at the same time.

So if you want to jump right in and start using a particular feature, you’ll have to go through the tutorial first, which feels a bit long.

For AES, you focus 100% on the task at hand — creating your class(es).

This removes all of the other options from your view so that you can concentrate on completing one step at a time.

That kind of focus provides a convenient and easy progression into the bulk of the AES digital curriculum system, which includes many more features that you can learn as you use them.

But how do you use them?

That’s our final (and most important) question.

5. How Are AES & Canvas Used?

005-how-are-aes-canvas-usedWe’ve talked about some major ways that AES and Canvas are different, but the biggest way they differ is in how teachers use them.

Teachers use AES in a ton of different ways. Generally speaking, they either use it as a core of their curriculum or as a supplement to existing curriculum.

This gives them a wide breadth of options when it comes to things like blended learning, differentiated instruction, and even homework.

Most importantly, you can verify that everything in AES is 100% safe because it’s all proprietary. When a student works in an AES “module,” they’re always in the AES application.

This completely eliminates the possibility of viruses, malware, or inappropriate content popping up into a student’s computer.

For Canvas, the answer is more open-ended.

Teachers often use Canvas as an organizational and structural aid that acts like a series of templates.

So teachers will add existing curriculum to different templates, line it up in order, and go through it during a marking period.

But because Canvas allows so much customization, it’s possible for teachers to link to third-party websites that are vulnerable to hacking, invasive ads, and other online faux pas that your students shouldn’t risk seeing.

After all, if you don’t directly control a website, you’re trusting that website entirely to present consistent, appropriate, and helpful content on a regular basis.

If that website gets hacked or sold, everything could change overnight — without you even knowing it!

So while AES’s uses may be more limited than Canvas, they’re designed to be helpful for the teachers who need it.

Most importantly, AES is designed to be safe for the students who use it.

Canvas takes the same precautions and concerns. But because it’s so customizable, one slip-up is all you need to make a bad (and difficult to explain) situation.

Can AES Help in the Classroom?

Are you wondering if AES can help you in your classroom?

Just take a look at this handy page from AES entitled Problems We Solve.

If you find yourself feeling similar to any of the difficulties on that page (or relating to the quotes from AES users), then give it a try!

See if AES solves your problems now!

Check Out the Problems AES Solves >



About Chris Zook

Chris Zook is a contributing author to the AES blog. He enjoys everything about online marketing, data science, user experience, and corgis.