Erasing Blackboard

Ferris’ change to Canvas from Blackboard is met with optimism and some confusion

After 14 years of Blackboard, Ferris has chosen to transition to a new learning management system.

The decision to replace Blackboard was made by a review board of 34 faculty members who reviewed several Learning Management Systems before choosing Instructure’s Canvas to succeed Blackboard.

“Ferris State University has been using Blackboard for 14 years and since our contract expires at the end of June 2020, it was the perfect time to complete a comprehensive review of the most popular Learning Management Systems (LMS) available,” Ferris’ Executive Director for Online Learning at Ferris, Amy Greene, said.

“With this in mind, a committee of faculty representing every college at the university organized an LMS review last fall. As part of this process the committee tested Blackboard’s Ultra, D2L’s Brightspace and Instructure’s Canvas. The committee also solicited feedback from Ferris students through surveys distributed during open sessions for each LMS. After the votes were tabulated, Canvas was chosen by faculty and students to be the new LMS for Ferris.”

A variety of factors aimed at bene ting students and staff were considered when it came to the switch.

“Canvas was created on a new and more modern infrastructure, so it integrates much better with existing Ferris systems. That means fewer glitches and errors. Canvas also places special emphasis on ease-of-use, faculty and student access, and a robust student app. In addition, Canvas also provides 24-hour support for faculty, staff, and students. They don’t have quotas for calls, have no time-limits for addressing problems or answering questions, and are actually fun to talk to,” Greene said.

“Basically, Canvas has better customer service, is newer, and works better with the systems already in place at Ferris,” Greene explained.

The switch to Canvas hasn’t been a completely smooth one, though.

While Greene said that the switch was a “cost-neutral” one, it will take time to completely transition Learning Management Systems. Over the course of the next year, students may have classes using either Blackboard or Canvas, so they have to make sure that they’re paying attention to both systems.

“Over 80% of all courses at Ferris use the LMS in some capacity,” Greene said. “In an effort to minimize frustration and maximize user-experience, the eLearning Department decided to implement a 3-semester transition to Canvas. This timeline allows for faculty and student training, realistic support services for faculty migrating content, and personal and professional preferences for how to handle the transition.”

This may be causing some headaches to students and professors alike, however it will likely be better for Ferris in the long run.

“I don’t know a lot about [Canvas]” Ferris Associate Professor of Creative Writing Jon Taylor said, “I haven’t tried it yet…”

As for students, some are finding the mix of systems a bit confusing, particularly for new freshmen.

“I’d prefer to have everything to be all on one system…[it’s] less confusing when everything is in one place,” Ferris construction management freshman Bailey Woodruff said. “I have classes on both. I’d rather they all be on one.”