From Blackboard to Canvas

FAMU Blackboard student sign-in. Photo by Catherine Bryant

Learning Management Systems have become essential to student success in the modern classroom. These systems such as Blackboard, Canvas, Moodle and Schoology give students the ability to self-assess and constantly are aware of their standing in classes. It also gives professors the ability to upload assignments and make due dates visible to their students.

However, students have voiced complaints of professors not utilizing the LMS that Florida A&M University currently offers, Blackboard. When students are not aware of their grades or assignments, they can quickly spiral into a cycle of unpreparedness for class or receive an unwanted surprise at the end of the semester.

“I have a couple teachers that either dismiss Blackboard completely or only have a syllabus on there,” Deshaun White, a senior exercise science major, said. “It affects me negatively because I can’t see my grade clearly. I have to base it off of what has happened in class.

“It also makes it difficult to know what work is due and when its due, especially if I miss a class or missed the assignment in class,” he added.

Being on Blackboard is not an option for students, but it is for professors.

Carl Goodman, associate provost with the Office of Academic Affairs and Student Services, says that it is strongly recommended by the provost that all deans urge their faculty to utilize the LMS, but it is not required.

“One of our biggest initiatives within the university and particularly in academic affairs is student success and we want to make sure students have the opportunity to self assess if they don’t have the time to meet up with their professor,” Goodman said. “It’s important that students have immediate feedback.”

Goodman said that the university would be making the final transition from Blackboard to Canvas in fall of 2020, a transition that has been years in the making.

Bettye Grable, associate professor and immediate past president of the Faculty Senate, commented on the issue of professors not utilizing Blackboard, noting that it is talked about “all the time.”

“We have faculty members who are in their 70’s, almost 80’s. When they started teaching, Blackboard didn’t exist. The older faculty has an experience with these systems that you all did not,” Grable said. “With this new LMS, Canvas, we will be able to send information directly to students, decreasing the amount of downtime before students see information or assessments. We couldn’t do that with Blackboard.”

William Walter, a junior agribusiness student, also credited the age gap as a reason for the disconnect between students and professors.

“I think my generation is more technology based than the professors which has negatively affected me because we are constantly looking to be updated on our progress and grades but professors are more paper-based and don’t quite understand Blackboard, so we aren’t always up to date as far as grades and progress goes,” Walter said.

Students and faculty alike hope that this transition from Blackboard to Canvas will increase student-professor communication in the near future.