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Community Participant

Blackboard to Canvas? Why?

This may be the obvious question that no one asks, but I'll ask it anyway:

Why switch from Blackboard to Canvas?

A couple of possible directions for your answers:

  • Often faculty demo the Canvas product and are immediately in love, want to switch tomorrow. However, demos are demos and everything is designed to run perfectly while the Canvas rep guides you through the most beautiful and enticing parts of the product. What is your actual experience after switching? What do you wish you could have known before you switched?

  • If you can give me interesting faculty or student feedback, your personal experience as an admin or an instructional designer, or anything else you can think of, that would be helpful!

Thanks all, in advance!


35 Replies
Community Coach
Community Coach

 @cdeville ​, we went from Angel (after they were bought by Bb) to Canvas, so I can't give you a direct Bb experience but I will share how things have gone for us.

  • The transition from Angel to Canvas went better than our transition from WebCT to Angel. Part of this is that I think we did a better job preparing for the transition and getting things planned out and ready, but another big part was that faculty found Canvas much much easier to use and figure out than any of our previous LMS's.
  • So how did things go after we switched? Overall I can't think of anything we were shown or "promised" that didn't work as expected (or wasn't implemented after we switched - which is what we were told was happening). No, nothing is perfect and neither is Canvas, but in general our faculty and students found Canvas very easy to learn and use and the features functioned as anticipated.
  • Our first semester we were geared up and ready for a lot of questions, potential problems, etc and the first day of class our office (Online Learning - manages all things Canvas and technology on campus) was dead quiet. We actually emailed a few people asking if things were going ok because it so quiet - both on the faculty and student side of things. Their response, everything was fine and no one was having problems with Canvas. The rest of the semester wasn't quite as quiet, but overall what we expected to be a crazy insane semester ended up being just fine and not much crazier than a regular (not transition) semester.
  • We survey our students and faculty at least once a year asking how things are going with Canvas: experience using Canvas, how easy is it to use the different tools (or if they are even using the tools), confidence in successfully using Canvas, etc. From the very beginning (we switched in 2012-2013) responses to these questions have been very high - low to mid 90% - with faculty and students being happy with Canvas.

I hope this helps and I'm also going to share this with the LMS & Migrations​ group in the Community to see if they can help answer your questions.

Community Coach
Community Coach

Hi Christine:

Our experience is similar to Kona's., only our entire state system of Community and Technical Colleges (plus four of our four-year colleges joined us) switched from Angel to Canvas.

But your question is "Why Canvas?" For us, we engaged in an open RFP process, narrowed the field down to our top three choices, then spent several months evaluating those choices across the state. We had LMS admins, faculty, students and even State Board members involved in the evaluation process. The overwhelming winner was Canvas (I believe the result was 86+% by faculty testers).

Like Kona's experience, our transition was amazingly great! We were one of the first five pilot schools, and had lined-up our early-adopter champion pilot faculty. There was some slight delay in getting our account activated and access to our instance of Canvas that resulted in our LMS Admin/Support team getting access on a Wednesday, with our pilot faculty scheduled to come in for training that following Monday - we had three days to make it happen! In those three days my partner and myself were able to enroll our pilot faculty, create their course shells, enroll their students, and know enough to get rockin' and rollin' on Monday afternoon when our pilot faculty walked in the door for our kick-off session. Four weeks later, our pilot faculty were able to start teaching out of their new Canvas courses.

It doesn't get much better than that! We were sold, and our faculty were sold. We have never looked back. Somewhere along the line during our migration we created a "24 Reasons to Love Canvas" document that we used to promote adoption by faculty who had not yet jumped aboard.  Grant it, much has changed in the last four years, but I have copied the text of that document below. In reviewing it just now, I find that the "reasons" are still valid, and in some cases even stronger.

24 Reasons to Love Canvas

  1. 1.  Speed Grader - cuts grading time by up to 50%.
  2. 2.  Crocodoc - can annotate and grade written assignments without leaving Canvas.
  3. 3.  Ease of navigation for students - move forward and backward using the navigation links or next and previous buttons. Control left-side course navigation menu, and content links to documents, discussions, assignments and even quizzes
  4. 4.  Communication tools - send a message, send an audio note, or send a video to students from multiple places within your class – including all grading activities!
  5. 5.  Rubrics - Add Rubrics to assignments, discussions and quizzes to help student know what is required to achieve a certain grade and make grading the assignment easier. Align rubrics to course and/or institutional outcomes.
  6. 6.  Course Analytics - Canvas contains a section for course analytics so you know what the class is doing and when.
  7. 7. Schedule and Course Calendar are linked to assignments so when a date change is made in one it happens in all.
  8. 8. Course Copy – copying content between quarters has never been easier, and Canvas will even automatically adjust the due dates for you.
  9. 9.  Course Outcomes - These can be added to a course so you can be sure your assignments align with them.
  10. 10.  Notifications - Students can set up how your communication comes to them and how often, and be notified regularly of course activities.
  11. 11. Upgrades - No downtime as the LMS is cloud based. 
  12. 12. 3rd party Application Integrations -  Khan Academy and Ted Ed (to name a few) integrate easily into classes from either course level or at an admin level.  You can even use the redirect integration to create custom navigation menu items for useful web pages
  13. 13. Help - truly useful help and support features, including all users being able to request or vote on new features for Canvas.
  14. 15. Synchronous Delivery – Big Blue Button web conferencing tool is integrated in Canvas for easy live office hours, live lectures, instructional continuity, live demonstrations and more.
  15. 16. Draft State: publish (make available and visible to students) and unpublish (make unavailable hidden, and not used in gradebook) content in Canvas to provide better access and design control.
  16. 17. Unlimited course sizes – no limit to the use of engaging media.
  17. 18. Notification of Due Dates – Canvas has six different location that remind students of due dates, helping online students to better track their classroom responsibilities.
  18. 19. Modules: Canvas is designed to incorporate content into a native module structure. Modules make it easy to organize content for your students, and make it more accessible to your students
    • The drag-n-drop capability for reordering modules and module content simplifies the course creation process, and supports standardized course structure.
    • Module structure permits the hiding of content areas (quizzes, Assignments, Discussions, Pages and Files) further simplifying navigation.
    • Modules can support sequential and laddered instruction by controlling access and forcing sequential movement through module content.
    1. 20. Content Creation tool for modules: this tool not only permits the creation of content, but also the re-use of existing content. Including:
      • Assignments:
      • Quizzes:
      • Files:
      • Content Pages:
      • Discussions:
      • Text headers:
      • External URLs
      • External tools:
      1. 21. Page Tools: Permit the re-use of course components, and easy construction of in-course navigation links (content links), and also includes a full Rich Content Editor and  an HTML Editor.
      2. 22. Virtually unlimited course sizes: We know that media-rich classrooms improve student engagement, but we also know that media files are large. Because Canvas offers unlimited course size, we can use as much media as we need to create an engaging learning environment aligned with course objectives.
      3. 23. Rich-Text Page Editor: Besides the expected features of the page text-editor in Canvas, this editor permits the easy creation and/or upload of media content, and embedding of media from a variety of sources including YouTube, Flickr, Khan Academy, TED, and more than 100 library collections with an HTML Editor.
      4. 24. Group Collaboration Tools: Canvas provides a group structure that creates a virtual sub-classroom within an existing course where students can collaborate in discussions and document creations.

I hope this helps,


Community Coach
Community Coach

One more quick note on things that Canvas has, that Blackboard does not.........

  • Awesome customer support,
  • A truly amazing Community with 75,000+ members,
  • infinitesimal down-times,
  • A willingness to let users help guide product development,
  • A rapid development and release cycle, and
  • The best damn conference held by anybody anywhere!
Community Team
Community Team

 @cdeville ​, we piloted Blackboard and Canvas head to head in Fall 2011. Our adoption decision was breathtakingly simple--and had absolutely nothing to do with a "Canvas rep guid[-ing] you through the most beautiful and enticing parts of the product." We kicked the tires on both products on our own over an extensive period of time before we made our decision. Like Kona and Kelley, we have zero regrets and have never looked back.

They have eloquently expressed the high points, so I will just add these random thoughts to the mix:

(1) Recently I've had occasion to train faculty members who are in the process of moving from Blackboard to Canvas, and they sometimes ask me something about how something works in Blackboard. I generally demur, pointing out that my experience in Bb is over five years old, but when they go on to describe the process I realize: It's exactly the same as it was five years ago. In other words, Bb is static. Canvas is dynamic. You would not recognize the Canvas product (and it was already a fine product) that we made the decision to adopt five years ago.

(2) In that vein, you couldn't pay me enough to go back to those dreaded Bb "versions" and all the upheaval they caused when they came out. Canvas is in the cloud, and is updated every three weeks. With those rare self-hosted exceptions, we're all working in the same version at the same time.

(3) By and large, students love Canvas, and they require almost no training in it to get started right away. What they encounter in Canvas looks familiar to them--and it should, because Canvas is web-based, and looks very much like what they are already seeing elsewhere on the Internets. By contrast, we had to do extensive handholding with our Bb students. Students using Canvas essentially just "get it." So our teachers don't have to waste valuable instructional time walking their students through LMS processes.

Community Team
Community Team

"Squealing with delight":

I hear people squeal with delight over Blackboard--hmm, never.

Community Champion

We moved from WebCT 4 to 6 at the same time Bb bought WebCT and was suing D2L. So I can't speak to the Bb product except for the little exposure I got when we field tested it. We moved from WebCT to Canvas in 2012. Our roll out was very similar to what others have stated. Students require minimal support and with instructors it varies but is still very low. The biggest difference is support. When we were Blackboard customers we had a super buggy product (WebCT 6) to deal with that Bb pretty much refused to support. With Canvas I have a person (our CSM) I can call or email anytime and she will respond quickly to my request. The Canvas Community is awesome and I use the Canvas guides and videos so it really makes my job much easier.  Our support calls are really low each semester. I get about 10 tickets a semester and most deal with content issues (content not published or assignments not configured properly) so they really are not Canvas issues.

Community Coach
Community Coach

Something that I didn't think about before, but was reminded by others responses is the quality of support, guides, Community, openness, and COMMUNICATION.

1. Support - We used Angel/Bb support for 2-3 years before switching to Canvas. Granted that was back in 2012-2013, but overall support was pretty atrocious. It took a while to hear back, the responses normally weren't that helpful, and in general I felt like I couldn't ask them general help questions (only more bigger bug type questions) and even then I felt like they didn't really help. With Canvas we never hesitate to click the Help link and ask for help/support. And no, it's not perfect, but their turn around time to respond is pretty great and I normally feel like they really do care and are trying to help resolve the issue - which is normally resolved unless a bug - which then they add you to a list so you are notified of all updates on that bug and when it is fixed (which is awesome because you don't have to wait for the next version of Canvas or the next service patch, Canvas does rolling updates and fixes all the time!).

1b. Support - With Canvas we are assigned a CSM who is like our personal concierge (but much more awesome). Any questions, problems, issues, anything, I can call or email and the person is there to help! It's an amazing service and especially wonderful when you are just getting started and have a ton of questions/issues/etc.

2. Guides - Wow, wow, wow! When we were on Angel I told faculty to NOT use the Angel guides. They were worthless, not always updated, and confusing. The Canvas guides? A slice of amazingness! They are updated every time Canvas updates anything, very user-friendly, and allow for comments/feedback - which then allows Canvas to either clarify what is meant on the guide or add the additional information directly to the guide. We actually love the guide so much we use them as our primary source when faculty need help or have questions. Want to set a grading scheme? Great, here's the link to the guide for that!

3. Community - Angel never had an online Community other than a list-serve (which was pretty helpful, but limited in the number and type of people who participated). In contrast the Canvas Community is one of it's strongest features! In the Community you can come in and ask about just about anything Canvas related (teacher, admin, instructional designer, Higher ed, K12, etc) and get a response in normally less than 24 hours. <-- I'd say most of the time unless it's a really difficult or extremely Institutional specific question you'll get an answer to your question in WAY less time than that - sometimes within minutes! In addition to asking questions, the Community is a place to share resources, learn new information/skills, and stay up on what's going on with Canvas.

4 & 5. Openness & Communication- Canvas really is open about what they do and what they're up to. Yes, they surprise us (in good ways) every once in a while, but in general they are out in the open in regards to what they are working on and what's coming up - Canvas Studio - in addition, they allow for comments and feedback and Canvas employees will actually respond and correspond with you about your questions/concerns! I think this was well explained in the following blog - - and this quote,

But in stark contrast to BbWorld, none of the customers I spoke to at Instructurecon seemed to mind. Why? Because they already knew what the company was doing.Throughout the conference, I asked a number of attendees what percentage of their motivation for coming was to find out what the company was planning to develop in the next year. The range of answers averaged between 10% and 20%. They all told me that, while they were looking forward to the roadmap sessions later in the week, they didn’t expect any big surprises and weren’t all that focused on finding out what the developers had been doing. I have never been at an LMS conference where that was true, including Sakai conferences and Moodle Moots.

Sorry for the long post, but I hope it helps!

Community Team
Community Team

 @cdeville ​, I found the course my school's online learning team created back in 2011 that lays out the LMS selection process for Edison State College (now known as Florida SouthWestern State College)--and here it is for your enjoyment: LMS Evaluation Process: LMS Selection Process 

(Please disregard the links in the left navigation; those were subsequently added at the account level and do not pertain to the course itself.)

Community Participant

Such GREAT feedback everyone! Thank you!