Transition from Blackboard to Canvas begins

September 11th, 2014



Students and faculty alike have been talking about the current switchover from the familiar Blackboard system to Canvas, a new learning management system being introduced this semester. The 2014-2015 school year will be used as a transition period for the change in systems. Some classes will be displayed on Canvas while others remain in Blackboard, depending upon the teacher.


Jim Burke, Associate Chief Information Officer at John Carroll, spearheaded the committee that decided to change to Canvas. After exploring six total options, Burke is confident that Canvas will best serve the university.


“Canvas is a new system which has been built to easily integrate with social media,” said Burke. “This makes it easier for students to integrate the learning management system into their daily lives. Canvas is more intuitive than Blackboard and easily integrates with many other systems to provide a collaborative learning experience.”


Brent Brossman, associate professor in the Tim Russert Department of Communication and Theatre Arts, was a member of the committee headed by Burke and he admitted it was a unanimous decision, with all 19 members agreeing to switch to Canvas.


“When communicating with other universities that had made the switch from Blackboard to Canvas, there went from being about a 50 percent usage rate from professors to over 80 percent,” Brossman said.


According to Brossman, the main goal of making a change in learning management systems was to “maximize student educational experience and faculty usage.” Brossman also emphasized the need for assessments and how Canvas was a great tool for this.


“In order to meet the departmental learning goals that have been outlined in the various syllabi, it’s important to conduct more assessments and Canvas has additional tools for rubrics to help with this.”


This does not mean giving students more grades, but rather evaluating whether or not they are learning what is outlined in the syllabi. With the switchover being a brand-new phenomenon to every student, inevitable frustration arose.


Senior Tracy Gibson expressed her frustration with the switchover in her final year at John Carroll. “I feel very overwhelmed with Canvas,” she said. “It’s really hard as a senior because we’re graduating before all the teachers switch over so we’re sort of just stuck in the middle.”


Sophomore Stephen Leous agreed. “I just don’t see why we needed the switch. Blackboard worked just fine in my opinion.”


Junior Frankie Caponi had a more optimistic opinion about the transition. “From what I’ve heard, Canvas is a better system overall. Of course, it’s confusing with some teachers still using Blackboard, but I think it will be better for John Carroll in the long run.”


Whether you are confused, annoyed, or excited about the new change in learning management systems, there are many resources available to help ease students and faculty alike through this year-long transition.


“Canvas has a robust online help center populated with many articles and videos to help students and faculty to learn the system,” said Burke.


Editor’s note: You can find the help center here:   The Center for Digital Media (CDM), a division of JCU ITS, is offering in-person orientation sessions for students who would like assistance learning how to use Canvas.  You can find the schedule for these sessions on the CDM website:”