Meeting high customer demand and anticipation, Information Technology Services (ITS), in partnership with WSU’s Academic Outreach Initiative (AOI) and Faculty Senate, will be offering university-wide access to the final phase of WSU’s Canvas pilot beginning spring 2021.

With full access to the Canvas pilot, all WSU instructors have the option to migrate their Blackboard courses over to the new Learning Management Software (LMS) for the upcoming spring semester, which they can do by contacting their department’s course scheduler or campus scheduler. Faculty and staff will also soon be able to request a “sandbox” course.

Global Campus courses will not be transitioning to Canvas until full implementation of the LMS in fall 2021 to ensure full integration of all tools Global courses depend on and the most efficient transition and consistent experience for Global students. More information can be found online.

A blank canvas

Implemented in 2015, Blackboard saw early concerns regarding both ease of use and the LMS’ inability to fully integrate into myWSU, among other issues. Responding to these concerns, WSU’s Faculty Senate, AOI, and ITS got to work on finding a suitable replacement LMS for the university in 2018.

“As technology has improved, we have a history of moving learning management systems,” said Dave Cillay, Global Campus chancellor and AOI vice president. “If we find something better, we move towards it, with the ultimate goal being to find the best fit for WSU.”

The Canvas pilot, launched in 2019, has proven the LMS to be a perfect fit for WSU’s online academic experience, with new features and integrations being added weekly to even better suit the unique needs of WSU courses. And though Blackboard will continue to run in parallel during the spring to help ease the transition, Canvas is set to fully replace Blackboard as WSU’s sole LMS in the fall of 2021—and Cougs couldn’t be happier.

“I loved Canvas,” said one student who took a summer 2020 Canvas course. “The course was well laid out, and instructions were easily found and understood. I wish all of my other classes were on that platform.”

“It is an intuitive and user-friendly tool, both from the perspective of the instructor and student,” said Professor Rebecca Cooney. “The user interface is easy to navigate, and the community of support materials is invaluable. Canvas is a huge improvement.”

Streamlined and refined

One of the most exciting improvements Canvas offers is a streamlined grading process for instructors. With Blackboard, “faculty would have to [manually] do things like add leading zeros to the Excel spreadsheet so everything was the proper number of digits in terms of student IDs, and then upload as a CSV file,” said Gregory Crouch, faculty senate past chair. “It was painful.”

Canvas, on the other hand, eliminates much of the manual data entry and review required of faculty by providing easy integration with myWSU and similar applications, making transferring grades directly to myWSU as easy as the click of a button.

And in terms of student success, Canvas goes well beyond providing a more modern and user-friendly interface. Offering real-time analytics that allow for an easier assessment of where students might be having difficulty in class, Canvas helps faculty offer students the exact assistance and attention they need.

“Canvas’ architecture is much more modern and intuitive from the end user perspective,” said Sasi Pillay, vice president and chief information officer at WSU. “Whether faculty or student, we expect the experience to be far better than what it has been in the past.”

Next steps

AOI’s Learning Innovations website includes upcoming Canvas workshops, tutorials, and other resources, and assistance with course migration can be found by reaching out to migrationhelp@wsu.edu. Additionally, users can contribute directly to the Canvas pilot by submitting “wish list” items—any limitations currently faced in Blackboard.

And, as always, Crimson Service Desk is standing by to assist via email, self-help articles available around the clock online, and by phone at 509-335-4357 during regular business hours, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.