Blackboard in process of transition to Canvas system

Photo Illustration by Kevin Freeman
Photo Illustration by Kevin Freeman

By Viola Zhou

Despite negative feedback from professors and students regarding the initial introduction to Canvas, Online Teaching and Learning Services staff are confident the transition from Blackboard will eventually find acceptance on campus.

Dr. Sandy Bennett, assistant director of Online Teaching and Learning Services, said about 20 percent of active courses are now on Canvas while 80 percent still use learning management system Blackboard. However, she said this percentage fits the offices projection for this time of year.

“We are satisfied as our goal is 25 percent by the end of this semester,” Bennett said. “We are 20 percent in the first week. We are pretty optimistic that we are going to make our goal.”

Lance Grigsby, senior academic consultant, said the source of negative feelings is based in the common frustration people have with change.

“People like to do the same thing they’ve done,” he said. “This kind of change can be pretty distracting to the way the faculty used to teach their course.”

Bennett said Baylor has seen changes across many systems this year, including the new BearBox, Edublogs and new design of BearWeb.

“A lot are just overwhelmed by the amount of change that comes this spring,” Bennett said.

Grigsby said to counter this, OTLS is trying to provide as many ways as possible for faculty to learn this tool before it is too late.

OTLS has scheduled 18 training seminars this month, with more to come later in the semester. The complete list of dates and locations for seminars is available at

Canvas office hours, 1:30 – 3:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, are also available for faculty and students to ask questions in the OTLS office.

John Lowe, senior academic consultant, said faculty and students can also turn to Tier One Support if they have specific technical questions. This around-the-clock calling service is provided by Instructure, the company Canvas operates under.

“If students can’t figure out how to do something, like they can’t figure out how to turn in a paper at 10:30 at night, they can call the toll free number and have somebody at Instructure to tell them exactly where to click and what to do to turn in that paper,” Lowe said.

In addition, faculty members can request a desktop coaching session on the Canvas portal by filling out a form. Staff from OTLS will come to their offices and give faculty one-on-one tutoring.

Bennett said the team attended a session at the University of Central Florida, which completed the same transition a year ago. The satisfaction statistics there took a big plummet in the first year, but went back after two years.

“I anticipate it here as well,” she said. “I think it’s the nature of the academy to feel that way. It’s the nature of change.”

Canvas has already found support from several students, including Alagbado, Nigeria, freshman Daniel Agu, who said he finds it easier to navigate.

“I’m using Canvas for my English thinking and writing class,” Agu said. “Blackboard is OK, but Canvas is easier to use and more users-friendly. On Canvas you can search people who are also in your class, and Canvas has better background for easy understanding.”

Unlike Blackboard, with a server located on campus, Canvas’ hardware is contained in a cloud provider, which means Information and Technology Services is not in charge of its maintenance.
Canvas also has an update cycle of three weeks compared to Blackboard’s six months.

“If there is a bug, with Blackboard, we may have to wait for a semester before it put out its next version,” Grigsby said. “If there is a bug in Canvas, it could be fixed in three weeks.”

Bennett said OTLS is hoping for half of the courses active on online platforms to make the move to Canvas by spring.

“We work really hard to make sure our faculty are going to be supported through this process,” she said.