Careful consideration has been given to the timeline for the transition to Canvas and its impact to our faculty and students. Academic Technologies staff have partnered with the VCU ALTLab to provide support and training resources throughout the transition. Instructure has dedicated resources as well, working with us to ensure a successful implementation. Blackboard Learn will remain available for use until our contract expires on June 30, 2021.
The implementation of Canvas will be a transition over coming months, and is not an immediate, all-at-once change from Blackboard Learn to Canvas. Currently the plan is to have all new courses, (not previously in Blackboard Learn) created in Canvas. Information will be provided regularly throughout the transition.
VCU's strategic plan, Quest 2025: Together We Transform, emphasizes the university’s commitment to student success and equitable access, and the goal of transforming undergraduate courses. Therefore, in order to best attain these goals, the university will adopt Intructure’s Canvas platform as the primary Learning Management System (LMS) for Virginia Commonwealth University.
Faculty and students expect an LMS that is reliable on mobile devices and can be accessed from nearly any location. VCU requires a system that is robust, reliable and provides a user-friendly experience for the faculty, instructors, staff and students--to be used for online, residential, credit, non-credit, graduate, and undergraduate offerings.
Blackboard Learn has been in use at VCU for nearly 20 years. Enhancements to the original LMS have been marginalized in favor of their new version. With the vendor having changed their competitive direction by releasing Blackboard Ultra, VCU is now in a position to make a decision that’s in the best interest for those that use the LMS.
In late fall 2019 the Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Chief Information Officer agreed to charter a committee to help the university formulate a direction and plans with regards to the centrally supported Learning Management System (LMS) at VCU. The was made up of seventeen voting members, including representatives from Faculty Senate, Equity and Access Services, the Student Government Association, teaching faculty, Online@VCU, and the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence (CTLE).
Because of Canvas’ current use for all programs in the Noodle initiative, the committee carefully considered the advantages and disadvantages of Instructure’s Canvas and Blackboard’s Ultra platforms in terms of usability, features, third-party product support, faculty adoption time and effort, training challenges, cost, and support.
They looked at the results from the spring 2019 faculty test drives, viewed comparison studies, developed and discussed imperative criteria and questions, talked with and surveyed VCU and Virginia Community College System colleagues, and participated in product demonstrations. Given current information about oversight from outside regulatory agencies and input from the Accessibility Administrator, the committee's review also focused on ADA accessibility of the LMS platforms. Staff from the Academic Technologies unit within Technology Services also attended meetings to answer questions and offer their feedback on system functionality from a technical standpoint. Additionally, committee members were provided working access in both systems.
The selection of Canvas as VCU’s primary, supported LMS was made based on the following:
- Most Virginia universities are already using Canvas, or plan to switch to Canvas in the next 1 to 2 years.
- VCCS has switched to Canvas, making it the more familiar system for in-state transfer students.
- Most K-12 systems in Virginia are using Canvas, making it the familiar system for incoming, in-state undergraduate students.
- Canvas’s Catalog features allows for non-VCU community members and continuing education students to access Canvas courses. This makes courses designed for additional revenue easily available to potential non-degree seeking students.
- The findings of the faculty LMS Test Drive sessions from both VCU campuses:
- 72% of the study participants indicated they preferred Canvas
- Only 8% preferred Blackboard Ultra
- 19% reported they had no preference in LMS
- No school or college preferred Blackboard Ultra over Canvas, and preference was spread evenly across all areas of study represented.
* It is also of interest to note that a faculty member’s usual teaching modality (that is, whether faculty taught primarily face-to-face, blended, or online) was not a significant predictor of LMS choice. Regardless of modality, faculty preferred Canvas.
- Clean look and ease of use
- Inclusion of a built-in accessibility checker
- Functional and readable pages when zoomed to 200%
- Mobile user-friendly, allowing for accessible online digital grading
Technological & Academic Considerations
- Integrates well with the Google for Education Suite
- Calendar tool syncs up with students’ personal calendar, iCal feed
- Allows for more effective commenting capability in the Speedgrader tool
- Permits sharing and discussing grades with students individually
- Ability to perform grade-passback with custom integrations
- Allows students to calculate their total grade by entering hypothetical grades for assignments
- Allows users to customize their VCU username to display a preferred or "goes by" name
- Canvas is already being used by all VCU programs that have contracts with Noodle Partners.