GU Transitions From Blackboard

Professors have been transitioning to Canvas – an alternative to learning management system Blackboard – after the university made the system available to all professors for this Fall.

Current students and faculty who use Canvas have reported that while there have been challenges transitioning to the new system’s interface, the system is more flexible than Blackboard.

The university piloted Canvas last spring in several main campus courses, before making the learning management system available to all professors to use for their courses. This fall’s transition to Canvas – which included moving Blackboard courses to Canvas, training teachers and an annual subscription fee – has cost the university $250,000.

Georgetown joins a series schools including the University of Maryland and the University of California, Davis in transitioning to Canvas.

According to Interim Vice President of University Information Services and Chief Information Officer Judd Nicholson, faculty members have been pushing for a more modern, intuitive, and efficient course management system for years. UIS found Canvas to be a suitable alternative for Blackboard.

“Canvas provides a clean, intuitive, and user-friendly interface,” Nicholson wrote in an email to The Hoya. “It was designed from the start to address user expectations for mobile access, improved notification, collaboration, and multimedia support with easy integration to a variety of tools using the latest standards.  As a cloud-based system that is continually updated, it provides an open, stable and scalable platform.”

According to Nicholson UIS plans to survey faculty later this fall to learn more about their experience with the system

“Faculty and student reception and adoption of the new platform will determine how we move forward with the implementation of Canvas and Blackboard,” Nicholson wrote.

Canvas has been well-received by faculty and students alike since its introduction in some classes this fall, according to Nicholson. However, some students and faculty have reported some difficulties in the transition.

“Both faculty and students expressed that Canvas has a learning curve and that faculty need support to be able to effectively and strategically integrate it into their courses,” Nicholson wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Faculty noted specifically that Canvas was responsive, flexible and easy to use.”

Performing arts professor Robynn Stilwell, who was a part of the spring pilot program, has switched all of her courses to Canvas. Stilwell said she has appreciated Canvas’ flexibility over Blackboard.

“I’m actually really excited about Canvas, as much as you can be with something like that,” Stilwell said. “I’ve felt that Blackboard for a while has been okay, it’s been useful, but it hasn’t been as flexible as I would’ve liked whereas Canvas allows me to do a lot more a lot quicker than I could do with Blackboard.”

Leigh Ann Fairley (COL ’19), whose history professor uses Canvas, said that the transition to Canvas has been challenging because of a lack of training for students.

“My history teacher puts all course materials on Canvas but has not explained to us how to use Canvas,” Fairley said. “So I have no idea how to access any of the materials for class and it’s very frustrating.

Stilwell said Canvas is more intuitive than Blackboard and will become the preferred learning management system for Professors once the Georgetown community as a whole gets more comfortable with how it works.

“What I find is that [Canvas] is a lot more instinctive than Blackboard, you still have to look up how to do things but it’s not as old fashioned as Blackboard,” Stilwell said.

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