The Canvas debate

At Bellevue College, Canvas has replaced Blackboard Vista as the online platform of the college. Becoming increasingly popular among institutions of both higher education and K-12 schools, Canvas was chosen to replace Blackboard Vista when the rights to Vista approached an expiration date. Blackboard had announced that the “end-of-life” for their product,  Blackboard Vista was to be the beginning of fall  2013.  By the terms agreed upon in the license, BC is required to stop using Vista by then.  The Technology Help Desk project webpage added that, “Fall 2013 still sounds pretty far off, right? In reality, our courses must be off Vista well ahead of that 2013 date because of a variety of college business rules…if we start  right about now, we’ll only just make the deadline to stop using Vista by fall  2013.” Due to this pressure, the system has moved ever further towards being mandatory.

Since the switch, many students and faculty have come forward describing a negative reaction. The contention was that Canvas was not properly implemented, people were inadequately trained and that students and teachers were encountering obstacles that they could not find explanations for.

In regards to this, Ron Rodriguez, student staff with information resources, said that, “I could see from a students perspective, they care about their grades”, but believed that the statements were, “based on more, not factual information.”

Continuing, Rodriguez said that there have some, “that said that there wasn’t adequate training, and that’s just not true.” There are over 100 hours a week of training available for faculty, and over 200 hours a week available for students, as well as 24/7 help lines that can be contacted at any time. “I think it’s more on [their] part to pursue the resources available to them.” These various resources are available throughout campus, online and over the phone, so that students who are struggling with the system can get the help they need, file error reports, and so on. However, contrary to the amount of negative opinion received in the article, there have been relatively low amounts of use of these services.

Jason Aqui, Computing Services director at BC, said: “I cannot address to specifically why some users of Canvas are having trouble.  What I can tell you that with over 12,000 students and faculty using Canvas each quarter we don’t see the numbers coming into faculty training or at the help desk that warrant a red flag indicating a use issue.” Jason added that, “The only thing we actively control in IR is support for Canvas and we are continually looking at improving those services we offer both faculty and staff.”