Change is on the horizon for Thomas Nelson students, faculty and staff. A new system called Canvas is replacing Blackboard, the learning management system used by Virginia’s Community Colleges (VCCS) for the past 16 years. More than 3,000 colleges and universities, school districts and institutions use Canvas, and it was deemed the best option for VCCS by a committee of faculty from throughout the system.
At Thomas Nelson, all courses will be offered in Canvas by this summer. During the transition, the College is increasing the new system’s visibility. The Canvas tile was added to the MyTNCC menu beside Blackboard. Plus, Thomas Nelson faculty and staff have had access to Canvas since fall and have a sandbox on their Canvas dashboard, which is a space to explore the features of a Canvas course shell without students enrolled. Faculty and staff can experiment with their sandbox to learn more about how Canvas works.
Jason Vance, the College’s eCampus coordinator, and Faculty Senate President Lauren Williams have been coordinating Canvas training and communication efforts College wide. As part of implementation, Vance and Williams established several support avenues for faculty and staff.
They developed Canvas First Look and Canvas Next Steps, in-person workshops that began in December and will continue at campuses in Hampton and the Historic Triangle. The sessions span roughly an hour each and are targeted to beginners. Register for face-to-face training by filling out this registration form.
This month, Canvas Mentor Alandra Giron, an assistant professor of Spanish and Humanities & World Languages chair, will begin offering First Look and Next Steps webinars for those who prefer virtual sessions. Register for the webinars by clicking here.
“We are happy to set up group trainings for departments or small groups of faculty who want to learn together. We want to be as flexible as we can to meet the needs of our colleagues across the college, so in addition to the trainings we’ve already scheduled, we can also take requests,” said Williams, encouraging faculty to contact her directly with their specific needs.
She added that Canvas offers numerous training resources such as easy-to-follow guides, videos as well as live and recorded webinars. It also has an active user community made up of practitioners discussing how to use effectively Canvas. Other resources include two self-paced training courses available to faculty and staff on their Canvas dashboards and 24-hour Canvas support hotlines, one each for faculty and students.
Vance and Williams stressed that after June 30, all VCCS users will lose access to Blackboard.
“If you have materials in Blackboard you’d like to keep, or that you feel you need for record keeping, you should export those files to your computer or a zip drive,” noted Williams.
A frequently asked question during training has to do with moving content from Blackboard to Canvas. While this is possible, she said, users are cautioned against copying over large quantities of Blackboard content. Williams said this transition gives everyone a chance to take stock and examine what they really need to keep.
“Canvas is not set up to store materials in great numbers, so users should really think about what needs to be in the course shell and what can be stored elsewhere,” said Williams citing GoogleDrive, OneDrive, Dropbox and other cloud storage applications as good alternatives for storing course materials when not in use.