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Switch to Canvas Comes with Varying Opinions

Students and faculty are divided over Belmont University’s recent switch from Blackboard to Canvas, citing performance issues and pressure to learn a new system while adjusting to the new semester.

“It’s hard to get acclimated to something new so often, especially during college when you should be learning things that you’re actually wanting to learn and study rather than a new platform,” said Kaitlin Putnam, a junior music business major.

“No one gives you the time to do that. You just have to take your own time, which is frustrating.”

Belmont has introduced several changes in recent years — a switch from Gmail to Outlook, the renaming of several buildings, an updated list of WELL Core requirements, and, most recently, an updated MyBelmont homepage design — which have frustrated students and confused faculty members.

“Why are we switching another thing here at Belmont?” Putnam said.

Ashe Palermo, a senior audio engineering technology major graduating in December, has mixed feelings about the change. While Palermo likes the layout of Canvas compared to Blackboard, they are frustrated about learning a new system.

“It’s inconvenient to say ‘Hey, learn this new thing for your last semester,’” Palermo said.

Palermo has also experienced technical issues with Canvas.

“When professors link things on Canvas, they just won’t open. You have to put them in a separate tab or window altogether in order for them to open, and that’s really inconvenient when you have multi-gig audio files and audio projects that are coming through.”

Students aren’t the only ones struggling with the switch.

“I’m still learning,” said Dr. Andrea Stover, professor of English at Belmont.

“The difficulty is there’s so much to do at the beginning of every semester,” Stover said.

“You’re writing your syllabi, planning your classes, figuring out how you’re going to evaluate things…it’s a whirlwind. So learning this on top of that, at this moment, has been like a pressure point. And for the students, too.”

But other professors are embracing the switch to Canvas.

“Blackboard was just a God-awful nightmare,” said Nathan Adam, an assistant professor for Curb College. “Blackboard was counterintuitive, slow and ugly. Canvas is clean, it’s intuitive and it looks like modern software.”

Adam said that there’s always a semester of issues when changes occur on a college campus.

“In any change, it takes a minute for the faculty and the students to make the adjustment.”

But Geoff Price, director of instructional technology at Belmont, says the change from Blackboard to Canvas is beneficial for students and faculty.

“When it gets down to it, these platforms are all about 90% of the same thing,” Price said.

Price described Canvas as part of an ecosystem of systems that Belmont uses.

“Canvas is much more than just Canvas. We have up to 50 other softwares that have to integrate and connect,” said Price. “And all those external tools tend to integrate more seamlessly with a platform like Canvas.”

But just because Canvas may work better with external systems, like Bruin Books and Panopto, doesn’t mean that every problem goes away.

“One of the biggest hiccups for students is browsers,” Price said. “Canvas is a completely cloud-based platform.”

“Most of the issues that we have encountered is using an outdated browser or a not-supported browser. And 80% of the time, the student closes out their browser, clears their cache, restarts — it solves the issue.”

If that doesn’t work, Price directed students toward Belmont’s Library and Information Technology Services.

At the end of the day, professors, including Stover, have taken to viewing this experience as one big learning opportunity.

“It makes me feel like I know how students feel when they’re learning my class,” Stover said.

“My students are delightfully patient, and I think because I am fumbling around so much and making mistakes — because I have — they’re patient with me, and I think because I’m making mistakes, they can be patient with themselves for making mistakes, too.”


This article was written by Randi Smith

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