Next-Generation Online Learning Management System Selected

As a result of USF’s need to upgrade from Blackboard 9.0 to 9.1, the USF System Learning Management Committee decided in 2011 to evaluate other options in learning management products. Faculty, students and staff reviewed three learning management solutions: Blackboard 9.1, Moodle and Canvas during a system-wide evaluation process. After several months of review, Canvas, a product of the educational software company Instructure, was selected.

The features leading USF faculty and students to recommend Canvas include:
-       User interface optimized for ease of use including consistent, built-in workflow; drop-and-drag functionality throughout
-       Works on any browser, including mobile devices and applications
-       Gold Star accessibility certification from the National Federation for the Blind
-       Innovative applications (SpeedGrader, eportfolio, peer review)
-       Intelligent course features (calendar, syllabus, plagiarism detection integration)
-       Performance Evaluation (outcomes, rubrics, accreditation artifacts)
-       Assessment Feedback (activity reports)
-       Flexible communication and notification options (communicate directly from social media accounts)
-       Video/audio tools for posting content and grading assignments (student ability to upload, seamless playback)


Students participating in the evaluation were excited about the mobility and calendar features available in Canvas. Faculty who taught classes with Canvas found the platform to be intuitive and adaptable. Collectively, more than 80 percent of faculty and students participating in the review voted in favor of Canvas.


The transition from Blackboard 9.0 to Canvas has already started this semester with a limited number of courses running in Canvas. Sufficient time will be provided to USF faculty so all existing online courses and materials can be converted into the new platform. In addition to beginning the conversion, the fall 2012 term will also be used to modify business processes and integrations between other university systems and Canvas. With the spring 2013 semester, a significant number of courses will migrate to Canvas with conversions continuing through the fall of that year. Migration planning will be coordinated with colleges and departments. In December 2013, Blackboard 9.0 will be decommissioned. By spring 2014, all courses will be utilizing Canvas for online learning management.


Although USF has supported Blackboard using on-campus servers, Canvas will be hosted off-campus on Amazon Web Services in the cloud. Canvas does not require its customers to go through periodic disruptive upgrades or periods of downtime. Instead updates are rolled into the product every two weeks. Running on Amazon Web Services will allow Canvas to scale up computing and storage resources automatically therefore limiting the impact from the rush of activity during semester start-up, midterms or final exams.


USF Information Technology, University College eLearning Innovations Team, as well as designated members of each campus will be developing training and support for Canvas. Additional details will be announced soon.