Students stuck between Canvas, Blackboard

Although some students are confused by the switch, Canvas has received an “overwhelmingly positive” response across campus.

Sophomore marketing major John Parkinson uses Canvas to manage his classes at the Samuel Paley Library on Polett Walk. | MARIA DIPIETRO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

At the beginning of Fall 2017, some students voiced their frustration about the transition from Blackboard to Canvas on social media and among each other.

With about 60 percent of the courses still being taught using Blackboard and the other 40 percent now being taught using Canvas, many students are currently using both learning management systems to navigate their courses this semester. Juggling between the two systems is leaving many students confused.

“I generally think it’s kind of confusing in a sense that I have to go on both to do both homework assignments,” said Ian Vela, a sophomore business major. “I could see myself running into a few problems here and there trying to access both sites.”

This echoes the sentiment from many students surrounding the change.

“With any migration with two or more applications, there is going to be some confusion,” said Mark Haubrich, the director of information technology.

Cindy Leavitt, the vice president for Computer Services and Temple’s chief information officer, said her office did “anticipate there would be some confusion with students.”

Students were alerted that both learning management systems would be used in an email from Provost JoAnne Epps before Fall 2017.

“We are really relying on the professors letting the students know where they are going,” Leavitt added. “We tried to communicate with the students. [I] don’t know how well we did that.”

Although the transition has caused students to complain, the user experience of Canvas seems to have been received well, Leavitt said.

“We have been amazed at the overwhelmingly positive response that we’ve gotten from across campus,” she added.

While most of the general concern is centered around students getting used to the transition, many professors are teaching for the first time on Canvas.

Keith Gumery, an English professor, has more experience teaching with Canvas than the average professor. He teaches online courses for Temple in addition to living and teaching at an educational institution in Copenhagen, Denmark.

“We switched from Blackboard to Canvas last year,” he said. “It was good timing because I actually liked using Canvas.”

Gumery was also a part of the Canvas pilot program at Temple during Spring 2017 and taught two courses online using the learning management system. He said his students found Canvas “easier to navigate” than Blackboard.

Gumery said Canvas relies more on “intuitive” use because there are fewer layers to dig through to access different elements than there are on Blackboard.

“As an instructor, you can make the site actually more visibly appealing,” he said. “You can embed images and video and audio much more easily than I could in Blackboard.”

“I think once the first couple of weeks of the semester are over and everyone is used to the system and where their classes are online, I don’t think it will be a problem,” he added.

Temple expects to completely transition from Blackboard to Canvas during Summer 2018.

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