Provost Chris VanOrman announced the decision in an email last week, saying that faculty and student focus groups preferred Canvas, due to its consistency and ease of use, when compared with the updated Blackboard.
“The updated Blackboard system, Blackboard Ultra, is significantly different from its predecessor and would require faculty and students to learn a new LMS,” VanOrman wrote. “Since the college has been using Blackboard for many years, it was time to look around the marketplace and determine what LMS would work best for Hillsdale College.”
Blackboard is an online system which enables students to submit papers digitally, post on class discussion boards, check grades, and download course materials all in one location. The college began reviewing modern learning management systems (LMS) after it learned that Blackboard Learn was to be retired for the updated system Blackboard Ultra, according to VanOrman. After conducting research and getting feedback from faculty and students, the task force for exploring new systems chose Instructure Canvas.
ITS Manager Heidi Bargerhuff said the timing of the transition coincides with the task force coming to a final decision and the upcoming summer break.
“The college believed it was a good time to step back, examine the LMS needs of the students and faculty, explore the LMS marketplace, and determine which LMS would best fit the college’s needs for the foreseeable future,” Bargerhuff said in an email.
According to Bargerhuff, Canvas is modern and has more accessible functions.
“Its more modern structure offers task efficiencies that mimic other modern systems you use on a regular basis, thus making the learning curve — though steep for some — easier to handle,” Bargerhuff said. “Also, the mobile app for Canvas provides more usable functions to view course content, post content, and communicate with the instructor.”
Senior Isabella Biernat said that while Blackboard can be annoying, it served her purposes when she needed to use it for discussions and assignment submissions.
“I think when used efficiently, Blackboard is fine, and I’m the grumpy old senior who doesn’t like change,” Biernat said.
Senior Miriam Barry said the most inconvenient thing about Blackboard is its format.
“The grades just don’t make sense,” Barry said. “It’s a whole challenge to go and find. The way it organizes things doesn’t make sense, because it’ll give you notifications in different spots.”
Chairwoman and Professor of Art Barbara Bushey said the task force determined that Canvas’s format was superior to Blackboard’s.
“They thought that there was a stronger and more accessible engineering backup with Canvas,” she said.
Though she initially liked Brightspace, another competitor presented to the focus group she was a part of, Bushey said anything will be better than Blackboard.
“Carving things in stone would be easier than Blackboard,” she said.