The University of Adelaide has announced it will make the switch from Blackboard to Canvas in a new move to upgrade the school’s digital learning capability.
The deployment of the new online-based education management system will be complete January in 2017, concluding a 14-year stretch with Blackboard.
In a consultation period last year, around 3000 students and staff reviewed a number of systems being considered by the University of Adelaide for a potential upgrade.
Participants reportedly demonstrated a strong preference for the new cloud-based Canvas system, claiming that they found it easier to use and that it had a higher level of functionality and interactivity than their previous system.
The university is the first in Australia to adopt Canvas into its learning program, though other institutions have chosen to move away from the more traditional Blackboard system.
In September 2014 the University of Tasmania switched to Desire2Learn’s Brightspace system in an effort to identify when students may be in distress so the institution can intervene before they fail course units or drop out.
Canvas will be fully integrated with face-to-face teaching and group discovery as part of a major transformation of the Adelaide University’s approach to teaching and learning.
The Canvas system offers traditional services such as enabling students to receive notifications, submit assignments, receive grades, and conduct peer assessment and group work in a connected network.
Professor Philippa Levy, pro vice-chancellor (student learning) at the University of Adelaide, said the switch was a “bold and innovative move” intended to deepen student engagement and improve learning outcomes.
“Through a more intuitive and user-friendly interface, Canvas shifts the instructor workload away from the administrative mechanics of course creation toward pedagogical design and learning outcomes.
“Canvas also offers instructors the opportunity to restructure learning design, creating stronger links between course components,” said Professor Levy.
“For example, the discussion board tools in Canvas can be paired tightly with an assessment task to promote peer discussion and engagement around the activity. Staff can also embed rich media, audio and video to provide an enhanced learning experiences and support students engaging with concepts in new ways.”
The system’s support of more active and collaborative learning would be crucial for the university’s small group discovery experience, she added.
In addition, Canvas also introduces a range of features that allows university staff to monitor a student’s achievement and engagement with a subject through reporting and analytics. It will also host digital learning materials produced through the University's Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) program.
According to Adelaide University CIO, Mark Gregory, a significant advantage of Canvas was the web-friendly interface, including on phone browsers. Canvas also allows students to customise notifications beyond email or an app, outside the University's formal learning platform to where students are (for example Twitter, Skype or SMS).
"We are thrilled to be bringing these digital environments to our students," said Gregory.
“It is true that all learning management systems are broadly similar – many of the differences relate to the ease of engagement for students (for example submitting an assignment and receiving feedback).
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