Temple to switch to Canvas this fall

The university will get rid of Blackboard and begin the transition to a new learning management system.

An "American History" course example on Temple's new learning management system, Canvas. The university will begin transitioning to Canvas instead of Blackboard in Fall 2017.

The university will begin use of Canvas, a new learning management system, in Fall 2017. Canvas will replace the university’s former LMS, Blackboard Learn.

The transition to Canvas will happen during the 2017-18 academic year. Summer 2018 courses are expected to use the new LMS. The university will continue to be under contract with Blackboard Learn during the transition, but the contract will end June 1, 2018.

The university will now be under two contracts with two different LMSs until the entire university switches to Canvas.

“We are essentially double-paying for the transition period,” said Cindy Leavitt, vice president of Computer Services. “One of the reasons why we care about making the transition quickly is financial.”

Computer Services Director of Information Technology Mark Haubrich said extending the contract with Blackboard Learn is “on the table,” but they are trying not to extend the contract past its expiration.

“We’re trying to push everybody to go to Canvas sooner rather than later,” he said.

Haubrich added Computer Services is trying to get as many schools and colleges at the university to make the switch from Blackboard to Canvas this fall. The schools and colleges that don’t switch will make the transition in the spring.

Leavitt said transferring data and course information from Blackboard Learn to Canvas is going to be a challenge “that will take time and effort.”

“With any new software, there is going to be a learning curve,” she added.

Temple’s contract with Canvas includes 24/7 mobile and online support for faculty who have trouble using the LMS, Leavitt said. The Center for the Advancement of Teaching, Temple’s on-campus resource facility for faculty, will also have on-campus support, which will include walk-in clinics and online courses for faculty to use.

Haubrich said Computer Services is considering having classes for students where they can learn about the new LMS this fall.

He added that Canvas’ website has training tools for students, like informational guides and videos.  

“I am assured by the people who were in the pilot that the learning curve is not as high as when we first went to Blackboard,” Leavitt said.

Last fall, Computer Services formed a LMS selection committee and conducted a university-wide pilot of different LMSs, according to Computer Services’ LMS evaluation report.

Eighteen faculty members from different schools and colleges were selected for the pilot. The faculty members taught online courses, face-to-face courses and hybrid courses.

According to the surveys and focus groups from students in the pilot of Canvas, some students favored Canvas and found it easier to use.

Multiple students found Canvas’ calendar feature and notification feature, which notifies when assignments are due, to be advantages of the LMS, according to the evaluation report.

The calendar feature on Temple’s incoming learning management system. Students will be able to use this feature to see when they have assignments due in their courses.

Students also reported that Canvas made it easier to track your grades throughout the semester.  

Students who were challenged by the new LMS and preferred Blackboard were anonymously quoted in the evaluation report. One student said Canvas was not easy to use or intuitive. Another student said Canvas needed to be simplified, according to the report.

However, feedback from faculty and students was “consistently positive” and the committee “unanimously” recommended the switch to Canvas, according to the report’s executive summary.

Faculty was notified of the switch in June 22. An announcement of the switch should be sent out to students this week, Leavitt said.  

Students can test Canvas by logging into canvas.temple.edu to try sample courses.

Kelly Brennan can be reached at kelly.brennan@temple.edu or on Twitter @_KellyBrennan. The Temple News can be followed on Twitter @TheTempleNews.

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