After a three-year pilot program, the university is making a switch from Blackboard to Canvas starting May 2019.

While the university has been using Blackboard for more than 15 years, surveys from the pilot program found more students and faculty preferred Canvas.

“It is more of a modern interface,” said Dan Jones, an instructional consultant in the division of online and strategic learning. “The students that we asked about which one they preferred it was always Canvas because of the way it looked.”

Out of the nearly 13,000 students who participated in the pilot program, 74 percent said they would prefer to keep using Canvas. Out of the 231 faculty members who participated, 83 percent said they preferred Canvas to Blackboard.

Jones said the switch would provide the university population with a lot of benefits as Canvas is media friendly — allowing professors to give video feedback — is easy to navigate and has 24-hour support.

“It has 24/7 support for the students and for the faculty and it’s just been great,” he said. “They’ve got toll free phone numbers as well as a chat that people can use to get help any time that they need. Blackboard had dropped the 24/7 support on us so that hurt us in some of our online course rankings.”

Additionally, Canvas has an app for both iPhone and Android users that allows them to check their grades and view impending due dates as well as a built in calendar that informs students of upcoming assignments.

“One of the bigger complaints from students that we’d always hear is that they want to be able to use their phones to check their grades, look at when due dates are coming up and now they’ll be able to do that with Canvas,” Jones said.  

In the two semesters leading up to the change, faculty members will have the option of running their classes in either learning management system (LMS), though it is recommended they run at least one of their courses in the fall semester and fully switch over by spring 2019 when all access to Blackboard and any course information in the system will be lost.

“There is just a faculty learning curve,” said Sue Husted, curriculum design and scholarship of teaching and learning specialist. “There may be some hiccups as they get used to things, because things are different and buttons are in different places, but I think things will all work out in the end, it’s just learning a new system.”

Additionally, Husted said the university compared the accessibility factor of Canvas to Blackboard and found both had one of the highest compatibility ratings possible, however Jones said Canvas does have one feature Blackboard did not.

“Canvas does have a new feature they’ve added recently called an accessibility checker,” he said. “So when faculty put new things into the text boxes within the course they can click a button to run an accessibility checker to make sure they aren’t using fonts or colors that are hard to read.”

There was a slight price difference between the two systems, Jones said, but he wanted to make sure the university was using which program was best for the students.

“The final determination was not based on cost, it was based on what’s better for our students, what’s better for our faculty,” he said. “So, although price was a consideration, of course, it was not one of the final determining factors, it was more about usability and student and faculty concerns and feedback.”

Contact Brynn Mechem with comments at bamechem@bsu.edu or on Twitter @BrynnMechem.