Tis the Season to Retire Blackboard and Embrace Canvas


It’s the New Year.  Blackboard is gone – may it rest in peace.  Canvas is here – may we have a long and fruitful time together.

There is one immediate action that you need to consider now:

If you want content from your previous Blackboard sites, you must export the site to Canvas or archive it.  On May 1, 2020, Blackboard will be totally gone from Cornell (along with your data).  Instructions for exporting your site can be found on CTI’s tutorial website.

All courses this semester will automatically have a Canvas site, and will have students automatically enrolled as they add the course (and removed as they drop).

CTI is here in Engineering, ready willing and able, to help:  Starting Wednesday (Jan 15), CTI will hold Canvas office hours in Rhodes to help faculty with all things Canvas.  Stop by as a novice or expert.

  • When:  Every Wednesday 11:00 am to 1:00 pm
  • Where:  Rhodes 191 conference room
  • Who: CTI Canvas staff

Quick Tips for Effectively Using Canvas:

  • Add your staff: While Canvas will automatically handle student enrollments, you must manually add your TA and other staff.
  • Think Modules:  There is a significant paradigm shift from file-based management in Blackboard (folders and subfolders) to modules in Canvas.  Many of us treated Blackboard as a document repository.  While Canvas can operate this way (awkwardly), it is designed to be organized as tasks, with each task module containing notes, presentations, quizzes and assignments.  This integrates with the Canvas calendar flow (one module per week or topic).  Consider shifting to this paradigm as students find it more effective when using Canvas sites.  Effort put into organizing this way can be reused much more readily in future years (using the publish on/off feature).
  • Accept that navigation is a pain: Everyone is aware the navigation needs work.  Hopefully we will see improvement soon.
  • Save and Publish: Look for a “SAVE” button before navigating to a new page (not all, but most will need you to save first).  Similarly, all content (including the course) has to be published before students will be able to see it.  You can use the “student view” to verify the site configuration.
  • Student Calendars: “Assignments” will be put on the student’s calendar if they have a due date.  If you use due dates, recommend being consistent so they always show up (or never do).
  • Canvas Gradebook unfortunate quirks:  The default gradebook in canvas displays total points (course grade) with no weighting.  There have been several cases where this has given students a false (wildly optimistic) sense of their expected grade.   

Solution 1:  Hide the course total “feature” from students

  • In Course navigation (inner toolbar on the left) click on Settings
  • Select more options
  • Then select “Hide totals in student grades summary”
  • Also select “Hide grade distribution graphs from students”
  • Click on Update Course Details

Solution 2:  Use multiple “assignment groups” and assign weighting factors to each group

  • Detailed instructions (canvas tutorial on weighted grading).
  • Note especially options for handling “0”s (both may lead to surprising behavior).
  • Remind students that you, not Canvas, assign final grades.  You may want to try to explain Canvas’s behavior, and as engineers they may even be able to follow the logic.

Canvas resources: