Trojans bid farewell to Blackboard, voice hope for Canvas

(COMIC/ Abigail Nicholson)
Katie Miller shares students' and staff's opinions on the new learning management system at Troy, Canvas.
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Katie Miller

Staff Writer

Starting this summer, Troy University will no longer be associated with Blackboard. Instead, students will be introduced to Canvas, an up-to-date, student-focused, easy-to-use system for all assignments and communication.

Glynn Cavin, associate vice chancellor for Troy Online, speaks very highly of Canvas.

“We think it’s important to stay abreast with what’s going on in evolving educational technology,” Cavin said. “Blackboard was not meeting our needs currently.”

“Canvas is very up-to-date,” Cavin said. “It met all of our functionality requirements, and it’s easy to use and a lot cheaper.”

One of many studies Cavin and his team observed was a study done by Northwestern University comparing the functionality of the learning management systems and interviewing students and faculty on their preferences.

“They overwhelmingly went for Canvas,” Cavin said. The study also included that students are able to learn to use Canvas within 30 minutes on average.

Canvas will sync to your devices, and you will have the ability to receive notifications from professors on your tablet, laptop and even your cell phone.

“It’s really easy to use Canvas on your portable device,” Cavin said. “The to-do list will list everything you have coming up. One click and you’re in it.”

M. Joann Rouse, a lecturer in the Sorrell College of Business, is going through training for certification in Canvas.

“All the instructors will go to class just like all students go to class,” Rouse said. “It basically walks us through how to log in, what are all the icons, how to utilize it, things that we were used to in Blackboard.”

“In addition to hands-on in-class, there are a lot of web trainings available,” Rouse said. “There is a 24-hour help line the university has paid for, for the next year, so that no matter what time we get in trouble, there will be someone there at the end of the phone call to assist us.

“I think it can be an improvement for the school if we all learn how to use it and utilize it to its full extent,” Rouse said, “I think the ability to use a learning management system to augment a student’s ability to learn is really important.”

Rachel Truebig, a sophomore elementary education major from Montgomery, expressed distaste for Blackboard.

“I really don’t like the mobile site; usually the app doesn’t work either because sometimes it’s faulty,” Truebig said. “I also don’t like that I don’t get notifications straight to my phone, even when I do use the app.”

As with any learning management system, all faculty members need to be on board to make college easier for students.

“Some of my teachers don’t use Blackboard, so it’s kind of hard to keep up with their class,” Truebig said. “I understand that’s their option, but if we’re going to have it, it would be nice for everyone to use it.”

“I am excited because it’s going to be a new opportunity to learn a new site, and hopefully it will fix some of the problems,” Truebig said.

Dean Gernon, a sophomore chemical engineering major from Madison, is a student at Auburn University, which currently uses Canvas.

“I personally like Canvas,” Gernon said. “There’s even an app that is pretty streamlined, so you can easily check Canvas even if you’re on the go.”

Gernon’s favorite feature is the calendar because it keeps up with each assignment that he has throughout the semester.

“Everything is color coded based on the class it is for, and each assignment or exam will cross out once you do them,” Gernon said. “But it only works well if the teachers input homework dates and test dates into Canvas.”

Another feature of Canvas is the “what-if” scenario system, which predicts exactly what grade we will need on each assignment to get a specific final grade. Blackboard never allowed us to do this.

“I’d say Canvas is really worth using as an aid to college students,” Gernon said. “You’d have to have all of the teachers on board and knowledgeable of how to use it to get the most effect out of Canvas.”

As busy college students, we need convenience, accessibility and simplicity in order to keep track of assignments and communicate with faculty; Canvas is the answer!