As the University of Kansas prepares to switch from using Blackboard to Canvas, some classes are using Canvas as a trial period this spring. The transition is expected to go into full effect by the fall of 2024, according to a release from the university.
Canvas is an online learning management system that educators and students use to access and manage online courses and course materials. KU’s current learning management system, Blackboard, has been serving the University for about 20 years, according to a release from the university.
The University of Kansas’ Academic Systems Steering Committee assessed several learning management systems and unanimously recommended Canvas, according to the university. This decision follows the 2020 announcement that Blackboard will no longer support KU’s current platform.
Canvas offers advanced internal communication tools that Blackboard does not, such as video chat.
“I never want to go back to Blackboard,” said professor Casey Franklin of the School of Architecture and Design, who is taking part in the trial.
According to a release from the University, the Academic Systems Steering Committee’s recommendation was endorsed by Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer. This semester, KU Information Technology began its work to transition the university from Blackboard to Canvas.
Professor Franklin applied for the trial because of her previous experience with Canvas.
“I’ve used Canvas before,” Franklin said. “I used to work at the University of Utah, and I was really excited that we were switching over because the user interface is a lot cleaner. It is easier to navigate I think, both for students and professors.”
Professor Franklin said one of her favorite features that Canvas offers is the course summary.
“It shows every single due date in order, whether it’s a quiz or an assignment and it has links to all of them,” Franklin said. “It’s easier to know what’s due and when it’s due.”
Sophomore Kaitlin Salanski, an architecture student, said the course summary is a beneficial feature for students. The feature includes a course description field, assignment list, due date calendar and a weighting summary. Salanski said Canvas was an easy transition for her.
“It’s easier to take quizzes and look at assignments,” Salanski said. “Canvas flows more with Microsoft Teams and it is easier to look up videos on Canvas, where on Blackboard, we had to put all the videos on Teams and the quizzes on Blackboard.”
Professor Szarka of the Business School said the workflow of Canvas was a big improvement from Blackboard.
“I’ve used basically every major LMS [learning management system] at this point, and some do some things well and other things not. So I’d say it’s kind of roughly comparable, but there are definitely some things it does better that I like,” Szarka said.
Szarka applied for the trial because he is in the middle of writing a textbook.
“For me, the most useful [feature] has been creating essentially what [Canvas] calls ‘pages’, that are essentially webpages,” Szarka said. “I’m on the second draft of a textbook that I use to teach this class, so I’m writing it and exporting an HTML and pasting it in, in nice small chunks for my students to read.”
KU is allowing those who are interested to follow updates pertaining to the university’s switch to Canvas as the process progresses.