“After this week the hassle will be over”

From Blackboard to Canvas

14-10-2020

MAASTRICHT. Suddenly, deadlines for the assignments had disappeared, the online lecture videos faltered, and some students appeared to be scheduled in two places at the same time. The transition from Blackboard to the more user-friendly Canvas was not a flawless one, but by now the main problems have been solved, says Charles Bollen, the University Library official who led the change-over to Canvas.

Canvas is the new online learning environment that Maastricht students and lecturers have been using since the beginning of August. Just like Blackboard, it is a platform where course information is shared, but also feedback and administrative messages.

Some lecturers, busy with hybrid education and new forms of testing, were angry. Do ‘those in power’ not realise that when you’re in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic it is not the best time to introduce a new learning environment? “We didn’t have a choice,” says project leader Charles Bollen. “The license for Blackboard had already been cancelled and the migration was in full swing.”

That wasn’t without hiccups. Normally, all messages from lecturers (announcements) can be also viewed by students in the student portal, their person environment, but the links between the portal and Canvas didn’t function, says Bollen. “As a result, some students didn’t realise that tutorial group meetings started later or were cancelled, that the deadlines for assignments were shifted, that kind of thing.”

Another confusing thing was that both the student portal and Canvas have a calendar, except that they unfortunately don’t always contain the same information. Bollen: “The Canvas calendar only contains deadlines for assignments, the portal’s timetable contains the course schedule.”

Then we had the online lectures that got stuck during streaming. “They were sent from a single server, now we have four. This has significantly increased the capacity and the video’s run just like before.”

Despite these issues, Bollen is satisfied with the transition. “Certainly considering the obstacles we have had to overcome. In the first place, the cyberattack. IT staff that was supposed to work on the transition, first had to get security up to scratch. COVID-19 has also had a huge impact. Suddenly, a large portion of the education activities was online, which made the changeover to Canvas a lot more difficult. Anyway, after this week the hassle will be over.”

“After this week the hassle will be over”