Switch or ditch: Faculty debates transition from Blackboard to Canvas


Eli Miranda

Faust Gorham discussing the differences between Canvas and Black board at the Canvas Faculty Forum in the Health care center conference room on Wednesday, February 12th

Katrina Singleton, News Editor

  The debate about CSU Bakersfield joining in on the trend of switching to Canvas and ditching Blackboard continues even after the open forum on Feb. 12.  

  The forum was led by Brian Street, a kinesiology professor, and Faust Gorham, the Associate Vice President and Chief Information Officer of CSUB Information Technology Services. The forum opened with an explanation of the difference between Canvas and Blackboard. 

  “Canvas is a very student-centric system. Blackboard is more grader-centric,” Gorham said. 

  Canvas is more user-friendly in comparison to Blackboard. Canvas does not rely on third-party software for submitting grades, whereas Blackboard requires faculty to submit grades using Peoplesoft. 

  Canvas offers tier one support for faculty members. This support is strictly for faculty members. This service will be specialized in the instructor aspect of canvas and will be specifically for instructors. 

  Gorham also brought up the cost of jumping from Blackboard to Canvas, as well as the timeline. If the decision to switch to Canvas is made, CSUB will still need to buy licensing from Blackboard for the 2020-2021 academic year, so faculty members who have their classroom materials archived on Blackboard will have enough time to transfer the materials over and familiarize themselves with Canvas. 

  The base licensing pricing for Canvas is $109,019. In this basic licensing, the campus is contracted for 5 years, and there would be a three percent annual increase to cover updates. 

  However, due to waves of campuses leaving Blackboard and going to Canvas, Blackboard has lowered its base license to $85,000. 

  CSUB administration has sent out two surveys to CSUB faculty members who were given the opportunity to pilot Canvas.  

  One survey asked for faculty opinion about which service they prefer. 90% of the faculty members who took the survey preferred Canvas. 10% of the faculty members who took the survey preferred Blackboard.  

  Another survey measured which learning management system CSUB faculty preferred between the two mediums. 88% of faculty who took the survey preferred Canvas’s learning management system, whereas 12% of faculty members responded that they preferred Blackboard’s. 

  A third survey was sent out to CSUB students who were taking courses on Canvas. Of the students who took the survey, 70% preferred using Canvas. 30% preferred using Blackboard. 

  Tracey Salisbury, an assistant professor of interdisciplinary studies, gave a demonstration on how Canvas works for her own classes. She also explained why she wants to change to Canvas. 

  “The number one reason for me wanting to switch is almost all students in the state of California and in the community college system already use Canvas, and the one thing I’m running into and cannot stand is showing students how to sign into Blackboard and how to use Blackboard,” Salisbury said. 

  BreAnna Evans-Santiago, a CSUB assistant professor for teacher education, took part in the Canvas pilot program and had her own feedback via e-mail.  

  “I loved that the assignments directly connected with the calendar and syllabus links. The students were able to see what assignment was next very easily,” Evans-Santiago said. 

  The majority of the uncertainty heard from faculty members that were in the meeting was about the weak grading and testing within Canvas. At the moment, Canvas does not allow for “hotspot testing,” which is defined as randomized test questions.  

  Many of the faculty members at this forum believe this is what makes them lean more towards Blackboard. They believe that Canvas not having the “hotspot testing” option is going to cause an increase in cheating and plagiarism with their students. 

  “I think Canvas has a test bank that is pretty good, but I like to mix up my classes’ tests online, and I think Canvas has some issues with that,” Salisbury said. 

  Faculty were given time to cast their votes on index cards, which Street collected. The result of the faculty vote will be brought to the Academic Senate where the final decision will be made.