Georgetown transitions to Canvas online system


Georgetown students returned to campus in August to discover that a sizable portion of university professors now use Canvas, a product of Salt Lake City-based Instructure, instead of the Blackboard online class-hosting platform that was used previously. Canvas has been met with some positive reviews by Georgetown administration, faculty, and students–though migrating to the new system is not without growing pains for the time being.

According to Judd Nicholson, Georgetown’s Interim Vice President for Information Technology and CIO, this switch stems from a long-standing faculty “interest in a more modern, intuitive, and responsive course management system.” Nicholson added that the Canvas infrastructure impressed the university. “[Canvas] was designed from the start to address user expectations for mobile access, improved notification, collaboration, and multimedia support with easy integration to a variety of tools using the latest standards,” Nicholson said.

Nicholson also noted that between licensing fees, Blackboard course conversion, and professional training, switching to Canvas cost Georgetown approximately $250,000. While this is a sizeable financial commitment, the university has not decided whether all courses will be required to use Canvas in the future. “Canvas is being offered as an option for faculty and students to use and explore,” Nicholson said. “Faculty and student reception and adoption of the new platform will determine how we move forward with the implementation of Canvas and Blackboard.”

Students needing to use both Canvas and Blackboard have said that managing two separate online systems can be cumbersome. “From what I can tell, Canvas is a much smoother and more integrated system,” Jake Gile (COL ‘20) said. “But for this year at least it’s been a good amount of work juggling and checking both.” Nicholson has acknowledged this concern.

George E. Shambaugh, associate professor in the SFS, had generally positive thoughts on Canvas. He complimented the university’s webinar training sessions for Canvas, but noted that converting a class from Blackboard was more difficult than simply creating a new canvas course. “Blackboard has some nice features that Canvas does not,” Shambaugh said, though he also allowed for the possibility of “undiscovered gems” within the Canvas interface.

Since the launch announcement we have received positive feedback from faculty welcoming the choice to use Canvas,” said Nicholson. [We plan to] survey faculty later this fall to learn more about their experience and use of the platform.”

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Michael Coyne

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