UO replacing Blackboard with Canvas for its "off the charts" approval

Helen Chu has never seen a software test come back with everyone satisfied – except Canvas.

Chu, director of Academic Technology for University of Oregon Libraries, is optimistic about UO’s learning management system switching from Blackboard to Canvas, which begins spring 2015.

The University of Oregon has been using Blackboard since 1999, and the market for learning management systems like Blackboard has changed drastically since its founding.

“Our students, our faculty and our GTFs are much more experienced with using technology and we have a much higher expectation of it,” Chu said. “If you think about all of the things that we expect an LMS to do now, they were completely foreign back then.”

According to Chu, the ending of the Blackboard contract allowed the university to make a thoughtful and deliberate decision to determine which LMS would best meet the needs of the UO community.

Chu is part of the task force charged with choosing new LMS software, and they chose Canvas because of the high approval rating.

“In my career, I’ve never seen tests for software come back with no one dissatisfied with it, and all the faculty and GTFs who responded were not dissatisfied,” Chu said. “They had an overall 89% satisfaction rating –that’s off the charts for software testing.”

Sophomores Kelsey Bleck and Sam Valdez were enrolled in MUS 133 during spring term last year, one of the classes that tested Canvas. After using Canvas for a term, Bleck was pleased with the new software.

“With Canvas, the layout was much better,” Bleck said. “There were a lot less menus. With Canvas, you can just click and go.” According to Chu, a part of the criteria for the new LMS was that it would be more intuitive, and there were many ways to measure that aspect of intuition.

“How many clicks does it take to get to something?” Chu said. “Do you know where to find it? How long do you have to wait until something actually happens? So, how much time per day do you, as a student or a faculty member, spend just trying to navigate the interface to get to the real work that you’re trying to do?”

Bleck found that Canvas met his needs as a student, and supported UO’s decision to switch.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Bleck said. “I don’t exactly know how it’s going to proceed once it’s locked and loaded, but I think it’s a good decision to switch over to Canvas.”

While Valdez was not dissatisfied with Canvas, he did not agree with the decision to switch.

“I don’t think it’s a significant enough difference between Blackboard and Canvas for it to be a worthwhile switch,” Valdez said. “It didn’t seem like Canvas blew Blackboard out of the water for me. I think to justify switching everything over, you need something that’s significantly better.”

The use of Canvas in UO courses is anticipated to begin in spring 2015. While an exact timeline of the transition has not yet been determined, the university is working to make the switch as seamless as possible.

“We’re going to do as much as we can to make the process easy for everybody,” Chu said.

Follow Francesca Fontana on Twitter @francescamarief

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Francesca Fontana

Francesca Fontana

Francesca is the associate news editor for community news.
She worked as The Register-Guard's 2015 Snowden Intern, and studies journalism and economics.