Canvas to replace Blackboard learning management system this summer

Kastenny Flores, Reporter

After much anticipation, California Lutheran University is officially switching the learning management system from Blackboard to Canvas for the summer 2023 semester. 

During a Zoom interview, Director of Digital Learning Mirwais Azizi said that no courses will be taught on Blackboard after May 22, 2023, meaning that summer sessions will be conducted entirely on Canvas. 

Azizi said the idea of switching to Canvas was discussed several times over the last  few years, but Cal Lutheran’s contract with Blackboard will officially expire in June 2023. 

“We looked at several, but narrowed it down to three companies, Blackboard, Canvas and Desire2Learn. These three companies came to campus and gave a presentation. We also did a survey of the faculty and based on all that combined we went ahead with Canvas,” Azizi said. 

The process, according to Azizi, began in 2022 when a great deal of research was conducted to find the best learning management system. Azizi also said Cal Lutheran has been working diligently to find the best change for students, staff and faculty.

“When it came to technical support, there were times where we felt that we weren’t getting the support needed from Blackboard in a timely manner to be able to resolve some of the issues that came up,” Azizi said. 

Azizi said Canvas makes grading, creating courses and adding content easier for professors. In addition, students have easier access to all the features Canvas has to offer, while having a more modern look compared to the version of Blackboard currently being used. 

Canvas, according to Azizi, should be easier to navigate for both students and staff. Uploading documents and the program’s organization will be straightforward and easy to comprehend. The challenges faced on Blackboard that brought more time and effort will now be reduced with Canvas. 

“Speaking to people who have transferred here from other campuses, they seem to enjoy Canvas, and it seems to be a much easier format than Blackboard,” second-year student William Parisi Duggan said. 

Ariana Young, associate professor of psychology and one of a five-member task force, said a task force was assembled to assess if a change was necessary. In more recent years, there has been greater interest and support from staff and faculty at Cal Lutheran in finding a new program. 

“We did not have the option to keep Blackboard as it was; we were forced to make a change,” Young said. 

Azizi, another of the five members of the task force, spoke about the process they took in order to find a new system.

According to Young, several faculty members at Cal Lutheran, who also work at other institutions, are already exposed to Canvas and have expressed positive feedback on this management system. 

Young said that the Learning Management Evaluation Process of Fall 2022, created by the task force, found that the version of Blackboard that Cal Lutheran currently uses is outdated. It was also found that Canvas has an overall better experience.

“Our training starts mid-March, we will be offering three to four trainings a day in the month of March, May, June and July to really ensure that our full-time and adjunct faculty are prepared for this,” Azizi said. 

Azizi said there will be synchronized learning, Zoom and walk-in training will be offered by the Digital Learning Department for staff and faculty. 

“This is a positive change for us as faculty, staff and students. When I was in the task force, I tried to imagine myself not only as a faculty member but also as a student. It is an excellent learning management tool for students and provides them with easy access to assignments and grades,” Young said.

Azizi said Canvas is said to be a leading management tool for several schools throughout California and since it is widely used in California State Universities, community colleges and high schools, the transition is set to be smooth at Cal Lutheran. 

“Our main focus is supporting our faculty and students by giving them the tools and technology to enhance learning— we know that this will benefit our students,” Azizi said.