USask has selected a new Learning Management System (LMS) vendor, Canvas, to support our campus community with an improved student learning experience consistent with our principles.  The move to Canvas will also provide faculty with improved efficiency and new features. We have accelerated our selection given current remote and online teaching.  Blackboard (Bblearn) will continue to be available for up to the next two years, after which Canvas will act as the USask LMS.

Why are we changing our Learning Management System?

USask will begin a phased move to a new Learning Management System (LMS) in the fall of 2020 after more than a decade with Blackboard.  Institutional research, institutional priorities in learning and teaching, and feedback from faculty, instructors and students that indicated:

  • our current LMS isn’t easy and intuitive to use. 
  • our current LMS is limited in its functions to support important, expanded teaching approaches in several areas including assessment, evaluation and collaboration.
  • our current LMS does not work well on mobile devices.
  • a shift to a modern, cloud-based service will improve the effectiveness of the LMS in working with other technologies and services on campus, reducing the need for ‘workarounds’.

The decision to change our LMS at this specific time was also prompted by our current contract with Blackboard being up for renewal. The version of Blackboard we are currently using was almost at the end of its lifecycle, and replacement was necessary.

The LMS renewal project began in Spring 2019. With input from faculty members, two LMSs were identified in Fall 2019 as potential solutions for the institution, Brightspace and Canvas. Canvas was selected at the start of May 2020. Read more about the Canvas transition and new features instructors will have access to on the new Canvas site.

Access to Canvas

We selected Canvas in May, 2020. The first faculty members who signed up to be early adopters started accessing Canvas on June 15, 2020, and by July 8, 2020, all instructors on campus could build courses in either Canvas or Blackboard.  As an instructor, you can choose to start using Canvas early, or move to Canvas in the window selected by your college or school.  In either case, you will receive the professional learning and technical support with migrating your course and learning to use the new LMS.

Implementing Canvas

Each college or school has decided on a preferred window for moving to Canvas and selected a working group to oversee the transition.  Work group members may include:

From the college or school     From the wider USask community
  • academic leaders
  • faculty
  • college technical support people
  • staff members
  • the project manager
  • ICT member
  • central professional development team member from GMCTL (teaching and learning centre) or ICT training
  • DEU (distance education) member, if appropriate

The role of the working group is to:

  1. Identify faculty needs and issues as they arise
  2. Find answers to faculty and staff questions and technical problems
  3. Communicate how to access training, independent learning, and technical support
  4. Anticipate needs that are specific to the college or school and formulate proactive plans for how to address them
  5. Support the process of migrating courses from Blackboard to Canvas


Why are we working to make Canvas available now?

The transition to remote teaching has challenged our assessment and instruction approaches on campus.  The new LMS will offer substantially enhanced online student experience in a remote environment, so it is a high priority for USask. With remote instruction, faculty have been requesting more robust technologies that support a wider range of needs and are easier to learn.  For that reason, USask has decided to keep moving towards a new LMS.  Blackboard will continue to be available for the remainder of the academic year, depending on your college’s or department’s implementation window, but greater functionality will be available for faculty as soon as they access Canvas, including:

  • Easy to use on the mobile devices that many students and faculty are relying on during the pandemic
  • Effective, easy to use tools for online or remote class discussions that significantly improve student learning experience
  • Easy ways to comment on student work via audio, video or in-text comments that improve faculty and student communication
  • Online assessment and grading tools that share the information seamlessly with students and support peer assessment
  • More options for communicating online with students in one simple channel

LMS Renewal Process

How was Canvas selected?

The selection process has been framed by both a set of principles of effective teaching and learning developed from a USask e-learning research study done by and with faculty in 2017, and Our Learning Charter. A variety of LMS vendors submitted proposals based on the principles and requirements in the fall of 2019, and were compared to criteria generated in consultation with faculty, technical teams, learning specialists.

The various applicants were shortlisted to Brightspace and Canvas, who were tested over the entire winter term of 2020 in order to determine which would be more effective for USask faculty and provide the best student learning experience. The assessment included the following:

  • course pilots of Brightspace and Canvas 
  • faculty and student surveys
  • presentations from Brightspace and Canvas and feedback about the presentations from faculty and students
  • usability testing of Brightspace and Canvas with students and faculty

Canvas was selected based on the scoring of all of the data collected. Summer 2020 saw the first classes offered in Canvas.


What are the principles and how will we use them?

Our Learning Charter outlines the teaching and learning approaches we've committed to as a campus community. The 8 principles are research supported characteristics of effective digital learning spaces that prepare students for work and life, and they are aligned to our charter.  We used the 8 principles to help us select Canvas, and they will help us consider how to support faculty in using it to improve the student learning experience. Of the 8, our instructor survey told us that ease of use and accessibility are the two most important principles for USask instructors.

  1. Accessible
    Learning must be found easily at any time, and all learners and teachers have equitable access, regardless of culture, language, ability etc. 
  2. Active and social
    Learning is a process of meaning-making, constructed through learning with others, and as a part of an intentional, deliberate system within a course and across experiences. 
  3. Designed for reflection and growth
    Learning is refined and extended through prompted and supported opportunities to focus on understanding and next steps.  
  4. Designed for students who are remixing and/or creating
    Learning is most effective when systems are designed to help learners find, create, and/or repurpose significant content for the value of themselves and others. 
  5. Designed for student control and ownership of learning
    Learners create and control spaces for learning, understanding and retaining ownership, and purposefully choosing how and when they share.
  6. Efficient and easy to use
    Learners need to work in a system that is fluid and requires a minimum number of steps in systems that are intuitive and integrated.  
  7. Designed to enable connection
    Learners exist in accessible networks, and connect to the experiences, concepts, people, and ideas that they need.  
  8. Inclusive of learning-centered assessment
    Learning and feedback are iterative, and assessment comes from multiple sources, including self, peers, teachers, and outside experts.