Canvas to replace Blackboard as Western's learning management system

Western Today staff

Western Washington University officially has decided to begin using Canvas to replace Blackboard as its course management system, beginning in fall quarter 2013.

A message was sent to the campus community Tuesday explaining the change:

On February 11th, the Faculty Senate approved the recommendation of the Academic Technology Committee (ATC) to convert our learning management system from Blackboard to Canvas. This was followed on February 25th with the Senate approving ATC's recommendation on how this conversion would proceed. This has also been approved by the Provost. The recommendation for this conversion is that:

"Full access to Blackboard be maintained through the end of summer quarter (2013). Beginning fall quarter (2013), the default Leaning Management System (LMS) will be Canvas; afterwards, limited access to BB will be maintained for a full year through an archive in order to aid the transition to Canvas. Faculty are encouraged to switch to Canvas immediately."

This recommendation strikes a middle ground between the more painful option of immediate conversion and the cost associated with the licensing and running of two LMSs simultaneously over a full academic year. In addition, surveys completed by students during the pilot phase of Canvas revealed a strong preference for Canvas and for use of a single learning management system across all their classes. Conversion to Canvas by the fall term will eliminate confusion amongst our students from needing to use two different learning management systems during the academic year. We do realize that even with the time remaining until the start of the Fall term, this transition will be more challenging for some faculty than others. This conversion plan will allow for a limited number of faculty who may need an exception due to extreme hardships in conversion (e.g. a faculty currently on Sabbatical returning at the start of the Fall term), to continue using Blackboard for fall term. However, it is expected that most faculty will be using Canvas in the Fall, and as outlined below, ATUS stands ready to assist in making this happen.

ATUS is pleased to announce that the Canvas Learning Management System is now available for all faculty to use with their spring courses. As of February 15, 2013, all courses for the spring term, which have CRNs, are now available for development. Instructors can go to Canvas from a link in myWestern, or directly by going to Canvas courses are not available to students until the instructor chooses to “publish” the course.

More information about Western’s Canvas pilot may be found at this link. You may sign-up for hands-on workshops at

ATUS is also hiring student assistants to assist faculty with converting content, to provide additional hands-on support during our workshops, and to help develop online materials.

Training and support for the transition will continue throughout the 2013-2014 academic year with frequent workshops, assistance for content migration as well as monthly opportunities to connect in person with the Learning Systems team and other Canvas users. Faculty on sabbatical or who choose to wait to use Canvas until later in the year will always be supported with introductory workshops and one-on-one assistance with conversion.

Suggestions from the faculty on ways to smooth this transition are welcome and can be directed to the ATC through your college’s representation on the committee or directly to the ATC chair.

John Lawson
Vice Provost for Information Tech. and Chief Information Officer

Derek Yip-Hoi
Chair, Senate Academic Technology Committee
Assoc. Professor, Engineering Technology                                                 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 10:13am