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LMS Transition Information

For information about the transition to NAU's next Learning Management System, please visit: nau.edu/lms-transition. Here you can find information about the criteria used to evaluate the systems, vendor produced videos that provide a walkthrough on each of the products, and information about the transition timeline.



Tech Support

e-mail LMS-Faculty-Help@nau.edu or call 928-523-3335



Log In

      To create your sandbox accounts in each system, follow this link. After account creation is complete, you can click the icons below to go the the login screen, and log in with your NAU username and password. We settled on these three choices because they are all major players in the LMS market, and because we already have contracts with these vendors at NAU (Blackboard), ASU (Canvas) and UA (Brightspace).


      Ultra Login Ultra       brightspace login      canvas login


Feature Testing

In your blank shell for each system, build and explore each of the following course elements. Click the LMS name below each numbered topic to open/close the instructions.

1. Course List: When you first log into Blackboard Learn, you enter the Course List page, sometimes called the Ultra Base Navigation. Along the left side, various system tools such as the Activity Stream and Messages are available. To enter a course, select it from the list. The course list defaults to Current Courses, but you can also filter by past term, upcoming, non-credit, etc. As you will see, Ultra uses the same interface.

▸ Ultra

▸ Brightspace

▸ Canvas

2. Organize Content: In Blackboard Learn, course content is organized in nested folders by Week, Chapter, or Module using Build Content/Content Folder. All three of the new systems move away from this hierarchical approach because it's so easy for students to lose their place, but they each still give you the ability to group related pieces of content, using expanding/collapsing modules.

▸ Ultra

▸ Brightspace

▸ Canvas

3. Upload File: In Bb Learn, files uploaded from outside the system (Word docs, PowerPoints, PDFs, etc.) get added using Build Content/File. These files are added to the course's Content Collection, which is accessed from the left side navigation.

▸ Ultra

▸ Brightspace

▸ Canvas

4. Create Content Page: In Bb Learn, you can create a native HTML page using the Build Content/Blank Page option. Each of the systems allows you to create pages in the same way, using a built-in HTML editor. Hover over the tools in the editors to learn their functions. Are there any unique features or missing features in any of them? Are any of them easier to use or more fully developed? How many clicks does it take to accomplish common tasks?

    1. Type some text and use the formatting tools to make it bold, italic, change the text color, font style and point size.
    2. Copy/paste some formatted text from Word or a web page. Does is come across formatted or unformatted? Is there a clear formatting tool?
    3. Add some text with superscripts or subscripts, or write a mathematical equation.
    4. Make a bulleted list. Make a numbered list. Indent some of the items in the lists.
    5. Add a weblink and make make note of whether clicking on it opens the website in a new window/browser tab.
    6. Add an image to the page. Can you wrap text around it, or change the image's size from fixed (pixels) to scaled (percent)?
    7. Create a data table with three rows and three columns. Can you merge cells to create a header row, or format individual cells within the table?
    8. Embed a YouTube video on your page using the HTML embed code rather than a weblink. How easy to use was the HTML editor?

▸ Ultra

▸ Brightspace

▸ Canvas

5. Create Test: In Bb Learn, there are many test question types and options are scattered across several menus. Test creation can be cumbersome, and requires many clicks. In each of the new systems, test creation is more simplified. Build a short test with one question of each type you commonly use, if those types are available. For starters, build a multiple choice question worth one point with five options, and randomize the presentation of choices A through E. After creating your first question, how easy is it to add another? Did you find all the features you were looking for? How easy was this, relative to original Blackboard?

▸ Ultra

▸ Brightspace

▸ Canvas

6. Create Assignment: Think of the assignments tool as a dropbox where students can upload work created outside the system, such as written papers, recorded videos, Powerpoint presentations, etc. In Bb Learn, Assignments are created under the Assessments menu. Tied to the assessments tool are the Rubrics tool and the Safe Assign originality/plagiarism checker. Brightspace and Canvas use a different plagiarism checker called TurnItIn.

▸ Ultra

▸ Brightspace

▸ Canvas

7. Build Discussion: Discussions are an asynchronous tool that allows students to engage with each other and with the instructor in response to a "seed question" written by the instructor or, if permitted, by students. In Bb Learn, you first add the Discussions tool to the course menu, and then go to the Discussions area to create organizational folders called Forums. Each forum can contain one or more discussion topics called Threads. The discussion tool in Bb Learn is complex and can be configured in many ways.

▸ Ultra

▸ Brightspace

▸ Canvas

8. Manage Groups: Blackboard Learn allowed the creation of student groups, and this function was integrated into several other tools, including Discussions, Assignments, Collaborate Ultra. However, managing groups was cumbersome and the feature was underused. In Blackboard, group members could be assigned randomly, by signup sheet, or manually by the instructor.

▸ Ultra

▸ Brightspace

▸ Canvas

9. In-Course Messages: At NAU, we encouraged the use of Blackboard Learn's internal Messages tool for several reasons. 1) It created a record of all course communication with students. 2) It was free of junk mail, viruses and malware. 3) The identity of students was certain, and only students on the roster could use this tool to communicate with the instructor. The only downside was that instructors needed to make a habit of going into the LMS to regularly check for messages. In each of the messaging tools, make note of how easy it is to send to multiple recipients.

▸ Ultra

▸ Brightspace

▸ Canvas

10. Live Conferencing: As part of our Blackboard Learn license, we also pay for Blackboard's live conferencing tool, Collaborate Ultra. This tool can also be integrated with other LMSes, or we might choose, as part of this review, to adopt a different product.

▸ Ultra

▸ Brightspace

▸ Canvas

11. Student View: In Blackboard Learn, you can turn off Edit Mode to see the course from the student point of view (hidden and date restricted items will disappear), or you can enter Student Preview mode to take tests or interact as a student would in the Discussions and other areas.

▸ Ultra

▸ Brightspace

▸ Canvas

12. Gradebook: The gradebook/roster is a tool that most faculty spend a lot of time in, and it tends to be the most unloved feature of any LMS. Blackboard Learn's Grade Center was clunky, with choppy scrolling in both the vertical and horizontal, and too many hard to interpret menu choices, but it did have a few nice features such as Needs Grading and Grade Assignment Anonymously. In order to fully evaluate the gradebook of each LMS, we'll need to create some dummy student accounts and assignments to be graded.

▸ Ultra

▸ Brightspace

▸ Canvas

13. Conditional Release: In Blackboard Learn, course elements could be hidden from students, and they could also be released to individuals, groups, or the whole class based on conditions set by the instructor. For example, a document or folder could become visible to students after a specified score was earned on a quiz, or after a date and time had passed. Items could also be made to disappear after a date and time had passed.

▸ Ultra

▸ Brightspace

▸ Canvas

14. Other tools: While the LMS will change, there are some third-party applications that we use now which we would likely continue to use after the transition. Our proctoring tools, HonorLock and ProctorU, work with all of our potential LMS choices. Our Accessibility Checker, ALLY and our streaming media system, Kaltura can also be integrated with any of the LMSes. If we select either Brightspace or Canvas, we would need to adopt a different plagiarism detection tool, TurnItIn, because SafeAssign is a component of the Blackboard LMS. We could integrate the live conferencing tool Collaborate Ultra with any of the LMSes, but it might be worth considering alternatives as part of the review, since this product is bundled into our current Blackboard license. We may choose to employ the services of K-16 Solutions to speed the transition, since migrating courses from one LMS to another can be labor intensive.