Switch to Canvas has been ‘smooth,’ director of educational tech says

While students have complained that professors are slow to learn the new system, a University employee maintains the alternative would have been worse.

As Baldwin Wallace students and faculty adjust following the University’s change in learning management systems from Blackboard to Canvas for the Fall 2022 semester, director of educational technology Donna Gutschmidt said the transition has been relatively smooth.  

She said the community has responded positively to the changes.   

“I think people were ready for a change, and I think a lot of them were starting to see some of the weaknesses in Blackboard,” Gutschmidt said.  

However, some students, like Elizabeth Huffman, a senior media production major, have found issues with the switch this semester.   

“I think just the fact that none of the professors really know how to use it is a problem,” Huffman said. “I just think there’s more [cons] than pros.”  

Gutschmidt said the transition to Canvas came as a direct result of Blackboard’s aging interface and lack of user experience.   

Blackboard was also in the process of switching its clients from its old system to a new one called “Ultra”.   

“It was really clunky and painful,” Gutschmidt said of Ultra. “We had spoken to other schools that had made the transition, and they were like, ‘Don’t do it, you’ll be sorry.’”   

Gutschmidt and her team considered these factors and concluded that a move to Canvas would be in the best interest of the BW community.   

She said the discussion about a potential transition began a few years ago when Canvas pitched its service to the university. Afterward, it took her around six months to process and package the official proposal.  

As part of the process, Gutschmidt curated a focus group of faculty members and invited representatives from Blackboard and Canvas to give a demo of their products.   

“It wasn’t even a contest,” she said. “People either said, ‘Okay, I would be fine with either,’ or they strongly said, ‘We need to go to Canvas.’”  

To get a sense of the students’ perspective, Gutschmidt and her team have judged  the community’s response based on questions and complaints. According to her, the BW help desk has received fewer calls regarding issues with Canvas.   

“Students are not calling up and having trouble,” Gutschmidt said. “If anything, when they do call up with trouble, it’s usually a device issue, not a Canvas issue,” she said.  

Gutschmidt said that individuals having difficulties with the new system should check out the “BW Campus Resources” tab located on the “Courses” page on Canvas. Students can also send questions to BW’s IT help desk at help.bw.edu.