Brown University moving from Blackboard to Instructure’s Canvas LMS

This is a guest post by Phil Hill from Delta Initiative, follow on Twitter [email protected] or his blog

Brown University announced today that they will be moving from MyCourses, which is their branded version of Blackboard Campus Edition (formerly WebCT), to Instructure’s Canvas LMS.  They have already been piloting the Instructure system, and plan to fully move into the new system by Spring 2013.  The Computing and Information Services (CIS), aided by the Academic Technology Steering Committee, started the move to replace MyCourses after Blackboard announced it would end support for Campus Edition by October 2012.  Brown University had been on the WebCT / Blackboard system since 2002.

The primary reasons that Brown University chose Instructure as their new partner appear to be Fewer Clicks and Facebook.  It’s interesting to note that the article quotes a student on his involvement in the process and understanding of the change.  Good for Brown for including students in this decision – not just in a survey, but as a member of the decision committee.

The organization of Canvas distinguishes it from MyCourses, said Jonah Kagan ’13, a member of the Academic Technology Steering Committee, which worked with CIS to find a replacement for MyCourses. Rather than clicking several times to view a single homework assignment for a class, students using Canvas can see all information they need aggregated on a single page.

The interface is similar to a Facebook news feed, with recent stories ­— such as a changed due date or a student comment on a class reading —  on top of the main page. This feature promotes out-of-classroom discussion in a way MyCourses could not, Kagan said.

Drop-down menus allow students to directly access their courses, active assignments or grades, and Canvas automatically creates an assignment calendar that can be exported to applications like Google Calendar. Students can also customize their accounts to receive Canvas notifications via Facebook, Twitter, email or text message.

While congratulations are in order for Instructure and Brown University, I also find this decision backs up some of the trends reported in Emerging Trends in LMS Market.

  • Web 2.0 / 3.0 – Schools are no longer tolerant of clunky systems that require faculty (in particular) a lot of effort to create or manage their courses.  The design paradigm of of social networking is leading to a more natural user interface for systems.  Faculty will benefit greatly from this market move.  This is true even for older LMS systems, responding to new entrants such as Instructure.
  • Software in the Cloud – It used to be, prior to 2006 or so, that few traditional higher ed institutions would consider hosting their core software offsite.  Today, the trend towards Cloud computing is very evident.

Expect several other LMS market deals to be announced in the next few weeks leading up to EDUCAUSE.

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About Phil Hill

Phil is a consultant and industry analyst covering the educational technology market primarily for higher education. He has written for e-Literate since Aug 2011. For a more complete biography, view his profile page.
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4 Responses to Brown University moving from Blackboard to Instructure’s Canvas LMS

  1. Pingback: Opinion: Moodle adoption slipping? I don’t think so | Moodle News

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  3. Joshua Kim says:

    This was very big news for me – both professionally (coming from Dartmouth) and personally.

    I got my PhD from Brown, met my wife at Brown, and my Dad got his PhD at Brown as well (both of us in the sociology dept). So when Brown goes to Instructure – I take notice.

    Count me skeptical that Canvas is yet full ready for prime-time – but perhaps I’m too stuck in the traditional LMS mindset (I’m looking forward to be proven wrong on a whole hose of things I believe about the LMS market and the ed tech space).


  4. Phil Hill says:

    Since I went to RPI, we’ll need to meet on the hockey rink if we have any disagreements :} It will be interesting to see how Instructure executes during the transitions at Utah, Auburn, Brown, Maricopa, et al. I’ll be at the CanvasCon this week, so I’ll probably get more of a feel from their customers on how the migrations are going.

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