University exploring alternative learning management systems


In a 24-hour poll, 228 people voted on the question asking how the coronavirus has affected their opinions of Blackboard. 

Dylan Bowers Reporter

Kent State continues its search that began in December for a new learning management system to replace Blackboard Learn.

Executive Director of IT Jim Raber and Associate Vice President of Continuing & Distance Education Valerie Kelly lead the committee in search of a replacement. 

“When this effort first began, our committee created a survey used to identify critical needs, strengths and weaknesses of the current platform,” said Raber. “This survey was made available to all faculty and students and yielded over 1800 responses.”

According to Kelly, the survey on new improvements with the system included a more intuitive user interface, ease of use/navigation, an improved grade book, improved mobile application, enhancements to collaborative tools, being able to record comments and/or annotate assignments, improved calendaring to allow students to easily see due dates, integration with Microsoft and Google Drive and improved analytics.

The three vendors the university received responses from are Blackboard Learn Ultra, different from the current Blackboard Learn, Canvas by Instructure and Desire2Learn.

“All three of these products are being evaluated by committee members and IT staff, who are evaluating the technical specifications and ease of integration with our existing systems,” Kelly said.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the original plan for Raber and Kelly to make a recommendation during the spring semester was delayed.

“The pandemic forced us to shift plans a bit so faculty members on the committee could refocus their time on converting their classes to remote delivery,” said Raber. “We plan on resuming conversations with an eye towards a recommendation during the fall semester.”

Kent students responded to a Twitter poll asking how the coronavirus has impacted their perception of Blackboard. 64% of the 228 votes were that it had negatively impacted their perception.

Beginning in the summer of 2021, the university plans to begin moving courses over to whichever system is chosen, with the end goal of having all courses moved to the new platform by the end of 2021.

“Although change is always difficult, we are excited at what we are seeing in these updated and upgraded learning management systems,” said Kelly. “We are hopeful that whatever product is chosen, students and faculty will find that it improves their experience and ability to teach and learn.”

Dylan Bowers covers tech. Contact him at [email protected]