Sinclair: Canvas replacing Blackboard is a change we needed

Isaac Sinclair

If you’re an Iowa State student, you have undoubtedly used the learning management system Blackboard for almost all of your classes. Blackboard has everything we need as students: assignments, quizzes and most importantly, our grades. But it’s not perfect.

Blackboard is clunky and navigating the site initially can be difficult for incoming freshmen. Its style is outdated and often feels cluttered. There have been frustrating moments for me in the past where Blackboard hasn’t always been running smoothly when I needed it to be.

That being said, many Iowa State students are now used to the program.

I was fine with Blackboard until I heard Iowa State was looking into replacing Blackboard.  

By the end of the fall 2017 semester, Blackboard’s contract with Iowa State will end. And that left Iowa State with two options. They could either renew their contract with Blackboard or switch over to another learning management system. Canvas became Iowa State’s new learning management system June 8, replacing Blackboard.

Canvas is extremely similar to Blackboard except for one tiny detail: it’s better.

After using both of these learning management systems, I can wholeheartedly declare that Canvas is better than Blackboard. The entire site has a cleaner look than Blackboard did and that alone makes it easier to find classes, assignments and grades. Its sleek design is modern and uncluttered, creating a more user-friendly platform.

Switching over to Canvas also makes more sense going forward. Blackboard used to have almost a complete monopoly on learning management systems, but Canvas and similar companies have been slowly breaking its dominance apart.

According to Edutechnica, “Canvas has definitively become the #2 LMS in US higher education” in 2017. Blackboard, on the other hand, has gone from holding 90% of the market share in 2006 down to 44% in 2015. Iowa State needs a learning management system that is on the rise, not the decline, to effectively support its enormous and active student population.

Canvas has been able to draw in a multitude of other big name colleges, including the University of Maryland, the University of Washington and the Juilliard School of Music. Iowa State moving from Blackboard to Canvas isn’t groundbreaking and I’m sure we won’t be the last college to make this move.

The transition from Blackboard to Canvas won’t be perfect. As a matter of fact, I expect it to be difficult. Professors and students rooted into using Blackboard will have a hard time relearning a whole new system. But there are two factors working in our favor.

The first is that Canvas is easy to use and navigate. Professors and students will also be able to take their ability to navigate Blackboard and transfer it over to Canvas, as they are similar systems with familiar structures and processes.

The second factor is that 100 to 150 instructors are using a limited version of Canvas during this fall semester. This should help ease up the transition and troubleshoot some initial problems before Canvas is exposed to the entire university.

If you fear the change that is coming or just prefer Blackboard, I encourage you to give Canvas an honest try. I know that change can be uncomfortable, but this is an improvement and the change is unavoidable. Canvas will make your life easier, not harder and I suggest embracing this new system as soon as you can rather than fighting it.

As a university, we must shed off the old, musty skin of Blackboard and embrace the new, clean system of Canvas. Iowa State is making sure it’s taking the right steps to stay up to date with it’s learning management systems and give their students all the necessary tools they need to succeed. I am extremely pleased with the decision to make Canvas Iowa State’s learning management system and I believe it will positively improve everyone’s educational experience.