In an internal email acquired by the Torch sent to St. John’s faculty on May 27, the University indicated that the university will be making the switch from Blackboard to Canvas beginning in the fall 2020 semester. The email, from Provost and VP for Academic Affairs Simon Geir Møller, detailed the Canvas switch and what it means for faculty.
The University will be transitioning to Canvas from Blackboard for its learning management system (LMS), according to the email. Møller anticipates the University will be “phasing out Blackboard gradually through Spring 2021.” The University will also be utilizing Canvas as the primary LMS platform as part of the expansion of online and hybrid courses due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A login page for St. John’s Canvas service has been established, and a component for Canvas has been added to the St. John’s University Connect mobile app in its most recent update.
“Faculty were informed in late May that the University will begin a gradual switch from Blackboard to Canvas. Blackboard will remain the University’s online Learning Management System (LMS) until we have fully transitioned to Canvas in spring, 2021,” Møller said in a statement to the Torch.
“Canvas—a state-of-the-art instructional tool—is an intuitive system offering full-fledged functionality and versatility. Faculty are already taking online and self-paced courses to help prepare for the fall semester. Tutorials for students are being prepared and will be available as the fall semester approaches.” Møller said.
As expressed in the internal communication, the move comes as the University works to “identify gaps and solutions in course continuity from in-class to online instruction,” among other factors in its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Canvas, while similar to Blackboard, became the most popular LMS in the United States higher-education market in 2018. As a newer LMS, it was developed by Instructure in 2011 and has been seen as sleeker and more user-friendly than Blackboard, which was the standard for LMS platforms in higher education. While Blackboard has attempted to keep up with its fast-growing innovative competitor through redesigns such as Learn Ultra to combat its reputation for an antiquated user interface, St. John’s joins Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Georgetown University, Rice University and Harvard University as part of the growing number of clients using the Instructure ecosystem.
The University also laid out several “modules” of education for faculty in regard to online education, with the simplest being a three-hour, self-paced course delivered via Canvas, which focuses on the fundamentals of its use, along with WebEx. Another one of these modules delivered via Canvas is a six-hour, self-paced course, which “introduces faculty to the baseline skills needed to navigate remote teaching and learning.” Lastly, for faculty planning to teach beyond spring 2021 in a hybrid or online setting, there is a four-week Online Teaching Essentials (OTE) program, which will also be delivered using the new LMS.