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Course conversion estimations

Community Member
6 9 2,107

I'm not sure if this is a question or a discussion topic, please move as you see fit Smiley Happy

Hi! We are in the mist preparing for the Fall pilot of Canvas at our university. We are pushing for a majority-on, launch for the Spring '17 semester.

With that said, I am trying to determine how long, on average, did it take your instructors to convert their courses from one LMS to Canvas (we are moving from Bb to Canvas). I am looking for time estimates so I can better predict how to staff my group. Some instructors won't mind moving and doing the work themselves, but others will need the hands on experience.

For your university or school can you please answer the following:

  1. The number of unique courses that converted from an LMS to Canvas (by phases or full numbers - anything helps!). I'm looking for a total number of courses that actually moved from your previous LMS to Canvas.
  2. How long did it take you, an ID staff, or the instructor to convert each of the following:
    1. Basic Course - think simple, not much material, maybe a few quizzes, no videos, a few links, maybe an assignment or two, the syllabus, and maybe a simple grade book.
    2. Middle of the Highway course - not fully online, uses many of the tools, online quizzes, external URLS, some media, discussion boards, groups, rubrics, grade book
    3. ALL IN course - I'm thinking your fully online courses that use multimedia, discussions, grade book, online quizes, main point of communication, announcements, assignments, rubrics, peer reviews, you know - everything and the kitchen sink.
  3. About how many staff did you have on hand to handle these course conversions?
  4. Any tips on the bulk migrations from Canvas? We are planning to do multiple phases to onboard the faculty through out the Fall semester (to prepare their course for a Spring launch).

I hope that all makes sense. I think I'm feeling pretty solid on our training plan to prepare the faculty. I'm getting a bit anxious about the actual move off of Blackboard into a new system for majority of our courses in Spring.

Thank you for your knowledge and insight! ... also, any gotchas!


Community Team
Community Team

 @cbarger ​, I have flipped the format to a discussion, because the prompt is likely to elicit numerous different responses, with no single one being "correct." I'm going to tag a few folks to whom I've spoken who are in various stages of Bb-to-Canvas implementations: kcalvert​, lalevesque​,  @lbarratt1 ​,  @colleen_ortega ​, and QC99.tsilvius​, who created the invaluable yet oddly-named Naming Conventions, Repurposing Draft State Icons, and Using BbLearn Pop-out Class Menu to Create an...  Thanks for posting this excellent prompt, and I'm looking forward to seeing it unfold.

Community Member

Thank you very much stefaniesanders​!!!

We have three weeks until the semester is underway. I already have anxious faculty. I don't want to be caught off guard!


Hi  @cbarger ​. We migrated from BbLearn to Canvas two years ago. It was quite a haul. Most of our course migrations were for our online learning program we run in our K12 school district, and our catalog at the time was about maybe 40 courses large. Since we moved to Canvas we expanded our LMS usage to all K-12 teachers and our online learning program as well so our course count has certainly grown! The biggest pains of the Bb-to-Canvas migration came from the course structure distortion. And naturally, this will all depend on your course structure for your classes, too, Crystal.

Our BbLearn Online Course Structure Overview

When I designed the online learning course template for our program in Bb we used only 3 instructional levels:

- Content Areas were our unit levels

  -- Content Folders were our lesson levels

    --- 2 Nested Content Folders were purposed at the bottom of the lesson level folders to hold

       a. Folder 1 contained

          - Part A of the lesson assessment (objective questions (usually Low Bloom and/or DOK1 questions that had to be asked by could be easily auto-graded by the Test Tool)

          - Pat B of the lesson assessment (subject questions (usually authentic/scenario-based questions that were submitted using an Assignment Tool)

          - Along with any additional assessment choice the teacher offered -- basically, this was the folder to put stuff to check for student understanding.

       b. Folder 2 contained

          - enrichment activities or remediation/alternatively explained learning activities for students with IEPs and GIEPs

          - and it was Adaptively Released by groups so that only students in those user Groups could see this content when the teacher placed them in these class groups.

Module Mania

So, aside from the fact that Canvas does not have the same granulation degree of Adaptive Release features for nested content by user group (with the exception of release/unlock/availability dates and pre-reqs for entire modules) and having to rethinking Folder 2's behavioral life in Canvas, the nested Folders themselves (Folders 1 and 2) were the trouble makers.

  • Sometimes they'd nest themselves into a Module that was created from the Bb Content Area (that we used for our unit level design).
  • Sometimes Folders 1 and 2 popped themselves out into their own stand-alone modules.
  • Sometimes they'd play nice and line themselves up in order with the first module being Unit 1, the module below that being that unit's Folder 1, and below that being the corresponding Folder 2 for that unit.
  • Sometimes they'd play "Where's Waldo" with us and arrange themselves other places out of order on the Module page.

Sound fun so far?

Thankfully, Canvas' drag-and-drop interface on the Module page made reshuffling our modules of Folder 1 and Folder 2 content much easier that moving a Content Folder from one Content Area to another or nesting one Content Folder into another Content Folder in BbLearn using the Move process under the folder's chevron menu.

The Team

We had about 10 teachers whom I was showing how to work through this LMS-to-LMS process in workshops and what not. My homework as the lead teacher coaching the team through this process included

  • experimenting with new instructional design layouts that reflect the spirit of what we trying to accomplish structurally in BbLearn but that would make sense to both teacher, student, observer end users' needs in Canvas,
  • creating tutorials to share with teachers for when they leave workshops and need to reference what I helped them review when we were together.
  • checking in early-on in the process to each helper to make sure they were on the right path first with follow-up 1:1 meeting in person and then from there via email and by my observation. Since our team completed a unit together in workshop I asked teachers to email me when they completed a unit's structure on their own. I communicated to them that I would like to followup with them after the workshops and that I'd be checking in to monitor, not necessarily their progress against our timeline, but instead that they're putting Humpty-Dumpty back together again like we discussed in workshop together. After a second reminder if they didn't respond to the first (it happens sometimes) I took a look at their progress in their class myself using the sysadmin privs in the Canvas. I did this only to make sure they were following the structure we practiced together in shop and help prevent them from needing to undo/redo any work later on.

Bb Content Items

As far as specific Content Items go, sometimes Items, which get converted to WikiPages/ContentPages in Canvas, from both a Bb Content Area or a Bb Content Folder would lose their way, too. They'd wind-up not being a part of a Canvas module at all. Instead, it would wind up listed amongst its peer items in one of the course navigation silos such as in Pages or Quizzes, etc. I have a few suggestions for you here.

    1. use the Bb Class menu pop-out feature to make a checklist sheet of your BbLearn course layout. I demonstrated this in the document stefaniesanders​ shared in her reply above. This can help your migration team insure your content made the trip safely.

    2. use draft state to help you out.

        - First, turn all of the modules' visibility.

        - Second, turn off all of the clouds in your Pages and Assignments silos grey so the content is hidden; refresh your modules page to see that all of the content is hidden there now, too.

        - Third, turn on each module. This will light-up all of the content contained in each module.

        - Last, refresh your Pages and Assignment silos. Whatever DOES NOT light up as green is content that migrated but has not made it out to your modules. Command-Click on a Mac or Control-click on a Windows to open each in a new tab in your browser and see where they belong.

BbLearn Test Tool

As for Test Tools, just be wary of question formats. I loved the Hotspot question type in BbLearn's Test Tool, and used it a lot for teachers who needed everything from cell part identification in Biology to Note Name Identification in elementary instrumental music class activities. They just don't exist in Canvas. Find an alternative question type for the question types that exist in BbLearn's Test Tool but not in Canvas' Quiz Tool. Pools come over nicely as question banks in Canvas, but they have different types of granular control that BbLearn does, and the course-to-course sharing potential of banks and question finding in Canvas far exceeds that of BbLearn from when we were using it.

BbLearn Journal Tool

If you used Journals over in BbLearn they will not create over in Canvas. What I found instead was to repurpose the Canvas Assignment Tool as a journal tool. I can't use the Canvas Discussion because Discussions are public and journals are private. So the private tool that can be graded (for graded journals) is the Assignment Tool in Canvas. Setting the Canvas Assignment Tool to unlimited entries and repeating the tool in the module every time you want the students to reflect (as they would in an actual Journal tool), for example after completing each lesson as they work towards a summative assessment. This allows you to place the Assignment Tool right in the student's learning path in the module for them to "Next" upon going page to page in the module, which is analogous to the Tool Link feature in BbLearn you create for BbLearn Tests, Surveys, Blogs, and Journal Tool areas. Be mindful if you use this that applying a due date to the repeated Assignment Tool in Canvas displays the single due date for every repeat occurrence of that tool in the module. (This took a little getting use to in Canvas for our teachers but was cleared up with a quick explanation in the course overview area to our students.)

BbLearn Miscellaneous Tools

I can't speak to Achievements if you use them because they came in existence in BbLearn after we left. Don't quote me on this but I believe I needed to recreate my BbLearn rubrics in Canvas, too. I'm sorry I'm not more definite on this but I either had to rebuild them in Canvas (lots of copying and pasting) and of course re-associate them to their Assignment OR they made it through the journey and then I simply had to re-associate them to their Assignment in Canvas. I believe it was, unfortunately, the former, but I could be foggy here because for some it did and others it didn't.

I hope this helps, and keep in mind this is my experience from BbLearn two years in the past; things could be different now on both sides fothe migration process for your experience. Of course, as you are able, don't forget to share back how you're doing and any tips and tricks you come upon during your migration. Every little bit of sharing helps the team effort.  🙂

Community Member

QC99.tsilvius​ Thank you for your response. I'm trying to soak it all in. I have that page saved and I have been reviewing it.

My University is around 24,000 FTE and we range around 2500 courses using Blackboard a semester (using in some capacity, not total courses offered). The instructors use Blackboard in a wide range of capacity from just posting the syllabus to using everything available. We have approximately 2000 instructors at the university, this includes full time faculty, adjuncts, and GAs/TAs.

Right now, I have my team of 5 dedicated (mostly) to the cause, but we also have to fully support Blackboard (we are self-hosted, which means we have to also perform all of the emergency maintenance) through this transition year. To add to the craziness, we are piloting mediasite and echo 360 this Fall.  Our Center for eLearning will be assisting the Distance Learning faculty who request it and I think we will also be pulling in some of our other staff to be back up.

I think I have a pretty solid training plan for the university faculty. I have planned the following:

1. Biweekly visits to each of our colleges and partner campuses to do canvas training (as listed below) and open labs

2. Continuous offerings of trainings in our own lab, which include:

  • Roadshow (1 hr)
    • These will be a brief overview of our project update for the colleges including a short demo
  • Canvas Primer 1 (1 hr)
    • Basics for Canvas - getting in, setting notifications, profile info, navigation, using the calendar, simple assignments, modules, pages, posting the syllabus etc..
  • Canvas Primer 2 (1 hr)
    • Creating assignments, quizzes, using the grade book
  • Canvas Questions and Migration Open Lab (4 hrs)
    • Walk-in help for instructors. They will be able to sit and work on their course and have immediate help as they are getting things set up. They can also come in and ask specific questions.
  • Tech Talks (45 min)
    • These will be short very focused workshops on specific tools, like the grade book, assignments, discussions, etc..

3. All of these will be offered in different formats

  • Face to Face in a computer lab
  • Virtual through webex (other than open lab)
  • After-hours - to accommodate adjuncts who also work full time jobs during the day

Do you think I am missing anything?

Is there anything automatic we can be doing in Blackboard to help the clean up? I'm going through the document and I'll be putting together some instructions for the Faculty and IDs, but if there is something we can do in the back-end before the extract is made, that would be a life saver.


Hi  @cbarger ​. It really sounds like you're covering your staff preparation for the migration bases quite nicely. You might want to plan ahead to the workshop support after the migration happens with some of the areas I posted above. I could see separate workshops on redefining and reconstituting what the online class structure now means in Canvas vs. what it meant in BbLearn (content areas = modules, and so on), separate workshops on question types that existed in BbLearn Test Tools but don't exist in Canvas and how to modify the Quizzes and their Question Banks now that they're in Canvas. This is the training and pd part of the process that I enjoy helping others through the transition after the migration ends, actually.

At 24k FTEs, you're blowing our k-12's 600 FTEs WAY out of the water! Are you planning on transferring over every course from Bb to Canvas? We used a Google Form to collect the Class IDs from our FTEs for the classes they want transferred and then we transferred manually. At 24,000 staff thought I'm thinking that is going to be massive even if every one asks for just one class to be transferred. However, if not everyone of the FTEs needed to use BbLearn and only a few did maybe collecting specific class IDs for the migration would be a lighter bulk load to carry over.

Community Member

QC99.tsilvius​ The courses I listed are for faculty to attend. We are doing a bit of a crash course in those primers 1&2 (a lot of info in a short amount of time). But we would then move into the Tech-talks, where we would focus on one subject, such as grade book, using discussions, organizing your course, ect.. All of these will be continued to be offered throughout the transitions (3 semesters) and then still after everyone has transitioned (we have newly hired adjuncts every semester). Not to mention, we will also have one on one appointments with faculty who request and our Distance Learning instructors (80% and above online) will work with our Center for eLearning for their more specific, online needs.

Once we move through the transition my goal for that 2017-2018 school year will be to increase adoption rates, which I am hoping will be encouraged by some policy changes at the university (we'll see).

We are working on some documentation on the comparison of Bb and Canvas to help the instructors with the learning curve, which will include terminology changes and tool comparisons. I have the Quiz comparison on my list as well.

My plan is to do the migration in stages with something similar. The university uses Qualtrics, so I am going to have a survey ready to deploy the 2nd week of school to start the collection period (2-3 weeks) where the instructors would provide us with the course ID and semester of the course they wish to move to canvas. Then from the instructor submissions (as long as we have over 100), we will then send those to Canvas for the bulk migration - though we have been thinking it might be easier to do it ourselves. That process will rinse and repeat through out the semester. I'm doing it this way because we just have too many courses to migrate and there isn't an *easy* way to know which courses the instructors actually need since some of the courses are only offered once a year or sometimes, even once every couple years.

In that survey, I want to include a Bb clean up tips document so they can look at the course in Bb before we grab it. I plan on sending the survey via email at the beginning of the collection period and then a few days before the collection end. It will also be posted in a Bb module, and other communications within the university.

We are pushing the deans and chairs of the colleges pretty hard with visits to their meetings and communications through the provost. Our goal for spring is majority of courses live for the Spring 2017 semester, which will equate to around 3000 courses that need to move before the Spring semester starts.

Currently we are working on getting my team built up a bit with some student workers and then getting other support groups trained as well so they can jump in if needed.

I hope that isn't too jumbled, I feel like I'm running 95% of the time.


Community Team
Community Team

To everyone who has participated in this thoughtful discussion thus far-- @cbarger , QC99.tsilvius, and anyone else who might be nearby--I thought you might be interested in this CanvasLIVE​ event coming up on September 14, 2016 (first in a series): Driving Engagement Step 1: Analyze & Plan

Community Team
Community Team

The next installment of the series is coming up!

RSVP to Driving Engagement Series: 3 & 4) Deploy & Engage... which is coming up this Wednesday, November 16, 2016. RSVP “yes” if you will be there--and if your schedule doesn’t allow you to attend in real time, RSVP "no" or "maybe" to receive all event updates. Your RSVP ensures that you will receive a notification should the event be cancelled or changed.

Learner II

really detailed reply - very useful

Did you export using the zip of the common cartridge?