By Mateo Lopez, Sept. 14, 2021

After years of operating through Blackboard, Cal Poly Pomona officially made the switch to Canvas as the campus’ learning management system. The implementation, first announced in December 2020, began with the two systems being simultaneously available for faculty in the summer term before fully transitioning to Canvas this fall semester.

The transition was one supported by many students, especially those who transferred to CPP and were familiar with Canvas at their other institutions. With the growing use of the software by surrounding campuses and the importance of an online system during virtual instruction, administrators made the change.

“We switched to Canvas because it was better for Cal Poly students that we switch to Canvas,” said Victoria Bhavsar, director of the Center for the Advancement of Faculty Excellence. “The majority of the higher education system in California, and a lot of K-12, uses Canvas so we did it specifically so that students would have an easier time coming in and succeeding at Cal Poly Pomona.”

Though student success was a key factor, the adoption of a new system after a decade of Blackboard led to an effort to prepare faculty ahead of Canvas’ adoption.

“We had a lot of faculty who were concerned having to learn a new platform,” said Bhavsar. “Of course, that’s a concern. It’s difficult to do that, so we were not surprised by that, so we place a ton of training and support.”

Training was provided in synchronous and asynchronous workshops throughout the year; faculty members were provided stipends for completing training workshops. Workshops were not performed on campus.

According to Jill Hargis, interim associate vice president for faculty affairs, during the summer 413 faculty members took two-week basic Canvas summer courses designed and led by the Center of Advancement from Faculty Excellence, 258 faculty took multi-week courses organized by the Association of College and University Educators, and 423 faculty took a three-week CAFE course called Inclusive and Equity Hybrid Flipped Course Design.

While the training process was planned to ease the worries for faculty adapting to a new system, administrators had worries about whether the transition could occur in the first place.

“I think the most difficult piece was when we decided that we were going to (Canvas) and we looked at the schedule and wondered, ‘Could we do it?’” said Vice President of Information Technology & Institutional Planning John McGuthry. “After we had a lot of conversations about the impact of students, the potential confusion that students may have, the potential confusion that faculty may have, we decided, ‘Let’s make the transition go 100% in the fall for Canvas.’”

Another planned option was to start implementing Canvas along with Blackboard this fall and wait until the end of spring 2022 to complete the transition.

For some students, that quicker timetable came as a relief.

“I did one semester with Blackboard, and I was real excited to transfer back to Canvas,” said Carolyn Kobly, an organizational communication student who transferred from Fullerton College, which uses Canvas. “I think Canvas is a lot cleaner in the layout; I think it’s easier to get to things. I also used Canvas ahead of time, so I was more familiar with it.”

Other students felt more at ease with the quick transition.

Colin Cunningham, a computer engineering student who used the platform in high school, favors Canvas. “I used Canvas before college; it’s just easy to navigate.”

CAFE’s website includes recordings of past Canvas workshops for faculty members to access. In addition, students and faculty will have access to Canvas’ 24/7 Tier 1 support until June 2022 through the Help icon on the platform.

Feature image by Sharon Wu | The Poly Post

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