August 25, 2016

Canvas is university's new learning management system

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln announced Aug. 25 that it will adopt Canvas by Instructure as the institution’s official learning management system, following approval from the Board of Regents.

Canvas will eventually replace Blackboard, which has been in use at the university since 1995. Courses will be available in Canvas for the fall semester upon the instructor’s request. So far, 268 course shells have been requested. In the spring 2016 semester, every course will have both Canvas and Blackboard course shells; instructors will be able to choose which system to use.

Blackboard will run concurrently during the transition with a final cutover date to be determined.

“Our migration from Blackboard to Canvas is driven by our commitment to provide our faculty and students with the best available teaching and learning technologies,” said Lance Pérez, interim dean of the college of engineering and former associate vice chancellor for academic affairs. “This decision was made based on extensive piloting and feedback from UNL faculty and students, the other University of Nebraska campuses and in consultation with our Big Ten Academic Alliance peers.”

Canvas was piloted across campus last year in 51 classes involving 1,554 students; user comments have been largely positive.

“Canvas will significantly enhance the teaching and learning experience at the university and, ultimately, for all of the University of Nebraska (system). Canvas was built from the ground up to provide a better user interface, to allow faculty and students to fully utilize all of its features from mobile devices, and to support learning analytics,” Pérez said.

The two-year contract for Canvas was purchased through the university’s membership in Unizin, a non-profit, higher education digital learning consortium. Nebraska became one of 11 founding members in 2015. The consortium seeks to align member needs with joint investments in digital teaching technology.

“The commercial sector was not responding to the needs of higher education in the most effective way,” Pérez said. “So the members of the Unizin consortium felt they had to get involved in the development process so these tools would better serve our faculty and students.

A key underlying strategy of the Unizin consortium is to get involved in the development of the educational technology that universities are using to deliver course content and to help students learn, Pérez said. The Unizin consortium is taking the lead using data that comes out of various educational tools and use it to best advantage students and help faculty become more effective teachers.

Regents funded a two-year agreement between Nebraska and Canvas to coincide with the university’s ongoing membership in Unizin. The university’s contract with Blackboard ends in 2018.

For general questions about Canvas, contact the Canvas team at A basic overview of Canvas is available here. The Canvas learning management system is available here.