Update from the Learning Management System Evaluation Task Force

The Learning Management System (LMS) Evaluation Task Force has been communicating to faculty and students about Canvas and Blackboard through events on campus and gathering information about the current use of the LMS.

Events included

  • Demonstrations from Instructure (Canvas) and Blackboard.  Both vendors spent a day on campus meeting with faculty and Task Force members.
    • Blackboard is developing a new cloud-based product called Blackboard Learn 2015 Premium with a new user interface, Ultra.  The Ultra interface is completely different from the existing Blackboard interface.  This product is still in development and is scheduled to be released in the 3rd Quarter of 2015.  You can view a recording of a webinar introducing this product at http://youtu.be/tLxKxHa34WU . The instructor view starts around minute 21:00.
    • Canvas staff demonstrated the product that 18 faculty at St. Edward’s are currently piloting.  The full list of Canvas pilots is available on this webpage: Canvas Pilots.  If you missed the demo and would like to look at Canvas, all faculty may log into Canvas at https://stedwards.instructure.com and experience Canvas.  Instructional Technology staff will also be happy to answer any questions about the use of Canvas.
  • Panel discussions from some of the 18 faculty piloting Canvas on March 3 and 24th. Some of their favorite things about Canvas included:
    • Attendance Tracking
    • Student notifications of announcements and updates via text messaging
    • Ease of linking to content, for example a PDF in the middle of a descriptive paragraph of text
    • The button for making the course available to students is easy to find

Information Gathering

  • Surveys to faculty and students piloting Canvas have been sent out asking faculty and students to rate features both on functionality and ease of use.
  • Gathering Data around Blackboard use.  In Spring 2015
    • 86% of contracted and 77% of contingent faculty use Blackboard to some extent
    • 985 courses are currently available
    • 15% of available courses are accepting assignments online
    • 8% of available courses are using discussions

LMS Evaluation Task Force Timeline

  • April 13: Final Survey to Canvas Pilot Faculty
  • April 24: LMS Evaluation Task Force recommendation to Mary Boyd, Vice President, Academic Affairs and Dave Waldron, Vice President, Information Technology
  • May 1: Decision by Mary Boyd and Dave Waldron

If a decision is made to move to Canvas, we will be migrating from Blackboard over the course of the next year. Extensive training, support and migration assistance will be available.  Faculty will have the opportunity to use Canvas starting Summer 2015, but Blackboard will remain available for course use until Summer 2016.

Tour Your Colleagues’ Courses in Canvas: Business Ethics, Counseling, CULF, Graphic Design, Presentational Speaking, & Psychology

canvas_classEighteen of your colleagues are trying out the Canvas Learning Management System this semester as a potential alternative to Blackboard.  The full list of Canvas pilots is available on this webpage: Canvas Pilots.  Hear from six of them on Tuesday, March 24 at 10 am in Library 141. These faculty will briefly present their courses followed by a panel discussion and audience Q&A:
  • Mike Disch, PSYC 4360: History and Systems Psychology
  • Kim Garza, GDES 3335: Interaction Design
  • Julie Sievers, CULF 1318: American Religion Experience
  • Katy Swafford, CNEL 6335/CNSL 6366: Counseling Skills and Techniques
  • Danney Ursery,  PHIL 3313A: Business Ethics (online)
  • Mike Weston, COMM 1317: Presentational Speaking

The Task Force for Learning Management System Evaluation will base their recommendation, in part, on the experiences of instructors in these pilots.  Come find out how students like Canvas, how it compares to Blackboard, how the transition between systems works, and what it’s really like to teach with Canvas.

Tour Your Colleagues’ Courses in Canvas: Education, Chemistry, Cultural Foundations, Digital Media Management, and Math

canvas_classEighteen of your colleagues are trying out the Canvas Learning Management System this semester as a potential alternative to Blackboard.  The full list of Canvas pilots is available on this webpage: Canvas Pilots.  Hear from five of them on Tuesday, March 3rd at 3:30 pm in Library 141. These faculty will briefly present their courses followed by a panel discussion and audience Q&A:
  • Chris Flynn, CULF 1318.15: Madness and Civilization
  • Carol Gee, MATH 4343: Topology
  • Liz Johnson, EDUC 2332: Educational Technology Integration
  • Jason Rosenblum, DMBA 6220.01: Independent Research
  • Tricia Shepherd, Chem 2320: Analytical Chemistry
The Task Force for Learning Management System Evaluation will base their recommendation, in part, on the experiences of instructors in these pilots.  Come find out how students like Canvas, how it compares to Blackboard, how the transition between systems works, and what it’s really like to teach with Canvas.
If you can’t make this session, there will be a second demonstration of Canvas pilot courses on Tuesday, March 24th at 10:00 am, also in library 141.

Tour St. Edward’s Courses in Canvas with Faculty

Canvas course page for LMS Evaluation Task Force with courses and groups, grades and calendarInterested in how your colleagues are using Canvas?  Would you like to ask questions about the faculty experience using Canvas? Do you want to see a real course in Canvas?

As part of the Learning Management System (LMS) Task Force two panel discussions of Canvas will be held to allow the community to take a closer look at how Canvas is being used on campus. On March 3rd at 3:30 and on March 24th at 10:00 am a panel of St. Edward’s faculty who are piloting Canvas this semester will demonstrate their Canvas classes and discuss their experience with Canvas.  Both sessions will be held in Library 141.

We currently are piloting Canvas with 18 courses.  The full list of Canvas pilots is available on this webpage: Canvas Pilots. Faculty who are teaching these courses will

  • Show selected areas of their Canvas course
  • Share their experience developing their course
  • Contrast use of Canvas to Blackboard
  • Share student reaction to Canvas

Join us for an opportunity to see Canvas and provide feedback to the LMS Task Force.

What’s Next for Blackboard?

BlackboardIf you missed the on campus demonstration last month of Blackboard’s planned cloud-based system, you have another opportunity to check out Blackboard’s plans for the future.  Blackboard will present a webinar “Learning in the Cloud – Why Cloud? Why Now?” on Thursday, February 26 at noon.

Register online at http://bbbb.blackboard.com/LearningInTheCloud.

This webinar will be presented by Greg Ritter, Director of Higher Education Solutions Management at Blackboard.  The webinar will focus on

  • The latest industry thinking on Cloud computing
  • Why IT and Academic Technology leaders are increasingly embracing the cloud
  • How your institution can move to and benefit from a Cloud deployment of Blackboard Learn

What is Canvas, Who Is Piloting It, and When Can You See It?

Canvas logoSee the possibilities of Canvas in one of two available demos for faculty, students, and staff on Wednesday, February 4 in Library 141 at either 9:30-11:00 am or 1:00-2:30 pm.  Even if you can’t make a whole session, stop by to get a taste and ask questions of an instructor experienced with Canvas.

What is Canvas?

Canvas is a learning management system (LMS) created by Instructure.  Launched in  2011, Canvas offers a cloud-native, flexible interface, designed for the social network era. In other words, Canvas applies contemporary, user-centered design principles for learner-centered teaching.  Recognizing  that learning happens throughout the digital ecosystem, rather than a walled-garden approach, where everything must happen in the LMS, Canvas takes an ecosystem approach by intentionally linking out to a variety of third party providers.

Canvas InterfaceFor example, students can choose how and when to receive communications—by personal or university email addresses, by text message, even by Facebook. Canvas also has a much more flexible interface that allows instructors to implement powerful student-centered learning design, drawing on such standards as the Quality Matters rubric, which focuses on research-based, tested design principles for digital course elements.  For example, in addition to linking activities to clearly stated course learning outcomes, faculty can link to rubrics while grading, but also give just-in-time video feedback.  In fact, students can easily communicate by video, as well, which reenforces the high-touch experience of SEU even outside of the physical classroom.

Why are we talking about Canvas?

As part of the SEU Learning Management System (LMS) Evaluation, the task force for LMS Evaluation is considering whether Canvas might be a better tool for preparing our students to meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.  To help us explore that question, the LMS  task force invited faculty to pilot courses in Canvas this semester.  Eighteen faculty from twelve departments in all six schools took us up on the offer. The full list of pilot faculty is available on this webpage:  Canvas Pilots. We will gather data from these faculty through three task-force-designed surveys (a pre-semester baseline survey on LMS use, a mid-semester survey on Canvas use, and an end of semester survey on Canvas use).  We will also survey students and invite both students and faculty to participate in focus groups.

We hope to learn if Canvas is a better tool from the student and faculty perspectives, but also what it would take for faculty to migrate as easily as possible from Blackboard to Canvas.   Is a change feasible? What kind of training and support do instructors need? How can we make any potential transition as seamless as possible.  We already know that if the LMS task force should recommend a switch, that we would want to run the two LMS systems in tandem for the 2015-2016 academic year.  Later this semester we’ll invite some of these pilot faculty to share their experiences with campus.

What is an LMS?

The learning management system or LMS is an integral part of our learning ecosystem that aggregates, connects, and manages many aspects of the course-based learning experience.  Any LMS must support a variety of activities for faculty and students including, posting course materials, documents, and other content; course administration and communication; recording and sharing grades; assessing students and their work and offering feedback; submission of assignments; providing opportunities for interaction for all course participants, e.g., through online discussion, collaboration tools like wikis, and sharing of student work.  Our current Learning Management System is Blackboard Learn, which was last reviewed in 2010.  Since that time there have been many changes in the LMS market.  Our current version of Blackboard is outdated and needs to be either updated to a newer version or replaced by a different learning management system.

Attend Blackboard and Canvas Demonstrations to Have Input on Choice of Learning Management System

Blackboard and Canvas Logos As part of St. Edward’s Learning Management System (LMS) Evaluation, the task force for LMS Evaluation  has invited two learning management system vendors–Blackboard (our current LMS) and Canvas by Instructure– to campus to demonstrate their products to the community. The Learning Management System (LMS) is an integral part of our learning ecosystem that aggregates, connects, and manages many aspects of the course-based learning experience. We urge all faculty to attend the demos and provide feedback to the task force as part of our evaluation process, so that we can choose the best system for the St. Edward’s University community. Both vendors will demonstrate their products twice during their campus visit to reach as many faculty as possible.


Blackboard will be demoing their latest release on Tuesday, January 27th in Fleck Hall 305.

  • 9:30-11:00 AM Open Faculty/Staff/Student demonstration – teaching and learning tools
  • 2:00-3:30 PM Open Faculty/Staff/Student demonstration – teaching and learning tools


Canvas demos will take place on Wednesday, February 4 in Library 141.

  • 9:30-11:00 Open Faculty/Staff/Student demonstration and Q and A
  • 1:00-2:30 Open Faculty/Staff/Student demonstration and Q and A

We will collect input at the sessions by anonymous feedback form, as well as by an anonymous online survey. You may also contact any member of the LMS Task Force to share your input on this process. To find out more about the evaluation process and see the list of task force members, please see this announcement, “Learning Management System Evaluation Task Force Named.”

Blackboard Unavailable Dec. 18th Due to Upgrade

BlackboardOn December 18th, 2014 we will be upgrading Blackboard to the April 2014 Release. This new version of Blackboard retains the current look and feel while adding several new and enhanced features including web-based or inline grading, a true student preview mode, enhanced calendar functionality, enhanced discussions, and date management for course copied materials. Our current version of Blackboard, Service Pack 11, is out of support so we are taking this opportunity to upgrade to the newest, stable release of Blackboard. Blackboard will be unavailable all day on Thursday, December 18th while we upgrade.

A summary of new and enhanced features is below. Instructional videos and links to detailed instructions may be found at “What’s New in Blackboard“.  The Faculty Resource Center staff will be happy to meet with you before the upgrade to show you these features on our test server. Please contact us if you have questions about using these features.

Inline Assignment Grading

Instructors are now able to view, comment on and grade assignments “inline”, i.e. in the web browser, rather than having to download them to a computer for grading. Files that have been submitted electronically to Blackboard, may be displayed in the inline viewer and annotated directly within the browser. The tools available for annotation are: Comment, Draw, Highlight, Text and Strikeout. See the detailed instructions on using Inline Grading.

Enhanced Calendar

The calendar now displays a consolidated view of all course calendar events for a user.  Instructors can use the calendar course tool as a primary way of managing and communicating the schedule of events and assignments in the course. The calendar supports due dates, if set, for gradable items and repeating events, such as class meeting times. Clicking on calendar items allows an instructor to view or edit the item, or grade attempts on the associated item. See the detailed instructions on using the new Calendar.

Student Preview

There is now a built-in true student preview mode in every class. You can submit assignments, take tests and view grades as a student.  See the detailed instructions on using Student Preview.

Improved Discussions

The Thread Detail page is thoroughly redesigned yet maintains all of its existing functions. All of the posts in a thread are now visible at the same time on one page, thereby maintaining the context of posts and replies to one another. You can still collapse threads.  See examples of the new discussion layout.

Date Management

Use the Date Management tool to easily adjust all content and assignment dates in your course. Accessed via the Control Panel > Tools you can choose to adjust dates automatically or individually from one convenient location.  See detailed instructions on using the date management tool.

Speed Up Your Grading

3 Tips For Making the Blackboard Grade Book Easier to Use

In this Tech Snack on October 18, 2014 we demonstrated several easy steps that can help save you time and frustration while grading.

1. See All Your Students with “Edit Rows Displayed”

Blackboard defaults to showing you the first 10 students in your roster. If you want to see your entire roster of students, click on Edit Rows Displayed and select the number of students you have. This makes it much easier to see all of your students at the same time.

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2. Minimize Scrolling through Assignments with “Column Organization”

Blackboard also defaults to displaying the most recent grade book entry to the right of the existing entries. The column organization feature allows you to reorder your grade book display as you see fit. For example, you might want to display the most recent entry first. Managing your columns is a great way to minimize the need for scrolling.

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3. Use Excel to Manage Grades via “Download Roster “

Blackboard allows Instructors to download a current version of their course grade book as an Excel file. Instructors can use this feature to manually enter grades into a spreadsheet and upload it to Blackboard again. Downloading the grade book is also a great way to create attendance charts and sign-in sheets quickly.

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There are also a variety of video tutorials available on the Instructional Technology website.  Here’s a link to our BlackBoard Grade Book overview.