Bye Bye Blackboard, Hello Canvas
Melissa Metzger | TrustRadius Reviewer
Updated February 25, 2015

Bye Bye Blackboard, Hello Canvas

Score 10 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
Review Source

Software Version

Current release (Feb 2014)

Overall Satisfaction with Canvas

Canvas was selected as a replacement LMS for our university-wide distance and hybrid delivery. It is used throughout our campuses and serves some 50,000 students, faculty, and staff. We chose Canvas after vetting many other available systems, narrowing the field to 3 contenders, each of whom presented for an evaluation committee. We were seeking a system that could dynamically support our needs, with more frequent updates and more robust web 2.0-like features. Canvas provided all of the above.
  • Web 2.0 integration: Easily integrate tools, apps, and dynamic content into modules. The depth and breadth of apps available for use is outstanding (whether K12 or Higher Ed) and ever-increasing.
  • Streamlined Layout: As someone trained in Instructional Design, I appreciate Canvas' streamlined layout. There are still options for customizing the look/feel of a course, but Canvas makes putting together a clean, concise, and user-centric design easy for users to accomplish.
  • Responsive Product Releases: Canvas is listening to their users! Really! On the Canvas Instructure website, users can "vote" for the features they'd most like to see in the next platform update. The more people that "me too" a particular feature, the higher it ranks on the list and the sooner users see changes. As a user, I always feel like I'm able to contribute to improving the product, which is not typical in the industry.
  • Search Feature: My biggest request is for Canvas to implement a search feature where users could search for key words across all areas of a course (discussions, documents, instructions, etc).
  • Master Pages: The ability to create "master pages" that can be reused for courses is sorely needed.
  • Videos: Although the videos generally play fine in Canvas, there is enough of an issue with some file types not playing ALL the time that it has become an issue I cannot ignore.
  • ROI: Our return has been excellent. So of this is due to the decreased costs of operating the LMS. In the past, we self-hosted an LMS. So, costs like servers, maintenance, and the personnel to support the system were diminished or eliminate with Canvas.
  • 21st Century Education: Our mission is to provide a stellar educational experience to our students while supporting our faculty's needs. Canvas has helped us accomplish this with it's streamlined, intuitive system.
  • Customer Service: Since Canvas' support is centrally located, they are able to troubleshoot and resolve issues with a 30K ft view. This has allowed quick turnaround and bug fixes, similar to having a locally situation support team.
These were some of the products we evaluated prior to our switch to Canvas. Without giving an exhaustive view of the pros/cons for each system, a team of 40 Technology, Instructional Design, Faculty, and Administrators selected Canvas unanimously (no easy feat). But the improvement over our current system and the prospect for continued improvements were highly influential in our decision. It's tough to predict where educational technology or distance delivery modalities are headed, but knowing that the users help "steer the ship," and aren't nickeled and dimed in the process, was refreshing.
My experience is in higher ed and Canvas had suited our needs 99%. Part of this is due to the rollout of updates. Interestingly enough, the current rollout of Canvas is essentially the same across the board. That is to say, that the version live and online is the same version every Canvas user is also utilizing. This is very different with other LMS' where institutions are often "locked" into the version they purchased, and must purchase "updates" if new, desirable features are released. Canvas allows everyone to experience "new features" without additional cost. This is also excellent for collaboration and troubleshooting, because you are assured that anyone using Canvas has the same version that you do. The only (small) exception to this rule: if an institution "turns off" features - this is a possibility.

So if you are choosing an LMS, make certain to inquire about the frequency (and cost) of updates, bug fixes, and new features. In Canvas, they are included.

Using Canvas

Several factors contribute to my "10" rating. First, our university just made an enormous switch to Canvas, after we were with Blackboard for almost a decade. So garnering buy-in was critical, and not something we took lightly. After nearly 18 months (start to finish) of training faculty, educating stakeholders, and migrating courses, I am not looking to make a change again anytime soon. But I am happy with the result and the product overall and that is also demonstrated in my rating.