This summer, the College began a year-long learning management system transition from Blackboard to Canvas.
The transition comes after a years-long process of evaluating and comparing various interfaces for college use. Product piloting of both Canvas and Blackboard began during the 2018-2019 school year, with the College ultimately deciding to pursue a three-year contract with Blackboard. Last year, in preparation for the contract’s end, the College began piloting Canvas again.
“There were two dozen courses and faculty with more than 600 students using Canvas. While we had anticipated running courses in Canvas only in the Fall of 2021, many of the faculty were so happy with Canvas we opened it up for them to use in the Spring of 2022,” Senior Director for Academic Technology & Consulting Stephen Houser said.
Houser also cited Canvas’s more advanced technology as a reason behind the switch.
“Blackboard’s user interface was developed some time ago and was falling behind modern web standards. More importantly, it was not as mobile-friendly as more modern interfaces are,” Houser said.
Sajel Surati ’25 and Linguo Ren ’25 were two of the students responsible for implementing the College’s software switch.
“It was mostly just comparing classes between Blackboard and Canvas and making sure everything was in the right place, that all the videos and files were formatted in the correct way and making sure that it was accessible for both students and faculty” Ren said. “[Canvas] is more accessible. It’s more 2020’s technology than 2000’s technology.”
Despite finding the process to be tedious and time consuming, Surati ultimately believes that the College made the right decision
“[Transitioning files to Canvas] was a lot of going back and forth with the Canvas page on one side [of the screen] and Blackboard on the other and making sure everything was right. It was sort of annoying at times,” Surati said. “From the teacher’s perspective, it’s a lot better, and it’s much more user-friendly. It has a much better presentation.”
Some students, like Sawyer Gouldman ’23, haven’t felt a tangible difference between the two softwares.
“I’m not too familiar with Canvas, but so far it seems alright in my classes,” Gouldman said. “Really though, to me, it’s not much of a difference.”
Other students have noticed these new software changes, appreciating the features of Canvas that Blackboard lacked.
“I like Canvas,” Alex Washburn ’25 said. “I appreciate the layout. I think the biggest impact for me is that it’s easy to see my upcoming assignments; I definitely missed a few when we were using Blackboard.”
Tej Dhingra ’25 is equally optimistic about the new education infrastructure.
“I’m a big fan,” Dhingra said. “I used Canvas all throughout high school, and I think it’s a lot better [than Blackboard], because the calendar view makes it easier to know what [assignments] you have when, and [it’s easier] to submit comments on discussion forums. I think Blackboard sometimes wasn’t as compatible with STEM classes and submitting problem sets.”
Blackboard will still be officially available to students and faculty until June 30, 2023, as placement tests and other information is still housed there.