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The Study Hall

OSU Moving from Brightspace to Canvas

*Editor's note: This article originally appeared in The Daily O'Collegian, the student news organization of Oklahoma State University. It is republished with permission.

Photo editorial credit: Ken Wolter /

Some students and faculty might remember a few years ago when Oklahoma State University updated its learning management system, or LMS, to Brightspace by Desire2Learn.

There are plans to change it again in 2019.

OSU has used D2L as its LMS since 2005. In summer 2015, the university adopted a major update in the LMS called Brightspace by D2L, which is what OSU currently uses for its online classroom.

Christine Ormsbee, the associate provost/director for the OSU Institute for Teaching and Learning Excellence, has been working toward changing the LMS from D2L.

“A couple of years ago, I thought it would be a good time to look around and see what else was going on in learning management systems,” Ormsbee said. “We have faculty that really, really likes it, but we also have faculty who really, really were struggling with it. It wasn’t doing the things they wanted it to do.”

In 2014, Ormsbee formed an informal committee to look into possibly changing the LMS for OSU. The committee identified what it considered to be the top 10 LMSs at universities across the country. The members discussed the different features and advantages each one had to offer and ultimately invited six vendors to do online demonstrations. At the same time, they conducted a survey with faculty and students to assess overall satisfaction with D2L.

“With that information and with the vendor demos, the group at the time was heavily interested in Canvas,” Ormsbee said.

In spring 2015, the group decided to put its research into a new LMS on hold as the university prepared to adopt Brightspace. In spring 2016, after students and faculty had about nine months to get used to the update, the group reconvened. It was decided the LMS was still not doing what people had hoped it would, so an official review committee formed. This committee included representatives from OSUIT, OSU-Oklahoma City, Conners State College, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College, Oklahoma Panhandle State University, Langston University and Center for Health Sciences. These groups share the contract for Brightspace with OSU.

The new committee identified Blackboard, D2L and Canvas as the top-three LMSs used in higher education across the country. The group invited each vendor to come to campus to give a presentation and demonstrate its product. Committee members also conducted another survey of students and faculty.

“After that process, we discussed it, and we voted," Ormsbee said. "The vote was to move to Canvas.”

Canvas by Instructure is the self-proclaimed "21st century LMS." Canvas is designed to get out of users' way, to let them do their thing. Every last feature, every last interface is crafted to save time and effort and to make teaching and learning easier, according to its website.

“It’s going to help faculty teach in the way they want to teach. And it’s going to help students learn and be successful in their classes.”

Ormsbee said she thinks students and faculty will be able to take advantage of Canvas than they have Brightspace. The new LMS is app-based, so it’s supposed to run better on mobile devices. Canvas also has a more integrated system than Brightspace, meaning teachers will build syllabi into the tools rather than attaching them. It also has tools built in to help teachers and students stay organized. It will be especially helpful for online classes.

“I think faculty on campus who use Brightspace a lot are going to be excited about the Canvas change,” Ormsbee said. “It provides a much better communications system and structure, particularly for supporting online students.”

Despite Ormsbee’s optimism, not everyone is certain switching from Brightspace is a good decision.

Thomas Rasor, an economics senior, said he doesn’t want Canvas to be a different system with little improvement from Brightspace.

“As a senior, I guess I would be a lot more happy if we just stuck with the same thing,” Rasor said. “Something I already know how to use. But if it’s going to be a lot easier, then I’ll take it, but if it’s going to be like a parallel new, then maybe not.”

Ormsbee said if the switch is approved, it will begin as a pilot in the spring.

“Faculty will get to choose whether they want to do it in the spring or not," Ormsbee said. "Our intent is to have everybody, starting June 1, in Canvas.”

This means that in spring 2019, some students will use Brightspace and Canvas.

ITLE will hold training sessions for faculty members to teach them how to use Canvas. According to Ormsbee, the process of migrating classes from Brightspace to Canvas is simple, but if faculty members want to fully take advantage of all the features Canvas has to offer, that will take some extra time. Ormsbee also said she expects students to have an easier time with the switch than faculty, but if it’s necessary, ITLE can provide seminars on how to use Canvas for students as well.

Ormsbee said she is confident the LMS switch will be a positive one for OSU.

“It’s going to help faculty teach in the way they want to teach," Ormsbee said. "And it’s going to help students learn and be successful in their classes.”