Learning Management System Evaluation and Pilot

LMS Evaluation Conclusion: Canvas by Instructure

Canvas Selected as the Replacement of Blackboard LMS

Please see the news article published on May 19, 2016.

After careful consideration and detailed discussions, the Academic Technology Services (ATS) Advisory Committee recommended Canvas by Instructure to replace Blackboard as Arcadia University's Learning Management System (LMS). The contract was officially signed by the university on April 28, 2016.

This undertaking would not have been possible without the tireless efforts and dedicated support of the following people:

  • The 10 faculty members who piloted both of the LMS options.
  • ATS Technology Subcommittee members Brian Eckenrode (Chair), Josh Blustein, Alan Powell, Kathy Macropol, and Nicole Zucker.
  • ATS Members Tori Waskiewicz, Valerie Green, and Timothy Belloff.
  • IT Members and Additional Contributors Eric McCloy, Tee Jay Green, Chris Brent, Tyler Mitchell, and Len Lipkin.

If you have any questions about the LMS Evaluation process or about Canvas, please contact ATS.

Why We Evaluated

The ATS Advisory Committee was charged with evaluating Blackboard, the University's current LMS.  The current version of Blackboard’s interface will be changing in the near future. Arcadia University has used Blackboard for over 12 years, and the forthcoming changes made this a prime opportunity to consider the future direction of our LMS. This provided an opportunity to evaluate Blackboard as well as to consider alternative LMS options for the entire campus community in Glenside, Christiana, and abroad.

Many major LMSs appropriate for Arcadia were reviewed, narrowing it down to four to provide on campus demos for the committee. These included Blackboard (Ultra), Sakai, Canvas, and D2L Brightspace. The two LMSs selected by the committee to be piloted during the Spring 2016 semester were Canvas by Instructure and Brightspace by D2L (Desire 2 Learn), piloted by 10 faculty and 150 students.

Advantages of Changing

Multiple factors were weighed into this decision including the ability for the LMS to function as a teaching tool, integration with current LMS add­-ons, Canvas supplied 24x7 faculty support, training, and implementation assistance.

Canvas offers worldwide 24x7 Tier 1 support for faculty and staff, as well as robust options for live online training sessions for instructors and on-demand resources from the Canvas Community. The decision to go with Canvas will result in the university being budget neutral for the LMS over a four year period and no additional funds will be needed for the migration or implementation.

Implementation Schedule

The tentative timeline for implementation of Canvas will begin with campus-wide faculty training in the Fall 2016 semester, with a full implementation of Canvas (teaching and learning) for Spring 2017. Blackboard will not be available after January 31, 2017 (however, we will retain our data from it).

Learning Management System Evaluation Process & Pilot Selection

Overview of the LMS Evaluation Process and Pilot Selection

The Academic Technology Services (ATS) Committee has been charged with evaluating our current LMS (Learning Management System) options. The committee met weekly over the fall semester to discuss, gather data, and host demos of LMS options. The two LMS’s selected by the committee to pilot during the Spring 2016 semester are Canvas and D2L Brightspace, these best align with the current and future needs of Arcadia University. The committee reviewed many major LMS options appropriate for Arcadia, narrowing it down to four to provide demos. The four LMS’s that were demoed were Blackboard (Ultra), Sakai, Canvas, and D2L Brightspace.

Piloting Overview and Opportunity

The opportunity to participate in the piloting of both Canvas by Instructure and Brightspace by D2L was made available in December 2015. The committee requesting volunteers to participate in the exciting pilot. The pilot will run from the start of class, January 18, 2016, until March 18, 2016 (the week after spring break). A survey will be completed in March 2016, both by faculty and their students, but faculty will have full access to teach their courses for the entire Spring 2016 semester in each piloting LMS. 

Other Pilot Opportunities

For faculty and staff not taking part in the pilot, sandboxes can be provided to offer exposure of both LMS’s. If you would like the opportunity to have a hands on look at Brightspaces and Canvas, please signup.

Campus demonstrations will be provided by Instructure (Canvas) and D2L (Brightspace) at the following dates, times, and locations:

Piloting Criteria - Sign up until 12/21/15

Below is an outline of the criteria needing to be met to gather the data the committee needs to make a recommendation for the LMS that Arcadia will use for the next five years.

  1. Faculty must pilot BOTH Canvas and D2L Brightspace 
    • Diverse representation needed of courses from each school/college
  2. Faculty are strongly encouraged to incorporate specific tools from the Standard list and a minimum of 2 from the Optional list
  3. Participate (virtually) in training
  4. Complete a user survey in mid-March, and help ensure your enrolled students complete the student experience survey.

Evaluation of Blackboard

The current version of Blackboard’s interface will be changing in the near future. There will be structural changes that will affect both course setup as well as course instruction. This provides a good time for us (ATS Technology Sub-Committee) to evaluate Blackboard as well as to consider alternative LMS (Learning Management System) options for the entire campus community in Glenside, Christiana and abroad. Arcadia University has used Blackboard for over 12 years, and the forthcoming changes to Blackboard make this a prime opportunity to consider the future direction of our LMS We welcome the assistance and feedback on this evaluation, from faculty and staff.

The first step in the process by the ATS Committee was to gather information through a survey about Faculty and Staff use of Blackboard Courses and Communities (Organizations). ATS hosted two information session for faculty and staff during the fall 2015 semester, to review the survey results and to discuss the options, strengths and limitations of Blackboard.

There will be ample opportunity for the campus community to have an active voice, and the goal of the ATS is to provide transparency throughout the process.

ATS Subcommittee Timeline (Tentative)

Fall ’15 Spring ’16 Summer ’16 Summer/Fall ’16

Select 1 or 2 LMS's to evaluate

Pilot 2 LMS's and select the LMS for campus use

Begin training and implementation of selected LMS 

  • Begin making the selected LMS available for faculty
  • Expected to fully implement selected LMS - Spring ‘17

Technology Subcommittee Members

  • Faculty: Brian Eckenrode, Kathy Macropol, Alan Powell, Josh Blustein
  • Staff: Nicole Zucker, Len Lipkin, Chris Brent, Eric McCloy, Tim Belloff, Valerie Green, Tom Egan, Tori Waskiewicz

Members (Faculty) serve for three years (1/3 of which are appointed annually).

Please contact the committee at ats@arcadia.edu if you have questions or concerns.