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LMS Migration Strategies - Page 2

Community Participant

Our campus transitioned from Moodle to Canvas last October.  In Moodle, we had had a database activity with hundreds of entries.  What tools have you used to replace Moodle's database activity feature, which is not replicated in Canvas?

We'd like something that students can easily search and submit text and files to.

Thank you!

Heidi Burgiel

Instructional Designer

Lasell College

0 2 1,055
Community Member

With the upcoming New Gradebook: Tentative Q3 2019 transition date feedback‌ is it wise to turn on the New Gradebook that is in Beta for all of those doing the pilot?  My institution is piloting Canvas Spring 2019 and looking at a Fall 2019 full conversion.  Any ideas are welcomed.

Robert McDole

5 4 870
Community Member

We have to migrate course rooms from Fronter to Canvas. The Fronter "Archive" i.e. all structured data of every Fronter room should be migrated as a whole package into Canvas. Does anybody have experience with this kind of migration?

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New Member

Hi All,

Our university, Tarleton State U in Texas, is moving to Canvas from BB in Fall 2019.  I'm looking for any resources anyone might have concerning what you should tell faculty (instructions) on cleaning up BB files prior to a migration into Canvas.

We are emphasizing a 'fresh start' option, but well, most faculty will just say move my courses thinking there will be no issues.

Thanks in advance!

Doug Hanna
Tarleton State University
Stephenville, TX

0 2 957
New Member


I have a question about rendering equations in the comments/feedback section of questions migrated from Blackboard.

1    When opening quizz-questions originally created in Blackboard in Canvas gives perfect results, but things go wrong when it is saved within the system and the exercise is opened again, or employed in a test: in the feedback/comment to the answer the original equation is messed up. In the question body or answer options things don't change.

2    When looking at a simple example equation : $1.96\times\sqrt{\frac{P\left(1-P\right)}{N}}$, in the exercise itself the following code is used, which is perfectly rendered:

<math xmlns="">
<mfrac><mrow><mi>P</mi><mo stretchy="false">(</mo><mn>1</mn><mo>-</mo><mi>P</mi><mo stretchy="false">)</mo></mrow>

3    After uploading and saving the exercise in the system, and opening it again, in the feedback  a different code is present:


BTW: In the question body the code remains the same as under 2.

4    When I look at the exercise that I created by hand (using the equation editor) within Canvas, the following appears in the feedback environment:

<img class="equation_image" title="1.96\times\sqrt{\frac{P\left(1-P\right)}{N}}"  alt="LaTeX: 1.96\times\sqrt{\frac{P\left(1-P\right)}{N}}">


So it seems as if Canvas changes the structure of the content of the feedback section by converting rich material into images by which the original content created within Blackboard (using MathML) is partially destroyed.

My question is: is this a bug of the system? I would say it is because content of the item body and item categories don't change. Apparently comment/feedback sections are treated differently by the quizz algorithm.

I hope someone can comment on this or may have a suggestion of how to go about in solving the issue!

Niels Smits

Follow Up:

I looked further into the different environments within questions. It turns out that "question_text" and "quiz_comment" are treated differently when the Blackboard quiz is imported. For example when both environments contain the same plot, it is saved in a proper location when present within question_text, but not within quiz_comment. In the latter case the plot gets a "broken_image" class (probably because the original Blackboard location is maintained). For example:

<div id="question_180871_question_text" class="question_text user_content enhanced">
<img  alt="$CANVAS_OBJECT_REFERENCE$/attachments/xid-1001001_1" style="max-width: 603px;">

<div class="quiz_comment"><p class="incorrect_comments">
<img  alt="@X@EmbeddedFile.requestUrlStub@X@bbcswebdav/supplements1/xid-1001001_1" class="broken-image">

0 0 1,318
New Member

I am an assistant professor at the University of Amsterdam. We recently (August 2018) moved from Blackboard to Canvas. In Blackboard we used weekly tests to monitor our students on their statistics skills. We migrated our item banks from Blackboard to Canvas and questions work mostly okay, except for displaying "rich" material in the feedback environments: equations and tables are not shown correctly and plots are simply not shown. This is rather disastrous for our courses because our didactic plan dictates that students should receive extensive feedback (for stats meaning calculations with both equations and numbers). When looking in further detail into the html that Canvas renders in the feedback environment, it seems as if the original html code gets messed up.

As an aside: I did some extensive testing in January in our test-version of Canvas. As I recall then and there everything (including feedback) seemed to work fine. But since all test-content was deleted by my institution I cannot tell for sure. So it may be a local issue or a general Canvas-thing. So I wonder why rendering does not work. Is it our local version.

I uploaded a quiz created in and exported from Blackboard and hope someone can tell where the issue comes from!



0 0 580
Community Champion

This is the tenth entry in my Preparing Your Canvas series, documenting NKU's transition from Blackboard to Canvas. If you want to start from the beginning, here's the rest in chronological order:


My last post ended on a lower note than usual, looking back at the obstacles and learning moments we experienced in our migration. However, I believe we also struck upon several strategies that worked/are working really well. I think overall our migration has been a success, so I'm not going to try and cover every single thing that worked. This time I want to look at the things that felt like discoveries, that I'd gladly do again if I found myself charged with migrating an LMS.

Adapt to the needs of the many.

When we started thinking through how to prepare faculty and staff for a new system, we initially started with sequencing the content to follow an instructor moving for the first time from Blackboard to Canvas. We compiled this into an all-encompassing resource, a kind of "How do I Canvas?" bible. However, we quickly ran up against the limitations of this strategy. We had created this beautiful masterpiece that, despite our intentions, ended up being almost as intimidating as the LMS itself for some. Bear in mind, not everyone was intimidated; many instructors were technically literate enough and had the time to go through it. But many instructors weren't helped by it. So we adapted. 


Part of that adaptation we've discussed in other posts: we went synchronous and asynchronous, online and in-person. By offering multiple methods of engagement we lowered the barrier to learning for instructors that were remote or scheduled out of normal training workshops. Another adaptation was changing the content itself. One major group that colleges identified was their pool of adjuncts. Generally, our adjuncts don't build courses. They run them. The conceptual distinction between a Module, a Page, and a File is irrelevant to them because generally they don't need to worry about that. They need to unlock a quiz, not structure the quiz to minimize cheating. So we built a lean version of our larger Canvas 101 to better address that group.

If I were a wizard (I'd also accept warlock), and I could magic myself back in time, I think I would bake this adaptive approach into our process from the beginning. What would our Canvas 101 look like if, instead of treating an instructor building and running a course as the primary use-case, we identified several major use-cases, and found a way to sequence them so people could hop off the training train once they got what they needed?

 Advertise. Aggressively.

Coming out the other side of this, I firmly believe you can't advertise a change like this enough. Part of your migration strategy must account for shaping the narrative of that migration. We had rumors seeping through campus about why we were migrating, or how the migration was related to other events at the university. Through our emails, our digital advertising, and ambassadorship to colleges and programs we were able to communicate the truth: that faculty who piloted Canvas overwhelmingly preferred it to our old LMS. That the old LMS had a shaky, unclear path forward to continue supporting their product we were using. That Canvas could help create a better learning experience that was less about figuring out the idiosyncrasies of an instructor's organizational preferences and more about the actual learning.

Had we not put effort into shaping our institution's perception of the migration, it would not have been as successful in my opinion. Putting on my wizard hat from earlier, I would have done even more advertising. Its about more than just letting faculty, students, and staff know that a change is happening. Its about getting their buy-in on how that change is beneficial, because ultimately it is their perception of change that will have the greatest influence on the success of that change. Even if something is quantifiably faster or more efficient, it won't matter if it doesn't feel that way.

When I stack what we excelled at versus what we could improve on, the scales tip in our favor. 

Last week we ended with questions about how we learn from our failures, especially in an environment where memory is tied to a constantly changing group of people. This week, I'm thinking about how we maintain forward momentum as we gain those new people. Currently, almost every instructor on campus is experiencing Canvas via comparison to the old LMS. Canvas is the new and shiny, but it won't always be. How do we create the same level of enthusiasm when we don't have the crutch of an old LMS to point to? How can we measure our effectiveness when so much of our experience is filtered through the past? 

Next: Preparing Your Canvas: Tying it all up

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Community Participant

We will be moving from Blackboard 9.1 to Canvas over the next 18+ months. In the meantime, we have a professor who needs to create new course sites. He wants to know what Blackboard content types/tools to stay away from so that his course can be successfully migrated to Canvas. My thought is that he definitely create his course in something as close to modules as possible. Do those of you who have migrated courses from Bb to Canvas have any advice?

2 4 1,575
Community Champion

This is the ninth entry in my Preparing Your Canvas series, documenting NKU's transition from Blackboard to Canvas. If you want to start from the beginning, here's the rest in chronological order:


If the break in my updates wasn't a clue, Spring 2018 has been a busy semester for us! Yesterday was May 31st, 2018, and it was the last day that our old LMS would be available to faculty. About this time 12 months ago my team was outlining our plan for assisting the migration, and now we're at this pivotal milestone. For me, tackling a project of this scale has been an immensely beneficial learning process, even if I didn't play a central part. Also, writing up our experiences of going through the migration has been helpful to me, and I hope its been helpful to some of the people reading these posts, too! Attempting to translate a course from one LMS to another forces you to confront some of the philosophical issues that underpin course design. It also makes you face very practical concerns about time and resources. Because I'm a geek for mythology, it makes me think of "the feather of truth." In Egyptian mythology, once a person dies, part of their path in the afterlife involves weighing their heart against a feather from the goddess Maat, the personification of order, balance, and truth (among other things). On this final day of the old LMS, it feels appropriate.

To wrap up my Preparing Your Canvas series, I want to use this post to "weigh" our migration, and take an honest look at some of the challenges we faced. In my next post, we'll talk about what I would want to replicate because it was effective. In the final post of this series, we'll wrap up loose ends and take a look at the future. Now, let's see how these truths stack up.

1. Account for everything that must be migrated.

One truth we ran into during the migration was making sure truly everything got moved out of the old LMS that needed to be moved. Its easy to say "we need to move your courses," and just leave it at that. But what about courses that aren't taught every year? What about courses that were last taught by an instructor who is no longer a part of your program or institution? Thankfully, our IT can backup everything as a failsafe, but that definitely should not be your Plan A for retrieving course content. Besides courses, what other processes rely on your LMS? Our institution uses courses to organize the faculty review process for tenure. All of that tenure documentation also needs to be moved, and potentially recreated in a short time frame depending on when that instructor is up for review next. Many programs also ran their organizations through the old LMS, storing meeting minutes, forms, templates, and more in a course shell. Identifying these earlier in the process will give everyone more time to assess how much material needs to be moved over.

2. Put your migration in context when you plan it.

My workgroup was identified as a major resource for supporting the migration to Canvas. However, the LMS migration was not the only project that we engaged with this past year. Among other things, our institution has aggressively developed its online programs to gain access to a new market. Coincidentally, my workgroup traditionally has been a resource for developing online instruction. Both of these initiatives have been in progress for several years and they happened to line up in this critical 10-12 month window. I have definitely felt challenged at times to provide adequate support and attention to both of these projects. Part of the conversation about managing a migration needs to involve ensuring resources are allocated to fully support everything else happening around the migration, too.

3. Identify breakpoints.

Moving to a new LMS can potentially have consequences outside the LMS. For example, the way our institution generates courses and manages course sections doesn't line up with how Canvas treats courses and sections. This isn't to say the way we've been doing this is bad, or that the way Canvas does this is bad; the two systems just don't effectively communicate in every situation. While this would often go unnoticed from a student's perspective taking a class, it can have ramifications for course developers managing multiple sections, working with TA's or coaches, or integrating publisher content. This one is tricky, because how exactly are you supposed to plan for the things you don't yet know will break? Separately, you may also need to consider creating in-house solutions to account for important services or features. For example, a number of faculty rely on the built in photo roster functionality of our old LMS. Canvas doesn't have that. So, our IT group did what several other schools have done and built our own photo-roster integration with Canvas. They also had to recreate a grade copying tool that faculty to use to quickly import grades to our SIS. The earlier these needs are identified, the more accurately you can road map the migration.

To me, these are three big takeaways from our migration experience. Because of how long people stay at a job and how long a system can be used, some people may only go through a process like this once at an organization. This is my first time migrating to a new LMS. I suppose the last thing I wonder about is institutional amnesia. Now that we've learned these lessons, how do we ensure we won't have to learn them again? With employee churn, what perspectives/knowledge do we risk losing, and how do we preserve them?

Next: Preparing Your Canvas: Coda

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New Member

Can a Powerschool LMS course be imported into Canvas?


1 1 1,292
New Member

We developed 30 OER-enabled Canvas sample course shells that are WCAUG 2.0 accessible and are aligned with effective online teaching & learning strategies. 29 of the shells have OpenStax OER textbooks embedded in them. The 30th shell allows for any textbook to be embedded.

Faculty across the country who use Blackboard, Moodle & D2L have been asking me how to import the Canvas cartridge into their LMS. I'm sticking with Canvas but would like to help them. Also, someone with a free Canvas acct can't seem to be able to import our Canvas cartridge.

Any thoughts? Thanks!

0 1 1,335
Community Contributor

Hello all,

I'm just curious if anyone in the group has worked on migrating courses that rely heavily on Kaltura media to Canvas. It doesn't appear to be something that a standard export/import job can handle.

If you've transferred courses with Kaltura media from one system to Canvas - what approach did you take?

Any suggestions or past experiences would be fantastic.



6 6 1,776
Community Contributor

Hi all,

I could't tell if this was asked here already, but please forgive any redundancy.  In Blackboard, we have a wide use of Organizations (Basically shells which are not associated with courses or enrollments in the SIS). These are used for study groups, video repositories, faculty groups, clubs, etc.

So the question is, what have you found to be the Canvas equivalent to these? Is it simply a matter of creating a course that's moderated by someone with a teacher role?



7 8 2,667
Community Champion

This is the eighth entry in my Preparing Your Canvas series, documenting NKU's transition from Blackboard to Canvas. If you want to start from the beginning, here's the rest in chronological order:


Once the initial, panicked rush at the start of the Fall semester subsided we had a chance to take a breath. Although we continued our daily training offerings, there wasn't anything new to add to the design team's plate for the transition. Whew. Now that we've passed the midterm I thought this would be a good chance to share some of the digital signage we're using to advertise Canvas! Signs are cool, right?

Before we go on though, a warning: if you're from Instructure's marketing group, you might want to look away. I'm sure this is the kind of stuff that gives a brand manager nightmares. (how fitting for Halloween)

A quote from a professor saying &quot;This is easily the best training I

Let's start with the newest sign - this one is about to go out from Marketing. This quote came from one of the faculty working her way through our workshop series. As soon as she said it, I thought "Dang, this has to go up somewhere for people to see!" Since our training isn't mandatory, building interest in our resources is crucial. However, I think that  @kona  makes a strong argument for mandatory training in her post Canvas Instructor Training and Student Orientation‌. Would I make training mandatory? Yes. But I'm a monster.

The logo for Blackboard is partially ripped away like paper, revealing the Canvas logo underneath. To the right is the text &quot;Blackboard goes away this May. Why not take a look at Canvas now_ cite.nku.edu_facstaff_canvas&quot;

We currently have this sign in rotation, and plan to have it up for the entire school year. We want to encourage faculty to move as early as they feel comfortable. We also want to make it explicitly clear that our old LMS isn't accessible after May. Although its been said in emails and announcements, its hard to over-emphasize a critical deadline like this. (I think this sign is my favorite).

A table of statistics about NKU and Canvas. Over 70 Canvas trainings offered. Over 300 faculty enrolled in Canvas 101. Over 670 courses currently being taught in Canvas. At the bottom of the sign is the link cite.nku.edu_facstaff_canvas.

We're getting to the point where we have some good numbers to show for our transition. So let's show them off! Although there wasn't an elegant way to highlight this in the sign, we have 670 unique courses in Canvas. That's not including multiple sections of the same course. Now that I've written this, I suppose I could've just put "unique" instead of "active," huh?


Next: Preparing Your Canvas: The Feather of Truth

6 1 917
Community Contributor

Hi All,

After migrating from a cloud hosted LMS to Canvas, the day comes where your previous LMS licence expires.

A few months after the expiration date, the Dean calls.

A student is asking for their thesis paper, which they uploaded to the previous LMS two semesters ago.

Another is contesting their grade because they actually submitted that term paper last semester, again, in the previous LMS.

Fortunately you had archived all of the hundreds of active courses from the previous LMS, right?

That being said, what is your methodology for retrieving the appropriate artifacts to resolve these requests to the Dean's and the students' satisfaction?

(This is a question we are asking as we engage a Blackboard to Canvas migration. Looking for insight as to how such requests are handled at other institutions.)

Best regards,


6 3 850

Hello! During our transition from Blackboard to Canvas we were trying to determine where we would find the archived student submissions for reference should we need them. I was given access to files sent by Blackboard and I was able to find the directories with all of the individual student assignment submission documents. Sadly, I did not make note of where these were located in the Blackboard archive files and now cannot find them again (and have two requests for past assignment submissions, of course)! Does anyone happen to know off hand where these are kept in the archive docs that Blackboard sends?

0 2 1,223
New Member

Hi all from Tasmania! We are about to embark on a migration from Fronter to Canvas and an upgrade from Blackboard Collaborate to Ultra for our video conferencing software. Are there any users out there with any tips/hints for using Canvas with Blackboard? 

5 4 1,585
Community Champion

This is the seventh entry in my Preparing Your Canvas series, documenting NKU's transition from Blackboard to Canvas. If you want to start from the beginning, here's the rest in chronological order:


Fall 2017 is here! In the week leading up to our first day of classes emails flew, meetings were had, phone calls were panicked, and the campus network temporarily became a frenzied beehive of preparation for the incoming students. This year is the voluntary year for NKU; faculty have the option of switching at any point, up to the end of May. At the end of May, Blackboard goes away (it rhymes — try it out). However, about 1/4 of all our Fall courses look to be delivered in Canvas, which is great for our first semester. And all of that is really important. But you know what's more important? Buttons.

Its hard to over-emphasize just how much people got excited about making graphics, placing them on Content Pages, and then making them links to other parts of their course. Part of the strong response stems from the relative inability of Blackboard to handle this kind of functionality. This left the design team with a question: how much do we focus on what the participating instructors are excited about, and should we pull time from what they are "supposed" to be learning right now? Do we let participants steer the class, or do we keep them on rails to reach our pre-ordained destination? The temptation, especially when you only have about 20 hours of delivery time at most to work with, is to clamp down. Despotism can be so easy. Without veering too much myself, a lot of my personal growth this past year has been in meditating on the difference between contradiction and contrariety. Contradiction sets up an opposition with no middle:

"We can either learn what you want to learn, or what I have planned for you to learn." 

Only one of us gets to be right. Contrariety takes a different approach; it frames the problem not as an either/or, but as a question of allocation or intensity.

"How are we using our time currently? What ways could we use our available time?"

For me, it was reframing the question in this way that made building a separate course, Canvas-201 make sense. I also think the enthusiasm towards making buttons speaks to the fundamentally creative nature of the instructor. The definition of creativity that I have found the most useful is the ability to connect concepts. We could also say that part of the function of an instructor is to help learners connect concepts. Providing instructors the means to functionally express their creativity was an easy decision to make, then. So, let's (finally) take a look at Canvas-201:

  • Module 1 goes over the kinds of functions graphics can serve in your course: Interactive, Informative, Organizational, Decorative.
  • Module 2 lays out some guidelines for things you should and should not do when making your graphics.
  • Module 3 walks through the process of actually building a graphic and deploying it to a Canvas course. 

In building Canvas-201, we chose to do everything in Powerpoint. We can guarantee all our faculty have access to the program, and they probably have some familiarity with it already through making presentations. In addition to talking about how to make graphics, it was a design goal to have the course model its principles. So every graphic inside the course was also created using Powerpoint. For similar reasons we also chose to pull all the photography from one website — pixabay. Module 3 is what most faculty were interested in, as it contains the actual tutorials for how to make images in Powerpoint. The tutorials try to cover a range of styles, and some of them are... basic. However, each tutorial builds upon the previous, and each provides a critical skill or strategy that can be employed in a variety of ways.

And guess what? If you're interested, you can go through the course, too. Just go to the course homepage and enroll. You will need an account with, but that's free.

Next: Preparing Your Canvas: Signs and Wonders

8 0 1,109
Community Champion

This is the sixth entry in my Preparing Your Canvas series, documenting NKU's transition from Blackboard to Canvas. If you want to start from the beginning, here's the rest in chronological order:


I started writing this post over the weekend, intending to finish it before the final SFI started. Oops. In general there's this palpable sense of acceleration as the beginning of the fall semester looms on the horizon. Although interacting with faculty in the intimate setting of the workshops is rewarding, its only one part of our responsibilities. This applies equally to the participating instructors as well; the rest of our duties do not patiently wait while we all set aside this time to dig into building great classes. Part of navigating this transition successfully will involve faculty and staff alike negotiating a balance of their time and resources. 

We spend part of the workshop time thinking about cognitive load in different contexts. For example, how much information is being presented to a viewer at once? Humans can be visually overwhelmed easily. We also expand cognitive load to encompass what students are being asked to do overall. Just like faculty and staff, their behavior as students is a constant negotiation of time, resources, and competing responsibilities. Looking back at our Summer Faculty Institutes, we connected these points with participants while learning about Canvas:

  1. Students attend a class to learn content, skills, and meet objectives.
  2. The more students think about the structure of a class, the less they will think about the content.
  3. Canvas helps improve course design so that students think about course structure less.

These last two SFI's have also offered us new perspectives on the problem of engagement and disenfranchisement. In earlier posts we brought up involving other staff in learning Canvas. Many people besides instructors need to know about Canvas. We also have to respect the needs of instructors who aren't on campus. Online-only instructors, remote faculty working out of other states or other countries — they are equally important in the adoption of a new LMS. To that end, we recorded our WebEx sessions, which I covered more in depth in a previous post. This dips into a larger problem that many institutions face, which is how to provide equity and empowerment to remote faculty and students. Working with online-only organizations previously, I'm familiar with the communication problems that arise for individuals working remotely. Communicating at a distance requires a higher degree of intentionality and follow-through from everyone. You can't just "drop-by" their office or cubicle right when you remember something. The dematerialization of the physical office into emails, WebEx sessions, and phone calls can easily create a feeling of disconnect from the larger system.

Besides holding virtual sessions, sharing the recordings of those sessions, and having the independent Canvas 101 course, what are other ways to support remote faculty and students? I'm curious to see how other institutions have tackled similar issues.

There's still one final group we haven't talked about: the students! The students need to buy into the new LMS just like anyone else. Good things can be ruined by bad introductions. Part of our adoption strategy needs to account for setting a clear narrative for students about what is happening and why. In the past week we've reached out to our Marketing & Communications group to establish a plan of attack for getting the word out. Currently our plan involves 4 stages of advertising, using a combination of digital signage, campus-wide email newsletter, and social media. The advertising strategy performs a couple duties for faculty and students. For students, it makes them aware of the transition, and sets clear expectations for how their education will be changing. For faculty, it will help encourage more voluntary transitions before the end of Spring '18, when everyone must transition. Part of our overall strategy relies on distributing when faculty make the move as evenly as possible.

The summer institutes, and summer in general, are behind us. Canvas is in front of us. In my next post, we'll get to everyone's favorite: buttons!

Next: Preparing Your Canvas: Buttons!

6 2 887
Community Champion

This is the fifth entry in my Preparing Your Canvas series, documenting NKU's transition from Blackboard to Canvas. If you want to start from the beginning, here's the rest in chronological order:

Summer is slipping away, and Fall semester is barreling towards us! Next week we will begin our third Summer Faculty Institute out of the four we have scheduled. For the past few weeks we've been continuing our stand-alone workshops. We also completed a cycle of synchronous, virtual trainings. Basically, these were instructor-led versions of the workshops delivered through WebEx. For folks who have been teaching online, what I'm about to say next won't surprise you: delivering content online is very different from delivering in-person. 

What I'm not saying is that online delivery is less effective than in-person delivery; virtual synchronous sessions are just different, and your pedagogical strategies have to adapt to account for that. Because I'm a huge nerd, this reminds me of a concept I learned as an art student: ekphrasis. In short, ekphrasis is the use of one artistic medium to describe a different artistic medium. A poem about a painting, for instance. So how do you translate your pedagogy from one medium to another? Your tools will be different from face-to-face (or brick and mortar, if you prefer) to online (or VILT - virtual instructor-led training).

Now, in a former life I had experience running synchronous virtual trainings. I was pretty comfortable (and in fact required by the job) to reach a minimum threshold of engagement from every participant through chat, audio, and video, and to use collaborative tools like shared documents and whiteboards to enhance the learning experience. Trying to apply that experience to my work at NKU has been a major learning opportunity for me, as I've come to understand just how much of my perception of effective pedagogy is mediated and organized by the tools I'm using. Its a theoretical concept people are familiar with, but delivering this WebEx workshop series grounded it in very practical terms.

I came into the workshop series with several assumptions: I would have access to a public chat where all participants could see each others' responses. I would have an object-oriented whiteboard (meaning I could select annotations and drawings from participants and move them around the whiteboard). I would have a participant list that showed participant status that would automatically refresh. Participants would be able to easily mute and unmute themselves. And each of these assumptions, and others, predicated on my entire online teaching experience being based in AdobeConnect and Blackboard Illuminate. And none of these were valid in WebEx. 

As an aside, participants can unmute/mute themselves in WebEx easily depending on how the virtual sessions were setup. Our sessions had been built so this was not feasible.

Fortunately, the workshop series didn't crash and burn. Also, I was not the only person delivering the workshops. My challenge was in translating the fifth workshop in the series to this virtual environment. This final workshop covered best practices for structuring a course in Canvas. A major part of the workshop revolves around having participants define terms like information architecture, student UX, and cognitive load. Then, we use those terms to have learners analyze how we, myself and the other designers, built a previous module in Canvas 101. We ask participants to critique our design choices as a means to applying the concepts they just defined. Once they've worked through our design choices and analyzed them, we wrap up the conversation by showing them the same module structured four alternative ways, assessing how each option solves or creates design problems.

screenshot of content page in Canvas, showing several examples of how to organize a module

All of that necessitates  a lot of back and forth between participants. My solution was to build a whiteboard with predetermined spaces for learner comments. Remember, they can't see each other's chats, and once they add something to the whiteboard, I can't move it.

screenshot of WebEx whiteboard

So far we don't have any more WebEx workshops planned. We do have recordings of each session to share for people who weren't able to attend. However, we know that the faculty response has been incredibly positive, and we'll want to offer more opportunities for them. Also, as the first semester of our transition careens towards us, we are getting more requests to create resources for students to equip them to use Canvas. But this post is long enough, so that'll have to wait.

Button update: Canvas 201 is finished and live! I'll be sharing material from it shortly. For now, here's the first page of it:

screenshot of home page for Canvas course

Next: Preparing Your Canvas:  All Together Now

5 1 868
Community Champion

This is the fourth entry in my Preparing Your Canvas series, documenting NKU's transition from Blackboard to Canvas. If you want to start from the beginning, here's the rest in chronological order:

This is the week where I got to run some of my first stand-alone workshops. We don't have another Summer Faculty Institute till the end of July, so it's just workshops for the next few weeks every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. We intentionally avoid Mondays and Fridays because we expect low faculty attendance on those days during the summer. The other two instructional designers I work with had already ran a few sessions themselves, so I was interested to see for myself how the experience would change in this other format.

The format of the 3-day institute afforded us a lot of control that we would sacrifice in the open workshop format. We could guarantee that participants started each lesson with comparable knowledge about Canvas. With the workshops, participants could attend or skip whichever lessons they wished. We also had more flexibility with the length of lessons in SFI; its easy to let one lesson take an extra 15 minutes to accommodate participant questions, and then shave a few minutes off a couple later lessons to compensate. Finally, my prior experiences as a trainer had involved enough time where I felt like I could form a meaningful connection with participants. I didn't know the names of their children, or see all of their tattoos, but I felt like I had enough time to build a rapport with people. It would be overly dramatic to say I "struggled" with the workshops, but the lack of rapport was something to which I definitely had to adjust. 

As I've mentioned in other posts, our workshops and SFI are extracted from the Canvas 101 course we built, which is divided into 6 modules. Each module potentially contains multiple lessons within it, and each stand-alone workshop corresponds to 1 module. For 1 workshop, we combined 2 modules to give us 5 workshops total. Why? Part of the reason relates to when we do the workshops: Tuesday through Thursday. If we do 6 workshops, 1 workshop a day, and only on the same 3 days each week, we risk having faculty who will never be able to attend 2 of the workshops. By having 5 workshops, we can cycle them out of sync with the days of the week. With enough repetitions Module 1 will eventually happen on a Tuesday, then a Thursday, and finally a Wednesday.

I want to wrap up this post with a review of one of the workshops I did this past week. I developed Modules 3 and 6, so those are the ones with which I'm most familiar. However, for this week only I helped out by also delivering the Module 1 workshop "Getting Started." The point of the module is to introduce in broad terms the unique features of Canvas, contrast them to Blackboard Learn, and migrate at least one course to Canvas. Module 1: Getting Started is hard. I believed it before I had to teach it, but I'm more convinced of it now. You have to manage this balancing act between introducing a new piece of software and not digging into all the specifics of how to use it (the workshop is only 2 hours long). This is complicated by the fact that the module discusses how to migrate content. Part of knowing the best way to migrate the content is to understand what Canvas is going to do with that content, and to do that you really need to just know how to use Canvas.

Part of me thinks that course migration would be a better topic at the end of the training. On the other hand, we built the 6 modules in an order that roughly lines up with the steps an instructor would take in building their course by themselves. Ugh. Its complex.

Also, button update: the Canvas 201 course about making buttons and images is making a lot of progress. Maybe I'll post some examples from the course.

Next: Preparing Your Canvas: Ekphrasis

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Community Champion

I'm writing this after our second Summer Faculty Institute, which I described in Preparing Your Canvas: Starting a new LMS‌. All of the presenters (myself included) felt more confident and comfortable going through it again. In response to feedback we received from the first LMS (some of which you can check out in Preparing Your Canvas: In the Trenches‌), we tried to purposefully include more discussion of design.

I'm gratified by the interest and enthusiasm folks had toward the design discussions. During the concluding learner presentations one of the faculty said (and I will horribly misquote, bear with me):

"I used to think of this technology as just a repository. [The design topics] really created a breakthrough moment for me and opened up my thinking."

Ooh! That warms the cockles of my foolish heart. Hearing that faculty member's words gave me a lot of motivation. For designers of any kind, the craft can often feel neglected. Its a practice that ideally recipients never have to think about, so its only noticed when its missing or done poorly. We included an extra hour of demonstration about how to create graphics and implement them. We chose to do the image creation in Powerpoint as many faculty are already familiar with that software.

We also uncovered an assumption we made. We worked on the in-person component of the training (the SFI in particular) with the mindset that participants would go into Canvas 101 on their own either prior to the SFI or during the  3 days. The reality (as it often is) was different; participants can be hesitant to dive into Canvas 101 outside of when one of the instructors asks them to for an activity. Coincidentally, we also received feedback from this SFI asking for more examples of successful course design. In our next round of iterations we'll be looking for ways to murder two waterfowl with the same rock and discuss Canvas 101 itself as part of the SFI.

Finally, we are also budding off the image creation/user experience discussion into its own course for people to take. So we can add that to the set of plates we're trying to keep spinning. Fortunately, there's a lot of positivity going around. At the risk of jinxing us, I'll say things are going pretty smoothly so far.

Next: Preparing Your Canvas: Stand Alone Complex

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Community Champion

We just finished our first Summer Faculty Institute, which I described briefly in last week's Preparing Your Canvas: Starting a new LMS. I wanted to take a moment to reflect on what we learned from our maiden voyage and to play with  this still (for me, at least) unanswered question: how the heck do you build a Canvas orientation course?

It's not that explaining how to use Canvas is necessarily difficult; there are lots of great resources, either in the Canvas Instructor Guide or in the tutorial videos on Vimeo. The resources are good enough that they constitute part of the problem. Again and again I found myself thinking "Am I just repeating work here?  How can our explanations be better than what's already out there?" Well, here's what I personally arrived at:

  • We can provide an ideal order for learning how to use Canvas that the guides cannot.
  • We can tailor our language to be specific and unique to our users — NKU Faculty.
  • We can intertwine pedagogical/design concerns that would be beyond the scope of the guides to explore. (Examples: cognitive load, formative assessment, how to use Pages or Modules)

Here's the order of lessons we selected for our Summer Faculty Institute, separated by day:

A schedule of the Summer Faculty Institute, listing names of lessons by hour each day.

To make building the course manageable, we broke up the modules between the three designers. I was responsible for Modules 3 and 6. We also made the conscious decision to not restrict the order of our instructor-led training sessions by the module structure we used to organize building the content. We also tried to include multiple opportunities for participants to work on their own course; one of the conditions for joining the SFI was bringing a course to develop brand new in Canvas. The institute concluded with participants sharing their work with each other, discussing decisions that they made. We also collected feedback using a system I've borrowed from my last training job I was taught to call Plus/Delta. Basically, each participant is handed two pieces of paper. On one, they draw a + symbol and write something they liked about the experience. On the other they draw a delta (a triangle), and write something they would like to change about the experience. Submissions are anonymously collected. Below are some examples of the feedback we received:

  • Loved the in-depth interaction with the designers.
  • Wanted more "workshop" time to work on my own course.
  • Really liked seeing the work of other participants.
  • The room was really cold!
  • Learned a lot about how to make buttons!

Well... we can't fix the room temperature, but we did receive actionable feedback. As course designers, we knew we wanted to maintain the amount of instructor/participant interaction in the next iteration. We also wanted to trim down the presentation components of the course to provide more workshop time. What we weren't expecting was the enthusiastic response from participants about how to make buttons. Faculty were eager to build home pages for their course, and to use buttons to connect student users to their content. Part of that enthusiasm stems from the home page we ourselves built for Canvas 101. Check out part of it below:

six red boxes each with a number 1 through 6, representing 6 modules.

You can also see part of the banner we created for the course at the top of the article. So we taught them how to make images, but not necessarily how to best use the images. We are looking for ways to incorporate that discussion into our "Student UX" lesson. This coming week has no SFI, so it's prep and more prep for us. Well, that and start the extended workshop series.

Next: Preparing Your Canvas: Round Two... Fight!

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New Member

Hello! People who have converted from Blackboard to Canvas, how did you handle the transition between how the Bb Outcomes Assessment tool works vs. how Canvas Outcomes work? Maybe I'm missing it, but I don't see a way to pull a random sample and rate by a reviewer. Advice?

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Community Champion

I'm Nick, a designer at Northern Kentucky University, and we just announced our official switch to Canvas! Now that its official, I wanted to start documenting our transition from Blackboard Learn. I'll be live-blogging our transformation into pand- sorry, our transition to a Canvas institution. I've only gotten active in the Canvas Community recently, so this post will have to do the legwork of recapping what's happened so far.

In the Beginning...

During our research phase, I learned that our situation isn't unique; according to Ovum, 30% of institutions would significantly alter or replace their platform for online learning by the end of 2016. On top of that, NKU has been looking to increase its online learning presence. Internally, we've had an ongoing dialogue about what has worked for us and what would continue to work for us in the future. Part of staying relevant and effective is having the will to examine where the path of a product is headed. Eventually, we were able to begin piloting LMS options to see what implementation could look like. Canvas presented us important questions we needed to address for ourselves:

  • SaaS: With Blackboard, we ran the LMS from our own servers. Downtime wasn't a major issue because we controlled and supported the whole system. How would we handle a transition to a SaaS-based LMS model?
  • Folders: Our faculty love using folders. Loooooooove them. This became a repeated sticking point. Canvas relies on a fundamentally different information architecture than Blackboard, and enforces a different navigation, too. How would faculty handle the paradigm shift?
  • Budget: 'nuff said. 

The Pilots take off!

We ran a number of pilot courses, with some professors testing multiple LMS's at the same time. Canvas came out as the overwhelming favorite amongst faculty. The only hiccup we experienced was when the internet effectively shut down because of Amazon. As Canvas relies on Amazon Web Services (AWS), Canvas was unusable for that period of time. Of course, the other LMS we were piloting also went down with AWS. And a number of learning technology tools not tied to either LMS. So that was fun.

Working with the pilots, I noticed two patterns: 1) Switching from "Blackboard thinking" to "Canvas thinking" could be an awkward, difficult process. 2) Actually learning how to use Canvas was incredibly intuitive once faculty were introduced to the software. Most of my time working with the pilots was spent making the conceptual shift necessary to think about how their course would be organized in Canvas versus Blackboard, not so much which buttons they needed to click.

Based on feedback from the pilots, and other factors, Canvas was selected! With the decision made, the instructional design time faced the task of preparing an entire institution to migrate to a new LMS.

The Art of War

Maybe that's melodramatic — colleges can make their own plans for the transition, and some even have their own instructional designer. Its not literally up to just our instructional design team to make it all happen. At the start, though, I was definitely caught up in just the sheer volume of what we were attempting to do. What would it take to shift from the pilot program and bring Canvas to scale? We will be able to stretch our transition out for an entire academic year, which helps immensely, but that's still ~1000 faculty and their associated courses. And this doesn't say anything about acclimating the students to Canvas.

It can be easy to say "Well, they're digital natives, they'll take to it like a duck to water!" But that's not the case for several reasons, some of which are beyond the scope of this blog. However, preparing faculty, and leaving the students for themselves just means faculty will be bogged down answering questions outside the scope of their subject expertise. Moving from students, our old LMS was utilized by staff for purposes completely removed from a classroom. How do we avoid disenfranchising the staff during the transition?

Currently, here's our game plan:

  • Summer Faculty Institutes (SFI): We are offering stipends to faculty who volunteer early to develop a course in Canvas. We are also using this as an opportunity to create embedded Canvas experts in every college, and as many departments as we can.
  • Extended Workshops: We are taking the content from the SFI's and delivering a lighter version of it as individual workshops. Faculty can attend the ones they wish, and skip others. We have them scheduled so they happen on different days of the week. That way, even the instructor who is never available Tuesdays can, in theory, attend every session.
  • Web Session: We are also conducting a WebEx-based version of the workshops for faculty who work remotely.
  • Public Course: The SFI, extended workshops, and web session are all pulling material from the same source, a course we built that we're calling Canvas 101 (we're still undecided if the name is too subtle Smiley Wink). This course is also being made public, that way faculty that just cannot attend anything can still get all of the information from us.
  • Student Course: One member of our group is also building a student-oriented course about successful online learning. At this point I'm not sure if that will be adopted by every college or not.

And... I think that's everything so far. Our first Summer Faculty Institute happens next week, so we'll be able to see how it plays out. We'll also dive into a big question that's been looming in mind: 

What does it mean to build a Canvas Orientation course?

Next: Preparing Your Canvas: In the Trenches

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Community Team
Community Team

Hi All,

This question isn't exactly migration related but it might be one that users who have migrated from blackboard‌ will have faced.  We have a professor who has been using discussions in Blackboard extensively and is now transitioning to Canvas.  In Need: Robust discussion with multiple threads/topics per week with grading across topics, not per to... she is asking for advice about creating "truly discursive, social constructivist learning experiences such as one would expect in a graduate-level seminar."  Please chime in if you have any thoughts.

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New Member

An imported Fill-in-the-Blank quiz question from Blackboard 9.1 contents has an impeditive prefix "RESPONSE_" in the text for the possible answer. (Meanwhile, the multiple points fill in the blank question has no problem. A simple one-point Fill-in-the-Black quiz question only has this problem.)

It's in the way of our migration process from Bb to Canvas. I think that it's a bug of the importing quiz function from Bb, isn't it?

Everyone, were you having same troubles in your migrating process from Bb? Please let me know, if you have any solutions for this issue.

Thanks in advance for your help!

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New Member

We're migrating from Moodlerooms to Canvas. I need to re-create an old course with its assignments complete, discussions, etc. 


  1. created a course in my test instance,
  2. named it and gave it a Course Code and SIS ID (I used the same code for both),
  3. SIS imported users into the system,
  4. SIS imported enrollment into the course, and
  5. imported a Moodle export zip that contained content, users, and logs.

The problem: while enrollment went through (I see the users in the system and they seem to be enrolled into the course - are shown in People), I do not see any discussion posts they made, assignments they've submitted, nor any grades.

The issues I see listed for #5 above are simply, "Import Error: Module Item - "5.10 - Learning Plan Resources" and "Missing links found in imported content - Wiki Page body" so if anyone could shed light on where to go next, that would be great. 

Thank you very much in advance.

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New Member

My institution is in pre-migration mode (moving from Bb 9.1 to Canvas). On our radar as potential issues, ... is a problem with SCORM; as I understand the potential issue, SCORM has a security loophole that would allow JavaScript-savvy students to send a grade manually back to the grade book without having to take an assessment.

  • To prevent this from happening, the CANVAS LMS (automatically) sandboxes each SCORM module outside of the course in a separate repository.  When a course is copied from one shell to another, the SCORM modules are not copied.
  • This means that after a course copy, such as during the CANVAS migration, SCORM modules would need to be (manually) re-deployed to the new copy.

My institution is concerned about the time this process will require for faculty. Is this problem (SCORM modules need to be manually copied to the CANVAS course copy)... still actually a problem? if yes, does anybody have a work around?

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New Member

My institution is about to migrate from Bb to Canvas; among the items on my checklist is a question from Faculty about whether a SkillSoft course can be linked to a course in Canvas. Anybody encountered this situation, found an answer, or have recommendations?

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