LMS (Blackboard) Evaluation Project


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Stanislaus State has used Blackboard as its primary Learning Management System (LMS) since 2007. The current service contract with Blackboard will be ending on June 30, 2019.  While the system has been updated and upgraded several times over the years, the LMS market has continued to evolve and now is the time to evaluate whether Blackboard remains the best solution for our campus.  OIT and the Technology and Learning Subcommittee of UEPC have been asked to assist with implementing this review.  The review will comprise two phases: 1) evaluate alternative LMS products and choose one to offer as a limited pilot in Fall 2018 and 2) evaluate selected LMS in a pilot and decide whether to retain or replace Blackbord. After an information-gathering process through Fall 2018 involving campus stakeholders, the Provost will utilize all available feedback to help inform her recommendation to President Junn about whether to replace Blackboard, and if so, which LMS should replace it.

Two options are being considered as possible replacements for Blackboard: Canvas and Moodle.

About Canvas

Canvas logoLaunched in 2011, Canvas has made significant inroads in the LMS market, especially in the United States, and is seeing growing interest in the CSU system. Notably, the entire California Community College system recently standardized the overwhelming majority of its campuses on Canvas. Canvas is developed and supported by Instructure, a publicly-traded U.S.-based company (NYSE:INST).

Canvas Overview

Canvas Features

Canvas Presentation Video

About Moodle

Moodle logoFirst released in 2001, Moodle is the most-used LMS in the world. Although primary on-going development is led by an Australian private firm, Moodle is an open-source product and can be freely used and modified by anyone. Professional Moodle hosting and support services do exist and are offered by Certified Moodle Partners, such as eThink Education.

Note: Stan State has offered Moodle for faculty use since 2010.  During Fall 2017, 24 instructors used Moodle to run 53 course sections enrolling 1349 students.

Moodle Overview

Moodle Features

Moodle Presentation Video

Evaluation Timeline: Phase I

February 2018

Gathered preliminary faculty input and interest via faculty survey of current LMS environment (download results) as well as in-person and recorded presentations/demos of Canvas and Moodle

March-April 2018

Volunteer cohort of faculty evaluators take deep dive into both Moodle and Canvas

  • March 5-20: Moodle sandbox courses created and evaluated (download results)
  • March 20-April 9: Canvas sandbox courses created and evaluated (download results)
  • Evaluators will be asked to work on the following tasks in both Canvas and Moodle:
    • Create a representative sample of assignments, activities, and student interactions
    • Set up gradebook to match syllabus requirements
    • Use student test accounts to populate the course with student activity
    • Grade and assess test student activity

April-May 2018

  • April 9: Deadline for evaluators to submit feedback and indicate personal recommendation for product to pilot in Fall 2018 (see Canvas sandbox report, above)
  • April 16: Draft report discussed by Technology and Learning Subcommittee
  • April 20: Final report presented to UEPC and Provost. This report will contain a recommendation on which LMS product should be given a limited pilot with live PeopleSoft enrollments in the Fall 2018 semester.

Evaluation Timeline: Phase II

Summer 2018

  • Initiate a formal pilot for the selected LMS and begin setting it up.
  • Recruit interested faculty to receive training on the piloted system in preparation for Fall 2018 courses.
  • Negotiate with Blackboard for short-term extension after Spring 2019.

Fall 2018

Courses: Blackboard + Pilot courses

  • Pilot faculty and students use new LMS for courses
  • Pilot faculty and students surveyed about permanent replacement of Blackboard
  • Information from stakeholders compiled into a recommendation to Provost for a final decision by President Junn.
  • If the decision is to replace, information campaign communicating the changes begins, with a timeline
  • OIT offers training workshops and sandbox sites

Spring 2019

Courses: Blackboard + new system

All instructors encouraged to run their courses in the new system, but courses will be available in both the new system and in Blackboard.  OIT continues to offer training workshops.

Summer 2019

Courses: Blackboard + new system

All instructors encouraged to run their courses in the new system, but courses will be available in both the new system and in Blackboard.  OIT continues to offer training workshops.

Fall 2019

Courses: Blackboard + new system (final semester of live Blackboard courses)

All instructors encouraged to run their courses in the new system, but courses will be available in both the new system and in Blackboard.  OIT continues to offer training workshops.

Spring 2020

Courses: New system only + Blackboard archive

  • January: Blackboard retired from active course usage.
  • Blackboard courses available an archive for another year.

Fall 2020

Courses: New system only + Blackboard archive

  • December 31: Blackboard archive turned off

Spring 2021

Courses: New system only.  All Blackboard classes no longer available.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is this evaluation happening now?

In short, because the current Blackboard service contract is coming up for renewal in the spring of 2019.  It has been several years since we’ve done a formal evaluation of the primary LMS used on campus, and improvements and changes within the LMS landscape mean it is a good time to examine some options to see if they offer improvements over the current system.

Why are Canvas and Moodle the only options being considered as potential replacements for Blackboard?

Both Moodle and Canvas already have significant market share in higher ed and demonstrate an ability to be deployed on an enterprise level akin to what Blackboard currently offers. Preliminary pricing information also showed that moving to one of these two systems would not increase the university’s cost for providing LMS services.

If there is going to be a replacement, what will happen to existing courses in Blackboard?

As much as possible, existing course material will be backed up and copied into the new system. However, this process is not usually satisfactory from a technical standpoint and the time needed subsequently to “fix” any imported materials is usually as long as starting fresh. Starting fresh also lets instructors rethink and improve their course design in light of the opportunities provided by a new LMS.

How much will a replacement LMS cost compared to Blackboard?

That is currently not known precisely. Importantly, the campus is evaluating a replacement for Blackboard purely for pedagogical reasons, not as a way to save money.

If Blackboard is replaced with Canvas, will faculty still have the option of using Moodle?

Unknown at this time.

What will be the status of Google Classroom if a Blackboard replacement is selected?

Unknown at this time. The availability of Google Classroom (as hosted by OIT) will depend on broader decisions made regarding the continued availability of the Google Apps for Education suite if and when the student email system is migrated away from a Gmail-based system to an Office365-based system.

If Blackboard is not replaced as a result of this evaluation, will faculty continue to have access to Moodle and Google Classroom?

Unknown at this time.

Roles and Responsibilities

Tim Held
Chair, Technology and Learning Subcommittee
Project Co-leader

Corey Cardoza
Director, Information & Learning Services (OIT)
Project Co-leader

Glenn Pillsbury
Instructional Designer (OIT) and Member (ex-officio), Technology and Learning Subcommittee
Project Consultant

Mark Thompson
Chair, University Education and Policies Committee

Kimberly Greer
University Provost