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Both professors and students complain about Blackboard, according to Practice Biological Sciences professor David Woodman.

And as a member of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Information Technologies Services Committee, he and his fellow committee members decided to do something about it.

Two years ago, the committee was presented with the expiring Blackboard contract. Because of the complaints against the system, the committee decided to find a new company rather than just renew the Blackboard contract.

Some common complaints were that Blackboard requires more processing to move data and documents, and more steps to link and add files.

“(It’s) more ‘clunky,’” Woodman said.

After presentations from the companies Desire 2 Learn, Canvas and Blackboard, the committee chose Canvas as a replacement. Woodman said the system is “user friendly, has a better mobile app, is easier for content creators and is more intuitive than Blackboard.”

Since the start of the Blackboard replacement process, some professors have opted to begin utilizing Canvas before complete implementation to “get a head start,” news-editorial professor John Bender said.

Bender has been using Canvas in his classes since the beginning of the fall 2015 semester. With Blackboard, Bender had to download grades as a spreadsheet and use Microsoft Excel to get the numbers to add up correctly.

“I was never very happy with the way Blackboard handled grades,” Bender said.

Bender said Canvas is more intuitive and user friendly than Blackboard. But, he said, the foundations of each system are pretty similar.

“It’s not like it’s the difference between lead and gold,” Bender said.

For Bender’s students, it means navigating two systems: Blackboard and Canvas. Blackboard lists Bender’s class, and then directs students over to Canvas. Bender said his students have not commented positively or negatively on his use of Canvas.

At this point, faculty is given the choice to use Canvas over Blackboard. Bender expects that choice to gradually go away, as Canvas comes to completely replace Blackboard.

“At some point, the choice is going to go away,” Bender said.

Bender has observed that the general trend is to replace Blackboard. He has seen the transition to Canvas at other universities, and wonders if Blackboard will use the opportunity to act.

“If that’s going to inspire Blackboard to improve, or if it’s going to go away, like Netscape did, I don’t know,” Bender said.

Woodman said the university is in one of the final phases of replacing Blackboard. The process began by asking companies to present their operating systems. Now that Canvas has been selected, the university hosted a pilot study, which was met with “very positive” results, Woodman said.

Woodman predicted Blackboard will be replaced over the next two years. But he said he thinks this will only happen “if the business end of this is taken care of by the business end of the university.”

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