Information Item# 6: Submitted by the Campus Technology Committee (2015/2016-Apr)


Recommendation on CANVAS Opt-In




Date: February 29, 2016

Donna Mohr, Chair

Campus Technology Committee
To:  Earle Traynham, Provost
Copy:         Len Roberson, AVP
Re: Recommendation on CANVAS Opt-In

The Campus Technology Committee gives its qualified approval for a shift to Canvas from Blackboard. Our approval is based on a widespread sentiment that Canvas offers a more stable platform than Blackboard, with a more modern and powerful interface both through mobile devices and computers. 


Our approval is contingent on

  • a replacement for SafeAssign
  • robust support for faculty during the migration.


A dependable anti-plagiarism tool is essential. There has been considerable criticism of SafeAssign, and many faculty would prefer something such as TurnItIn. However, this will represent an additional cost that absolutely must be paid.


Please do not underestimate the difficulty of the transition. Even committee members who view Canvas as a superior product expressed concern about the migration.  Course materials simply will not transfer over at the press of a few buttons. The learning curve will be steep, because Canvas is arranged in a much different way. Canvas maintains much of the functionality of Blackboard, but without quite the ability to customize. Some faculty have described its interface as more intuitive, but those of us who have invested the energy to learn Blackboard do not necessarily agree. Ironically, faculty who have spent the most effort developing materials in Blackboard may be the ones most discomfited by a shift.


Faculty fear of the change is, therefore, not without cause. It will help if the administration can create a positive attitude, stressing the advantages of Canvas. During the transition, a strong support system will be essential and much of this burden will fall on CIRT. Among other ideas, we suggested a replacement for TOL 4100, a new template for online courses, and prioritization for one-on-one support to migrate materials, all to be available as soon as possible.  Overall, Academic Affairs will need to extend a sympathetic and supportive attitude towards faculty who will be in a stressful situation.


I have summarized the more technical points of our analysis in a table. I want to thank the faculty who took the time to work in Canvas and give their analysis: Diana Tanner, Georgette Dumont, Gordon Rakita, Jose Franco, Robb Waltner, Tammie Johnson, Ching-hua Chuan, John Ouyang and John McEldowney. Deb Miller and her staff, particularly Ross Bell, were extremely helpful.


Faculty volunteers were given CANVAS accounts with which to experiment. We focused on areas of the LMS that are most frequently used.


Summary of comments


Works fine in Canvas. Students have the option of receiving announcements as a text message which is an improvement over Blackboard. They also have the option of turning off all notifications, which is probably a bad idea.


Minor loss of functionality in that weighting within categories is only proportional. Has tools like ‘drop lowest’. Somewhat more clicks needed as creating columns is not in the Gradebook menu, but the Assignment menu. Gradebook has a default ordering that is more sensible than B’b, but cannot be changed. Upload/download of Gradebook is supported.

Creating Assessments

All the basic options seemed to be present. Faculty reported that they liked Canvas’ support for peer reviewing, and the way it allows the instructor to restrict file types that can be loaded. And we can use Greek letters!

Mobile apps

Canvas seems to be far ahead of B’b in terms of its mobile apps. This does not guarantee that all courses will show up well – some thought still has to be given to the design.


Rubrics seemed to be easy to create in Canvas, but importing rubrics from Blackboard did not work.


Most of us used the discussion tool to post our comments and it worked well once the attachments were enabled. However, the webcam tool only worked with certain browsers.


no comments


Reviewers found this generally easier to use than Collaborate in B’b. It required fewer plug-ins and it was easier to get to your conference. It worked better with some browsers than others, but has a higher number of desktops that can be shared. It has a standard set of marking tools available, with the noticeable exception of a highlighter. Powerpoint files with special characters (math, Chinese) did not display properly.


uncertain that it will track student attempts and time, anecdotal evidence that it does

Publisher Integrations

support for clickers, Pearson, McGraw-Hill all seem to be present

Video creations/Publishing

It seems to work well for embedding video or other media in discussions and assignments. However, as noted above, creating video using Canvas’ tool requires certain browsers.

Variety of platforms and connections

It is NOT indifferent to the choice of browser. Many editing tools would not show up in Internet Explorer and the video tool would only work with certain browsers. Otherwise worked well on both Windows and Mac, both wired and wireless.

Usefulness of help

Many short tutorials available which were helpful (if you bother to look)


Many faculty comments along the lines of it being more intuitive, however, it is so different from Blackboard that if you are used to B’b, you may not agree.


Some faculty tried going through the process of importing a course from Blackboard to Canvas. No one had complete success. It usually would transfer documents, but would not arrange them in anything like the intended organization. Video materials would not transfer automatically at all.