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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU online instruction makes the move from Blackboard to Canvas in May

Date: 04/02/2012

You've probably heard already, but if you've been hiding out, away from your NMSU email or from learn.nmsu.edu, let me be the first to tell you: Blackboard is going away and Canvas will be the new norm for online learning at NMSU by the time the summer semester arrives.

Head and shoulders photo of Steve Leask.
Steve Leask, program manager and instructional consultant under the Office of the Associate Provost, is helping to lead NMSU's transition from Blackboard to Canvas at the end of the semester. (Photo by Darren Phillips)

"The Blackboard version we are on now is going out of support in December," said Steve Leask, program manager and instructional consultant under the Office of the Associate Provost. "After December, it will no longer have security patches, updates or anything like that."

Without updates and patches, the system would be prone to problems. Blackboard is the main academic online application for all NMSU campuses, with more than 8,000 courses hosted on the application each year and the lack of support and updates would make the system unusable.

Campus officials started examining options in the educational environment for learning management systems about two years ago. The Provost formed a task force of about 25 people including faculty, staff and students from all NMSU campuses, led by Richard Oliver from the College of Business. The task force reviewed the replacement options available, went through the request for information (RFI) process and a series of assessments, including different surveys for faculty, staff and students. At the end of this process, the companies queried came to campus to show the task force what they had to offer.

Enter Canvas

When the different best learning management systems were compared side-by-side on paper, Leask said, they all have similar capabilities and tools. During the demonstration phase the vendors showed the task force what their systems are capable of - from the interface and how the tools are used, to some of the advanced capabilities available.

"Canvas was not just a step ahead, but a generation ahead of the others," he said. "It has more of a social media-type interface. It has tools that are so much further advanced than what the other companies offered and that just really set it apart in people's [task force members] minds."

For example, if the course instructor sends a student an email, the system would notify the student on his or her cell phone, and then the student can answer back via cell phone, without needing to log into the system itself.

"Students really let it be known that's what they wanted to have," Leask said. "They want tools that are more integrated into our mobile society."

There's an iPad app for Canvas and an iPhone app; this application focused on student use more so than any other platform out there.

Change is coming

The "Frankenstein switch" (that's what the Learning Management System team calls it), or the big transition from Blackboard to Canvas will happen on May 18. NMSU will finish off the spring semester on Blackboard and grades also will be posted on Blackboard.

Blackboard will become unavailable on that Friday, and when the system is available again, it will be Canvas.

There will not be any migrations once switched over to Canvas; users will see regular, steady improvements in the system without the need for migrations. Students are advised, however, to save documents they plan to keep to a local computer before the switch to Canvas, as their files will not transfer and become inaccessible.

Faculty are being assisted with the migration to Canvas, so that all of their course information will be available for use when they log into Canvas for their first course. This migration equates to the Instructional Innovation and Quality staff moving 17,350 courses from one system to another.

For support during the Blackboard to Canvas transition contact the Instructional Innovation and Quality office at 575-646-5125. IIQ also offers Introduction to Canvas workshops for faculty at learning.nmsu.edu/canvas and one-on-one during the scheduled Canvas labs.

"It's stressful to go from one learning management system that you know and you've done things and it's worked," Leask said. "We try to get faculty started and help them make the transition, especially to get ready for that first class, to feel comfortable and to move forward."

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