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U.Va. in early stages of plan to select and implement a standard learning management system

Canvas and Brightspace are being considered as options for the new system


The University is looking to replace its U.Va. Collab system to a more integrated platform to be used across all undergraduate schools by fall 2023. 

This plan to choose one learning management system to be used across all undergraduate colleges was announced last fall. A learning management system like Collab or the more commonly used platform Canvas is an online system in which students can access class resources and tools, submit assignments and find announcements from professors. 

Currently, students may use up to three different learning management systems — depending on classes and professors’ personal desires — because of U.Va. Collab’s lack of adequate resources for all student and departmental needs. 

The proposed timeline of the learning management system project includes four stages — information gathering and preparation, evaluation and selection, implementation planning and finally system transition. The first phase began in the summer 2021 and the final phase is expected to be completed by fall 2023. 

In an email statement to The Cavalier Daily, University spokesperson Brian Coy said the University is currently in the second phase of the project — evaluation and selection.

Several students in the School of Education received a Canvas announcement encouraging students to participate in vendor demonstrations from Canvas and Brightside. As the School of Education already uses Canvas instead of Collab, the University sought input from students regarding their experiences.

Third-year College student Sarah Hastings said she prefers Canvas to Collab. 

“I feel like Canvas is very user friendly — it's very helpful for students that have a lot on their plate,” Hastings said. “It took me a long time to get used to Collab, whereas I feel like [on] Canvas everything is set up really well.”

Hastings added that she appreciates Canvas because the calendar function allows students to see all of their assignments in every class in one centralized calendar. 

“[The calendar feature] puts all of your assignments into one place, which is extremely helpful, especially when you're taking upwards of 15 credits,” Hastings said. “I think that’s the best feature that the site could have”

Vendor demonstrations occurred Jan. 13 and 14 and Jan. 24 and 25. This permitted Canvas and Brightspace the opportunity to present important information about their product including technical information, course administration and engagement and user experience. Over the two day demonstration, each vendor described how course and content creation would work under their system, how the system would allow for the management of unofficial or large course pages and presented a three-year plan for the future of their system. 

Third-year College student Amanda Kopf said that she hopes administrators will look for a system that is easy for students to use with as few glitches as possible. Although Kopf thinks U.Va. Collab is sufficient for her needs, she said she would prefer an updated grades function that makes it easier to know where you stand in a class.

“[Blackboard] took all of your grades and averaged it out as the semester went on whereas on Collab I haven’t run into a classroom where it’s done that for me yet,” Kopf said. “I wish they showed cumulative grades throughout the semester, rather than at the very end.”

Kopf did say that she strongly preferred Collab to Blackboard, which she used at her previous institution.

“There's a lot less glitches on Collab than there are on Blackboard, which I really appreciate,” Kopf said.

The University is going through the process of finding a system to replace U.Va. Collab because the current system cannot adequately support all the needs of undergraduate students and faculty. Further, according to the project website, the Sakai platform — an open-source learning management system on which U.Va. Collab is based — has fewer developers and third-party vendors to provide updates and enhancements. 

Most research universities have transitioned to new systems that do not use the Sakai platform. Virginia Tech, for example, switched from Sakai to Canvas in 2015.

Kopf said she finds U.Va. Collab easy to use and said she has never had a problem with the current system. 

“When I found out how intertwined [Collab] was with the rest of the University sites it just made a lot of sense to me, and I've not run into any problems,” Kopf said. “I just don’t think it’s worth [the] time to switch.”