OPINION: Canvas a better choice for WSU

WSU's slow transition to canvas is a more accessible option for students

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OPINION: Canvas a better choice for WSU




ANTHONY TORCHIA, Evergreen columnist

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If you are currently a student here, there is often a very likely chance that you have experienced Blackboard, which is the standard learning management system in use on all WSU campuses. This online software, to which each student and professor has an account and access, houses information, assignments and means of communication between students, as well as between students and staff.

WSU adopted Blackboard in 2015, and since then the learning management system has become a significant facet of the educational experience here, as it provides spaces for professors to include materials and information for each of their classes. Such things include the class syllabus, lectures, assignments, exams and announcements for each class. Students with entirely online classes rely on Blackboard for the entirety of each online class, making use of the learning management system critical to these students.

However, students also know the reality of using and relying on Blackboard for their college education. Some of the practical issues that this reality includes are inconvenient maintenance downtimes, slow loading times and a discrepancy between student grades posted on Blackboard and the MyWSU portal. Additionally, Blackboard lacks the ability to properly integrate with WSU’s PeopleSoft Student Information System, which causes further compatibility issues and general usability concerns.

Due to these issues presented by university-wide use of Blackboard, in 2018, faculty senate partnered with Academic Outreach and Innovation and Information Technology Services to create a committee of faculty members and IT experts from across all WSU campuses to find a replacement for Blackboard.

A plan is in place that eventually replaces Blackboard with the Canvas learning management system by the fall semester of 2021.

The question still stands as to whether Canvas would actually provide better performance and be more intuitive for student and faculty use. This all leads to the overall quality of educational experience provided by the university to students, which is of peak importance to the WSU community. So far, it seems like Canvas will be the future of WSU’s online learning management.

The university’s decision to replace Blackboard was not unwarranted.

“A large number of faculty and staff have been petitioning to move away from Blackboard for some time,” Greg Crouch, Faculty Senate chair, said in a Sep. 26, 2019 WSU Insider article about the university’s plan to grow their Canvas pilot program.

These sentiments are shared by students who have experienced both Blackboard and Canvas learning management systems, who consider Canvas to be a superior replacement that provides a simpler, more efficient user experience.

“When you’re on Blackboard, everything is kinda thrown at you at once, and it’s harder to find your way through it and where you wanna go,” Ryan Beatty, sophomore broadcast communication major, said.

Beatty has used Canvas for three of his classes so far, with the rest being housed on Blackboard.

Having all necessary means to fulfill class requirements available on an efficient, intuitive learning management system is critical to college students, who balance multiple classes on the same system. Canvas also boasts features for students that are unavailable on Blackboard.

“Canvas has a lot of an easier look and is a lot easier to navigate. I would say you can play with your grade… you can put in your test score and see how your grade will turn out based off of it, which is really helpful,” Joshua Mathia, sophomore computer science major, said.

Not only is it considered easier to navigate, Canvas also provides students with the ability to enter hypothetical scores into their overall grade in order to estimate the outcomes of exams and assignments. This feature is not available on Blackboard. If a student wished to estimate their grade while only having access to Blackboard, then they would have to go about this process manually.

One could argue that a downside of implementing Canvas as the standard learning management system of WSU is the potentially difficult process of transitioning professors and students at each campus over from Blackboard. However, the Canvas pilot during summer semester of 2019 included courses with a total of 400 students, and a second pilot during fall semester of 2019 included courses with a total of 1,000 students.

Canvas is looking to be the future of learning management at WSU, and that future is looking bright.