Faculty prepare as transition from Blackboard to Canvas wraps up


Samantha Ketterer

Friday is the last day for instructors to create a course on Blackboard, in what will be the last semester for the online system before the University makes the full transition to Canvas. 

The University officially began phasing out Blackboard, another learning management system, in fall 2013. In the fall 2015 semester, Blackboard will no longer be an option, and Canvas will be used entirely in its place.

“Our goal is to have everyone on Canvas this summer,” said Brad Englert, chief information officer for UT Information Technology Services. “We’ve been reaching out and using support to help with the transition.”

Of the roughly 3,000 instructors using a learning management system on campus, 222 courses were housed on Blackboard this semester, Englert said.

IT Services began phasing out Blackboard for Canvas after the Course and Learning Management Evaluation Steering Committee conducted a survey in which a majority of students and faculty said they preferred Canvas, according to a September 2013 Daily Texan article. 

According to Englert, one of the driving forces behind making the switch to Canvas was creating a more user-friendly interface for students and faculty.

“I think people appreciate the look and feel, the intuitive nature of Canvas,” Englert said. “It’s not as clunky as Blackboard.” 

Drew Thornley, a lecturer in the McCombs School of Business, who has used Blackboard this semester, said he does not use material from Blackboard in class enough to merit making a switch before it is required.

“I don’t care about the functionality of one versus the other,” Thornley said. “I post the syllabus, I email my class, and I post grades. So I never really gave it much thought.”

Thornley, who accepted a tenured position at another college for the fall, said he would have made the switch come fall semester. 

“If I stayed, I would have gone to a tutorial and never complained and learned how to use it,” Thornley said. “I’m not trying to be defiant. I’m not more important than anybody else. … I’m used to [Blackboard], so why not use it?” 

IT Services, which operates Canvas, provides services to faculty and staff to aid in the transition and learn how to effectively use the system. According to Englert, the Center for Teaching and Learning is the primary source for Canvas tutorials, workshops and office hours. It also operates a 24/7 help desk.

Kyle Doherty, a radio-television-film sophomore, said he prefers Canvas over Blackboard, although he said he felt a two-year transition was too long.

“I think [IT Services] definitely overhyped it a little,” Doherty said. “I think they could have made it a quicker transition, and everyone would have been OK with it.”

Correction: This story has been amended since its original publication. Professors will not have the ability to request summer courses on Blackboard. They will still be able to retrieve information from the platform before it closes entirely in August.