Brian Lesser, director of Computing and Communication Services.

Photo: Behdad Mahichi

Ryerson’s plan to erase Blackboard

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By Richa Syal

Ryerson’s current Learning Management System (LMS), Blackboard, is set for retirement.

After 20 months of reviewing proposals from possible LMS vendors, Ryerson narrowed down a Blackboard replacement to two options: Canvas by Instructure and Brightspace by Desire2Learn.

The Learning and Teaching Systems and Services Consultation Committee will select a winner sometime in October. The new system will be fully implemented by fall 2015.

“Blackboard has always had challenges with it. We’ve had it for over 11 years and we’ve seen a gradual increase in its usage,” said Brian Lesser, director of Computing and Communication Services. “But the pressure has been mounting to have a better tool.”

Biz - Blackboard Graph 1 (Igor Nesterenko)

Infographic: Igor Nesterenko

A reliable privacy and security feature and mobile access is a priority requirement for the new LMS, according to Nancy Walton, Ryerson’s director of E-Learning,

“We are very concerned with having a system that people aren’t worried to share their information on.

There is a lot of personal information and intellectual property to protect,” Walton said.

The new system must also offer fast responsive support, ease of use, compatibility with different browsers, plug-in adaptability and scalability — so large classes can download a file without slowing down the system.

Surveys were conducted by the Learning and Teaching Systems and Services Consultation Committee to find student and instructors’ opinion on the most important features of the future LMS.

“Whatever LMS we choose has to be adaptable in a mobile context. With Blackboard, that just didn’t work,” Walton said.


Infographic: Jess Tsang

Both Canvas and Brightspace offer mobile apps for courses and grading. But the key difference between the two systems is that Canvas provides course and grading apps compatible with both iOS and Android, whereas Brightspace only runs a grading app for iOS.

Currently, the two systems are going through a series of student, faculty and staff test drives and focus groups. Any Blackboard user can test out both systems by logging into the my.ryerson portal and click on the LMS Test Drive tab.

“The last phase of consultation is to allow the Ryerson community to engage with the two shortlisted vendors in order to tell us what they find to be the most salient differences — in terms of what features are most meaningful to them,” Walton said.

Biz - Blackboard Graph 2 (Igor Nesterenko)

Infographic: Igor Nesterenko


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