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Canvas Upgrade FAQ

What’s the bottom line on this?

Starting in January of 2013 and continuing through the spring of 2014, CU Online is migrating off the Blackboard and eCollege platforms to a new system called Canvas. By the summer of 2014, all faculty using a learning management system will be using Canvas.

Why are you doing this?

Since the advent of Learning Management System (LMS) with platforms like eCollege and Blackboard in the 90s, the education landscape has changed dramatically. After 15+ years of supporting two systems, eCollege and Blackboard, we felt it was time to re-evaluate the mix of tools provided for teaching with the desire to build an open, flexible platform for the future. Consolidating to a single LMS platform helps us focus our support efforts and re-invest savings in new tools for teaching.

When are you doing this?

Blackboard and eCollege will be retired on June 30, 2014. After June 30th, you will not be able to access your Blackboard or eCollege courses. After the retirement, CU Online will attempt to retrieve Blackboard or eCollege content by request for a fee.

I have lots of (pictures, video, etc.) content in my course. Will this content work in the new system?

The vast majority of files, images, and multimedia will transfer directly into Canvas. Some video content that was previously hosted in the LMS may be better suited on a streaming media server.

Streaming video plays in the browser (like YouTube) and doesn’t require users to download large files. Streaming media also works across a wider variety of devices, including mobile phones and tablets.

What is the difference between a course upgrade and a course migration?

The course migration process takes your existing content from either Blackboard or eCollege and moves it into Canvas. Of course, these tools work somewhat differently, so not everything will translate 100%. But we will make our best effort to move everything we can and document what we can’t.

The course upgrade process focuses on the activity of taking the migrated content and making it truly at home on the Canvas platform. This includes modifying content and curriculum to take advantage of Canvas tools, as well as making general improvements to the course that will improve its quality!

Is there assistance for course upgrades to Canvas?

CU Online is no longer migrating content from Blackboard or eCollege. Our last migration was November 7, 2013. If you need assistance or have questions about migrating content, please contact our help desk as we may have resources to assist you on a first come, first served basis. 

I simply don’t have the time to deal with this. What happens next?

First off, we understand that this change will take time. What we are doing is trying to provide plenty of advance notice and lots of support to minimize the required time investment in the change.

Beyond that, we want everyone to look at the move to this new system as an opportunity to clean house in those old course shells and invest some time in improving courses. To that end, we really want you to think about this as a course upgrade, and not just as a conversion.

How long will it take to make the switch? Of course, that depends on how much you used the old systems, how capable you feel in these sorts of technologies and how much time you have to invest in course improvements. But here are a few metrics we think are in the ballpark:

  • Time to learn Canvas: 2 hours
  • Time to migrate a fully online course from eCollege to Canvas: 10 hours
  • Time to upgrade a migrated course: 5-10 hours

All told, we think that average online faculty might spend 12 hours per course moving to Canvas and a face-to-face faculty will only need a handful of hours. Spread that out over 10-15 weeks and the amount of time should be manageable.

However, some of our online faculty might not feel that they even have the 10 hours they need to upgrade their course. In that case, CU Online has a special program where we do the upgrade and you just worry about spending a couple of hours learning the system.

When can I try Canvas out?

If you are interested in testing the Canvas waters, you can request a sandbox shell be created for you by emailing the CU Online Help Desk at This sandbox shell is simply for testing and experimenting with the platform. No students will be enrolled in the sandbox shell. However, you can export content you create in the sandbox shell to an official course in Canvas at a later date. ​

Can I see what a finished course looks like in Canvas?

Yes, there is a sample Oceanography course that you can enroll in as a student.

I’ve struggled with Blackboard/eCollege, or I don’t consider myself tech savvy. Is Canvas easy to use?

Canvas borrows many modern web-design concepts from easy to use platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google. From feedback we’ve heard from other institutions and faculty using Canvas, many are enthusiastic about the ease of use of Canvas for faculty and students.

What are the benefits of Canvas compared to Bb/eCollege?

Canvas’ user interface is easier to use. Canvas is built from the ground-up on modern web technologies, meaning it plays nicer in your browser, and includes features users now expect. For example, the communication system allows instructors and students to customize Canvas to notify them via Email, SMS Texts, Facebook, or Twitter of notable course events like upcoming assignments, announcements, or tests.

The platform is also much more flexible for integrating with 3rd party tools like SlideShare, Google Docs, and Quizlet flash cards. Many external tools can be integrated through a technology called LTI (Learning Tool Interoperability), which is a published open spec.

Canvas is also a cloud-hosted platform. In practice, this means minor bugs can be fixed seamlessly without interrupting courses with downtime. New features can also be introduced gradually over time instead of one massive, jarring overhaul.

Canvas has a robust, open user community that collaborates online to answer questions and brainstorm innovative uses of the tool. You can browse the community here:

To learn more about all the cool things Canvas can do, check out our overview of Canvas.

Can I use Canvas on my mobile devices?

Canvas currently has great apps available for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, and Android. For other devices, Canvas works fairly well in mobile web browsers.

Of note to instructors: One of Canvas’ apps for iPad is called SpeedGrader, and makes it easy to do routine grading on your iPad.

Search the App Store on your iOS device for ‘Canvas’ or ‘SpeedGrader’ respectively to find the apps. For Android, search the Google Play store for 'Instructure Canvas' to find the app on your Android device.

I disliked X about the current system, is that fixed in Canvas?

Quite possibly! Have a look here at some of the features of Canvas: Overview of Canvas

Or better yet, dive in with a trial account and play with Canvas. See for yourself:

Will I need to change how I teach to use Canvas?

No, Canvas can function fairly identically to the way that eCollege and Blackboard do. You can present course materials in a specific order or structure, and facilitate discussions, quizzes, and assignments and provide feedback and grades.

However, you may find some of the possibilities afforded by Canvas to be compelling, and over time you may want to evolve your teaching to use some of these. For example, Canvas has bulit-in multimedia feedback, where you can leave audio or video comments on student work.

Where do I file my resignation?

We hope you will try Canvas! While no platform is perfect, the openness and flexibility of Canvas provides a compelling foundation to explore the future of teaching with technology.

Well, if this change doesn’t make me quit, at least where can I complain? Or maybe I just have a comment or a question.

Great! We are looking forward to hearing from you and, hopefully, helping you resolve any issues you might have. Please fill out our Feedback Form, or contact us via the sidebar phone number or email address.​

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