Courtesy of Cornell University

Cornell courses will begin to transition to Canvas from Blackboard starting this semester.

February 5, 2019

Transition to Canvas Sparks Mixed Opinions Among Wary Students

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After using Blackboard for over two decades, Cornell has officially started the transition to Canvas, sparking discussion among students and faculty.

“The transition takes some getting used to,” Jayson Figueroa ’21 said. “No major issues have come up yet, but having to jump between Blackboard and Canvas is irritating.”

However, Figueroa noted that he thinks this method of “experimental transition” is a better way to ease students and faculty into Canvas, rather than switching over all at once.

Figueroa also said he likes the calendar feature on Canvas, but wishes his course would use it more.

“The course calendar feature seems powerful, as it allows students to see the dates of all their class assignments on one page instead of having to do it yourself. That being said, my course isn’t using the feature at all,” he said.

Figueroa thinks once his professors adjust to Canvas, “it will be a much better experience than Blackboard,” but until then, this transitional period is “more annoying than helpful,” he said.

Like Blackboard, Canvas is a learning management system which allows students to access course contents and assignments online. Several other universities, including Columbia University, Brown University and Dartmouth College already use Canvas.

Prof. Marianella Casasola, human development, was among the first professors to switch classes over to Canvas as part of the pilot program in fall 2017. She is also a member of the advisory board for the transition to Canvas, which aims to “review and improve the transition plans to help support faculty and students,” according to a University press release.

“The advisory board has placed a lot of thought and effort so that the transition to Canvas will be as smooth as possible. They have been seeking feedback and outlining solutions for some time,” Casasola told The Sun.

The professor said that she has had “no issues so far” with Canvas and “really like[s] the feel and usability.”

Some students have also reacted favorably to the change, citing a better course calendar and a mobile application.

“I like Canvas so far. It’s straightforward, it has a much cleaner [user interface] than Blackboard, and I also specifically like the blog-type posts — they are much easier to navigate than any equivalent features on Blackboard,” Daniel Parangi ’21, who uses Canvas for two of his classes, said.

Sally Gao ’20 also said she likes the grades feature on Canvas.

“I like that you can see all your grades in one section, and can test-modify your grades to see how your performance or status would change if your grades were different,” Gao said.

However, others, including Caroline Hanson ’21, still prefer Blackboard to Canvas.

“I find [Canvas] too wordy and confusing to try and find specific information and files. There are many embedded links on each page, and it is not clear where to look for, say, the schedule of office hours,” Hanson said.

A University press release regarding the platform transition noted that students and faculty can look to “curated online resources; onsite training, workshops and demonstrations; and consultations with a team of experienced instructional designers” regarding using Canvas.

While Blackboard will still be available through fall 2019, the university will require all classes that use an LMS to transition to Canvas by spring 2020.