Canvas will replace Blackboard by December 2013

Faculty and students are in the midst of a University-wide migration — from one learning management system to another.

During the next 18 months, faculty and students will transition from Blackboard to Canvas, an open-source learning management system created by Infrastructure, said John Ellinger, the University’s Chief Information Officer.

The migration will be complete by December 2013, when students will no longer have access to Blackboard.

The decision to look into alternatives for Blackboard began after an initial thought to upgrade Blackboard, Ellinger said. The version the University is using is three versions behind the most current one available.

A pilot Canvas program began in spring 2012, including 94 faculty and staff members with 3,400 students in 140 classes, according to the University’s website.

Ellinger said 75 percent of faculty and 78 percent of students rated Canvas as “satisfactory” or “very satisfactory.”

The faculty in the pilot group were self-selected, which means they essentially volunteered for it, Ellinger said.

“[It takes] a lot of effort to do one version upgrade, and when you have two or three versions why not look and see what’s out there?” he said.

Canvas is open-source software, which means it is not owned by a single company, and from a tech standpoint it is “exciting,” Ellinger said.

A big advantage of Canvas is the high level of communication between the University and the company that runs it, Ellinger said.

Another plus is the turnaround time for maintenance, he said.

Blackboard is updated every three months, with every other update focusing on function and technology, which means every six months the University received a function update or a technology update, he said. With Canvas, the system receives updates, patches and fixes every two weeks.

Canvas also runs on the Amazon Cloud system, which allots 500 megabytes of storage to each person with options up to 1.5 gigabytes.

The information and links on the left-hand side of a student’s MyBGSU, which includes things like “Student Center” and “Bursar Services,” will remain unchanged for now, Ellinger said.

Although attitudes toward the switch have been generally positive, Ellinger said he expects some critics.

“Some people still like Blackboard,” he said. “People are people; I don’t expect people to like everything.”

Nonetheless, Ellinger said he still feels the transition is a step forward.

“I think Canvas is an excellent tool that gets students and faculty a common platform in which to learn and assess,” he said.

Stephen Langendorfer, a faculty member in kinesiology, participated in the pilot group. He is teaching two courses on Canvas this semester.

“[Canvas] is just set up different and takes some getting used to,” he said.

Langendorfer is also a proponent for Canvas and particularly likes its grading system.

“[It] takes minutes to grade papers; it literally saves you hours and hours,” he said.

Most of his students have managed Canvas adequately, and then some, Langendorfer said.

“Most students have picked it up quite nice and have even given me tips about things they’ve found,” he said.

Dominic Scott, an education major, said he hasn’t had trouble using Canvas and he likes its grading features as well, which allow students to see rubrics with projects to see how things are graded.

Scott took a course in Canvas last spring and is taking one this fall.

“I think Blackboard is pretty good already,” Scott said. “But so many things have changed since I got here. I think it will be better for students in the long run though.”

Communication tools are much better than those offered in Blackboard, Langendorfer said.

“The people who designed Canvas are 20-somethings and they designed it like social media,” he said.

WORKSHOPS

The University is offering workshops for faculty, graduate students, instructors and adjuncts twice a day throughout September for Canvas.

To sign up, visit webapp.bgsu.edu/pstrain.

Dates: Sept. 13, 17, 19 and 21

Time: 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.