Pilot Project FAQ’s

What is Canvas?

Canvas is a cloud-based Learning Management System (LMS), created in 2011 by Instructure, an educational technology company based in Salt Lake City, Utah. For more information regarding Canvas, check out www.canvaslms.com

What is the Canvas Pilot Project at Emory University?

Academic Technology Services (ATS), Teaching and Learning Technologies (TLT) conducted a pilot of Canvas in fall 2015 with 18 classes chosen from across the institution. Participating faculty members taught courses using the Canvas LMS instead of Blackboard. Based on their feedback, a decision was made to extend and expand the pilot into the spring 2016 semester with a greater number and variety of courses.

Project goals are (1) to understand and to be able to articulate pilot faculty’s experiences using Canvas, (2) document and share feedback from pilot faculty & students, and the greater campus community, (3) identify any functionality and/or technical gaps between Canvas and Blackboard, and (4) finally make an informed recommendation to our leadership about our LMS strategy for subsequent semesters.

Why pilot an LMS at Emory now?

Blackboard has been in use at Emory for over a decade and during that time the LMS industry has evolved dramatically. Given the dynamic nature of instructional technology and our contract with Blackboard up for renewal soon, the timing is right to test another learning management system.

Why was the pilot extended from the fall to spring?

The initial pilot in fall of 2015 included 18 classes and about 450 total users. Participants felt that more data and experience was needed in order to make a comprehensive recommendation. The short timeframe of the fall pilot restricted the number of integrations, documentation and best practice we could implement and test. This spring, a larger cohort of classes of various types are piloting Canvas in order to make a final, informed recommendation on the university’s LMS strategy.

Why pilot Canvas and not other LMS products?

In recent years we have carried out a series of service improvement exercises to consider Emory’s learning management needs and how to best address them as they continue to evolve. Our faculty have communicated what they want most from a LMS is simplicity of design and ease of use.   After extensive consultation and research of peer institutions regarding LMS use, we also discovered Canvas (by Instructure) has emerged as the “best of breed” in comparison to Blackboard. Canvas is recognized for its clean, intuitive user interface, which also features drag-and-drop functionality.

How many people are participating in this pilot?

About 2,000 students and 60 faculty members are currently signed up to teach in Canvas in the spring, with several dozen other users in Sandbox accounts. The entire Emory community will be welcome to attend open pilot events being held during the spring semester.

How will I know if one of my courses is participating in this pilot?

On (or before) the first day of class, participating faculty will inform their students about the pilot. Students should remember that any other enrolled courses will use Blackboard. We are looking forward to hearing these select student perspectives on using both Canvas & Blackboard LMS’s.

When will the decision to change or keep Emory’s LMS be made?

ATS will provide a written project report with LMS recommendations in April to senior leadership. Leadership will then determine if Emory will adopt Canvas or keep Blackboard.

What happens to Blackboard if Emory changes to Canvas?

If Canvas is chosen as Emory’s new LMS, a transition phase will be initiated. During this transition, Emory will run both Blackboard and Canvas, allowing faculty time to migrate their materials from Blackboard. ATS will provide training for transferring course content from Blackboard as well as designing new courses in Canvas.

Who can I contact with questions about Canvas and the pilot?

Please contact Dana Bryant or Kathy Hayes at canvaspilot [at] emory [dot] edu.