WSU to transition completely to Canvas in fall

Blackboard to be discontinued; multi-department partnership facilitating transition between platforms



The transition from Blackboard to Canvas was a collaboration between the IT department, Faculty Senate and Academic Outreach and Innovation.

ALEXANDRIA OSBORNE, Evergreen reporter, columnist, copy editor

The WSU system will fully transition from the Blackboard platform to Canvas in the fall semester. 

With current academic technology, WSU is constantly working for the next thing, said Dave Cillay, vice president for Academic Outreach and Innovation.

“There were some limitations that we were experiencing with Blackboard, so we were looking at other tools,” he said. “I’ve been really impressed with the ability of Canvas, [and] the ease of use … Canvas feels very natural.”

WSU was able to test out Canvas in several pilot runs and received positive results from the faculty involved, Cillay said. The pilot was later expanded to include more professors and the results came back positive again, so the transition from Blackboard to Canvas continued. 

“There is no perfect tool,” he said. “But the challenges we were having with Blackboard, we don’t seem to [be having] with Canvas.

IT manager Anden Lewis said the idea to transition to a different learning management system started when faculty members were looking for features that were not possible with Blackboard.

“This initially began from an LMS search perspective to see which LMS could potentially replace Blackboard,” he said. “After some initial research, Canvas was found to meet those needs that were requested by faculty.”

Once the fall semester begins, Blackboard will be discontinued and Canvas will be the LMS for WSU, Cillay said. Professors still have the option to utilize apps like TopHat and iClicker if needed.

“We’re committed to a single learning management system so students and faculty don’t have to navigate to different platforms,” he said.

The transition from Blackboard to Canvas was a collaboration between the IT department, Faculty Senate and Academic Outreach and Innovation, he said.

“This really was the first time that these groups came together to evaluate, select and implement an academic technology for the university,” he said. “That partnership has really created a solid mechanism to introduce new academic technologies to the university.”

When Lewis was still a WSU student, he used the Angel LMS platform and has experience with Blackboard as well. While he has not had the same student experience with Canvas, Lewis worked closely with the platform, he said. 

“I’ve been pretty closely associated with it from my [administrative] side,” he said. “From my experience, it does a lot of things that Blackboard doesn’t. It’s a lot more user-friendly, [and] it provides a mobile app that you can edit content.” 

Although the transition between apps has occurred with relative ease, it is still a big change for the university to go through, Lewis said. There is a lot of communication between the people involved in the transition.

“We’ve gone through multiple semesters of piloting Canvas, working out any questions or issues people might have,” he said. “The biggest benefit of that is we feel really confident in Canvas, given that it’s been used for a few years now.”