Making the Switch: Students and Faculty Talk Canvas and Blackboard

This Fall Semester USF launched the newest addition to student learning technologies: Canvas. While incoming freshmen and transfers are unaware of this change, returning students are used to operating through Blackboard. Both Canvas and Blackboard serve as portals for students to access everything they need for class. This includes assignments, announcements, files, syllabi, grades, and other classroom tools.

According to John Bansavich, director of learning technologies, the University chose to implement Canvas on campus after conducting a yearlong review of the program that involved both instructors and students. He further added that Canvas is different than Blackboard because of its innovative features, and it was perceived as a much easier and more user-friendly platform for instructors and students to use. “The benefits of Canvas over Blackboard are numerous,” Bansavich said. Canvas is not only the source for syllabi, the grade book, and calendar but it also now includes a Speed Grader, a tool that allows instructors to grade more efficiently, provide comments on student work, and maximize their time by reducing repetitive tasks such as restating comments through word documents and then through Blackboard. It keeps all documentations through one outlet, explained Bansavich.

According to him, Canvas also stresses collaboration and confer- encing through Google Docs and an electronic portfolio tool so students can save and showcase their best work. “Students and instructors can embed audio and video messages for real-time conferencing,” said Bansavich. On top of that, Bansavich added that there is a free mobile app, an easy to use attendance feature, and the ability for students to customize how they want to receive course notifications (via email, text, Facebook, or Twitter).

Senior Cory McElyea said he likes receiving direct text messages about his grades, homework, and due dates. “It’s more tech savvy,” he claims. However, he added, “I wish I knew what was going on — I didn’t really know what was happening when I came back to school.” Another senior Cara Loftus said that only two of her professors have used Canvas since returning to school. She added, “I like Canvas better than Blackboard because it is easier to navigate through.” But Cara wishes that it was one or the other. “It’s confusing going back and forth from Blackboard to Canvas. I have to constantly check both outlets for classes,” she said.

“I like Blackboard better because it is simple while Canvas has too much going on,” said senior Kelsey Gummow. She also said she doesn’t understand why there was a transition from Blackboard to Canvas. “They both hold school work and grades,” she said.

“Technology like Canvas is important today because it helps instructors organize learning content for students and enables greater student participation and collaboration,” Bansavich stated. He believes that teaching and learning occurs just as much out of the classroom and online as it does in the classroom.

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