University considering Blackboard replacement

Three meetings allowed students to test a new software that could replace Blackboard this summer.

Carli Tegtmeier, National Director of the Enterprise Higher Ed Sales at Instructure, Inc., which sells Canvas, introduced the system at a town hall meeting in the Student Center on Jan 25. JENNY CHOI FOR THE TEMPLE NEWS

Computer Services held three town hall-style meetings at Kiva Auditorium between Ritter Hall and Ritter Annex last Wednesday to get feedback on whether the university should switch from Blackboard to Canvas.

The meetings included presentations to students, faculty and administration about Canvas, a learning management system for teachers and students to organize classwork and assignments.

Computer Services assembled the Learning Management Selection Committee to evaluate Canvas’ viability as a replacement for Blackboard, which students have been using to see grades, access classwork and organize their courses.

“It’s a best practice to regularly review technology platforms to ensure the best solutions for the university,” said Mark Haubrich, director of information technology with Computer Services. “The [Learning Management System] hasn’t been evaluated for a number of years. A lot has changed in the higher education [Learning Management System] market.”

Although Computer Services updated Blackboard, Temple’s current Learning Management System, in August 2016, the university’s contract with Blackboard will expire in Summer 2018, Haubrich said. Canvas is one of the leading Learning Management System providers with Blackboard, which made it appealing to the university, he added.

Nicole Westrick, the associate vice provost of University College and a member of the LMS selection committee, is part of a pilot of the Canvas system. She teaches using Canvas in a few of her classes at Temple.

Computer Services reached out to faculty members across all schools and selected some to participate in the pilot program by using Canvas in their Spring 2017 classes. Participating professors will fill out surveys about the program as the semester progresses. These surveys will inform the Learning Management Selection Committee so the members can choose a learning management system.

“We’re in our second week [of the pilot] and we’re trying lots of things, sort of experimenting with the discussion board functionality and taking notes through the Canvas application,” Westrick said. “It’s hard to say right now but so far the feedback’s been very positive.”

The university wants to integrate more external tools, like calendars and outside links, into the Learning Management System, Haubrich said.

“[Canvas is] integrated so [students] can download a full schedule to their calendars,” Westrick said. “It lets them use contemporary technology, like texting, and the messaging is very useful back and forth. The ease of building your assignments and having students be able to see all at once what the semester looks like is much more effective.”

“I am sort of getting tired of Blackboard, so I wouldn’t mind a switch,” said Munjal Mahida, a junior information technology major “Sometimes when you drop a class, like, during the first two weeks, it doesn’t automatically drop it from Blackboard so you get grades from it and then you start to get worried that you’re still in the class.”

“I use Canvas for my project management class right now and it seems pretty organized,” Mahida said.

Computer Services will make a decision about Canvas this summer, Haubrich said

“If Canvas [is selected] as a replacement Learning Management System for Blackboard, the migration could start as early as Fall 2018,” Haubrich said. “However, it could take up to two years to completely switch over to the new system.”

“It will be a little confusing for some people, but they’ll eventually catch on to it,” Mahida said. “Probably the first year, if they switch over, it’ll probably be annoying, but I’m sure they’ll catch on to it.”

Amanda Lien can be reached at or on Twitter @amandajlien.

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