Dr. Pollack, I don’t feel so good...

January 24, 2019

EDITORIAL: Cornell’s Canvas Commitment Issue

Print More

Cornell has long planned to move on from Blackboard Learn, the course management system it has used for the past 20 years. After an extensive evaluation and trial period, Cornell officially transitioned to Canvas Network this semester.

Cornellians are in fact reminded of this transition every time they log into Blackboard, which is still being employed by many courses across campus, and will continue to be similarly and confoundingly employed until Spring 2020.

The result of Blackboard’s transitus interruptus is a semester in which students juggle two separate course management systems, one of which is quite unfamiliar to them. In a scene that played out in classrooms throughout this week, students struggled to adapt to the new system, and more importantly, instructors were hindered by the introduction of an alien element to their course.

We doubt Cornell has been blindsided by these issues.

A Spring 2018 report on the trial runs of several course management programs noted that “repeatedly … students commented on their dislike of using two different systems,” and quoted one student who described alternating between Blackboard and a new system as “incredibly annoying and disruptive.” In July of 2018, Prof. Drew Margolin, communication, who participated in the Canvas trial, expressed similar frustration to The Sun. If Cornell knew this was a likely scenario, why did it proceed in the way it did?

To be clear, we’re not questioning the move to Canvas in and of itself. If Cornell felt it was time to move on, if the appropriate offices did their due diligence — and we have no reason to suspect otherwise — then Canvas it should be. But we do question the wisdom of proceeding for a year with a jury-rigged two-website system that seems to generate more confusion than it does answers or efficiency. And is Cornell paying for both services over the course of this yearlong process? That certainly wouldn’t make sense.

Once Cornell made the final decision to switch to Canvas, they should have switched to Canvas. The protracted breakup with Blackboard is doing nobody any favors.