FAMU Transitions into a new Learning Management System

Photo credit: Giselle Thomas 

Florida A&M University and Florida State University have used the learning management system (LMS) Blackboard for nearly 20 years.

A learning management system is a software application that enables students and teachers to communicate and relay coursework.

Recently, FAMU engineering students were not able to access their Blackboard within the first weeks of school. JoEll Willams, a 4th year computer engineering student at FAMU said that this is not the first-time problems occurred.

“Blackboard went down about 3-4 times during my time in the FAMU-FSU COE. Some time periods longer than others,” Williams said.

Currently FAMU and FSU have three different LMS: FSU Canvas, FAMU Blackboard, and the FSU/FAMU College of Engineering Blackboard.

FSU’s contract for Blackboard expires July 1st 2018. Summer 2017, FSU introduced a Canvas pilot for students to test the new LMS. FSU’s Assistant Director of Technology for the Office of Distance Learning, Mary Eichen said that the new system was favored by students.

“We adopted Canvas and so did many other Florida universities. We did a pilot of the system in the summer and overwhelmingly students liked It more than Blackboard, “Eichen said.

Currently FAMU is in the process of moving over to Canvas LMS. FAMU’s Director of Instructional Technology, Franzetta Fitz said that the goal is to changeover smoothly.

“As we prepare to transition to the Canvas LMS, we will heavily rely on the pilot group to identify key features within each LMS that they think will be most beneficial to our students,” Fitz said.

The reasoning behind the FAMU/FSU College of Engineering Blackboard hiccup was an authentication issue identified by Blackboard and the Office of Instructional Technology.

Williams could not get into the FAMU FSU College of Engineering Blackboard, she had to reach out to her peers.

“There was nothing I could do but try to get in contact with other FSU students in my class to send me documents/instructions for the assignments,” Williams said.

LMS programs are very important to an active student. For some students, one malfunction is too many.

“I depend heavily on Blackboard because that’s where the teachers post almost everything. When an email is sent, it is usually an announcement to look at Blackboard. So, it is my sole source for me schoolwork,” Williams said.

FSU had a few problems with their Blackboard as well, students were able to log-in but could not find their registered classes.

“Our students were getting dropped out of classes, when a FAMU FSU College of Engineering student registers for classes the data is sent out but not re-united in the database. The information comes back jumbled from the registrar’s office; and the student has to be re-added into the system. We have to do a flush of our tables every school year around the add/drop period,” Eichen said.

According to the Department of Instructional Technology, FAMU will continue to see the Blackboard LMS over the next two to three years during the transitional period.

The purpose of the long transition is to properly prepare faculty and students to work with Canvas LMS.