Yep, it was no big surprise with Blackboard being the giant it was (and continues to be). We somehow knew the day would come. At first we saw this as a major inconvenience. It felt like we were just starting to get the hang of things in Angel and more importantly so were faculty. Angel was familiar. Now we had to learn something new. Worse – we had to teach faculty all over again.

But it didn’t take long for our frustrations to start to shift. We already knew our processes for course development needed some attention. We also knew that many of the limitations we were experiencing often stemmed from the constraints of the LMS. As I mentioned in my previous post, the online world was moving forward with new learning opportunities and tools that were naturally finding their ways into our daily lives. Yet the online learning environment we were providing for our students and instructors remained clunky, closed off and segregated from it all.  There was little room for movement within but even more problematic was that there was no opportunity to keep the momentum going after students left the college.

As it all started to sink in, we eventually started to see this transition as an opportunity to really get it right. If our Instructional design processes were focused on making the courses we create more learner centered, we needed to make sure our next LMS allowed for that.

So I bet you want to know who the contenders were. I say “were” because we just recently made the decision (I’ll get to that later…). Our top contenders were Blackboard, D2L, Moodle and Canvas. This isn’t a surprising list considering most post secondary Canadian institutions are going with one of these options. Canvas is just starting to enter the Canadian market but is gaining popularity in the United States. Simon Fraser University just recently signed on with them as well. We knew this was a decision that had to be made by more than our department. So we put together a task-force which included at least one faculty member from each department, several members of our media team, one representative of our curriculum team, a few representatives from IT, a library representative and someone from the registrars office. We sat through several presentations and demonstrations from each of the contenders and developed a set of criteria that included:

  1. Ease of Use,
  2. Ease of Access,
  3. Gradebook,
  4. Assignment sharing options,
  5. Visual Appeal,
  6. Assessment options,
  7. Communication options,
  8. 3rd party integration options (i.e Google Gocs, Dropbbox, Evernote) and
  9. Accessibility

D2L was the first to fall out of the line-up, not because we weren’t interested but because they missed the submission deadline by 7 mins! Legally, we could no longer consider them. Moodle was the next to go. Our team wasn’t convinced we had the resources it would take to make Moodle what we wanted it to be. This brought us to Blackboard or Canvas.

Blackboard is a giant and is used far more in Canada than Canvas. But many of us who had experienced Blackboard weren’t convinced it would be able to take us in the direction we wanted to go. Canvas on the other hand seems to really consider the end user first (the student) and has more options for integrating with tools outside of itself. Because we have recently moved to a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) model in many of our programs, which incorporates more tools and the need for mobile functionality, this was a plus for us.  We are also considering Google Apps for Education, which seems to work well with Canvas. Blackboard on the other hand is familiar and would be an easy transition from Angel.

Sigh…. What to do? What would YOU do?