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Brown University moving from Blackboard to Instructure’s Canvas LMS

The following was posted as a guest blog on Michael Feldstein’s eLiterate site

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.

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.