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Edgard Rodrigues

App Canvas Student

Posted by Edgard Rodrigues Oct 9, 2019

Hello everyone!


I've been reading world trends and there has been a huge growth in the use of Mobile as apps.

We conduct research at our university and note that it is totally the reverse of the trend.


Our students prefer to use a laptop, and at home to study, than their smartphone and the Canvas Student app. This was very interesting and changed the focus of the university moment.

This is the eleventh (and final!) post in my Preparing Your Canvas series, documenting NKU's transition from Blackboard to Canvas. If you want to start from the beginning, here's the rest in chronological order:



At long last, it's time to cast off the end of this endeavor. First, I'm going to indulge and talk about myself. Since my first post in June 2017, I've grown and changed. Some of that change has been undesirable (turns out being in a grad program while working full time is a great recipe for not taking care of your body), and some of it has helped me mature as an individual. I've learned more about pedagogy and the weird power dynamics of a university. Some of my edges have softened while others have hardened.


Canvas has changed, too. Since we adopted the LMS, Canvas has rolled out updates to the grade book, quizzes, and numerous quality of life improvements. I wish I could have recorded some of the instructors faces when they learned you could finally drag classes around on the Dashboard. Across this series I have also tracked my evolving relationship to Canvas. First, as the new, sexy software that did all the things our old LMS could not. Then, as the unfamiliar tool I had to learn to become an expert. Finally, as a robust (if not perfect) platform for education. And, as we approach the two-year mark from when we first started, I can still confidently say I am 100% happy with the choice to go with Canvas.


But few things can be boiled down to just one choice. It's really a series of choices. Implementing a new LMS involved an ongoing flow of commitments. When we ran into an issue, did we try make it look like the old LMS or use Canvas's approach? Is accessibility a goal we're pursuing as an institution, or an ideal to which we pay lip service? We like to view our past as a being made up of pivotal decisions because it makes our past comprehensible. It's a survival strategy evolved by finite brains processing an absurdly large world. But even something as mundane as switching software can make us reckon with who we are as people. 


From a project management perspective, having a clear end state is critical; you need to be able to say "We're done! We did it!" so that the project can come to a close. However, this view can encourage you to only see your project in isolation. Like the past, some projects don't have a neat end state for the people whose lives are influenced. Its been over a year since the old LMS was shuttered and I still have instructors who are getting used to Canvas or still find it unfamiliar. This is not to fault the instructors; rather, it's to highlight the danger of thinking its as easy as saying "Welp, we're done! Time to pack up!"


In a previous post I said my goal at the end was to wrap up loose ends and look to the future. Some threads refuse to be neatly knotted, though. Although the official migration is finished, it created new responsibilities and connections. We have courses and web pages that people now rely on for ongoing information about Canvas. The LMS migration prompted other initiatives in the university, too. People are warming up to Outcomes, for instance, and beginning to try implementing them at the program level. Universal Design for Learning is popping up in more conversations. Online learning is a growing priority for programs adapting to student needs. And each one is tied up to some degree with the changes to our LMS. Instead of treating the migration like something to finally move past, we can treat these things as yet another necessary step in the patterns of behavior we are creating each day.


I guess what I'm fumbling towards is that maybe its never really over?

Our school is in the process of migrating from Blackboard Canvas. We started about a year ago and we learned a lot. I'd like to share a guide we created. It's written from an instructor's point of view and its purpose is to help instructors, designers, and admins get an idea of what migration from Blackboard to Canvas entails.


Here's an overview:


Blackboard and Canvas are very different systems. Some items make sense to import from one system to another and some will not work at all. Some of the workflows you're used to in Blackboard don't exist in Canvas at this time and that's OK because there are feasible alternatives.


The guide walks you through the following process: Evaluate your blackboard course, determine which items to migrate over and how, execute the migration, resolve issues that occurred as a result of the migration.


There's way too much nuance to fit into a blog post. So the guide is hosted as an external resource located at the link below. I made it generic so that it can apply to almost any Blackboard and Canvas environment. I hope that you find that it has some value, and saves some time and effort. 


Blackboard to Canvas Migration Guide


Also please feel free to share feedback, suggestions, questions, and corrections if you found anything different in your own experiences. 




FYI To append this post (I'll add these to the module at a later time) 7/16/2019:


  • If you were using Grade Schema (for letter grades) in Bb, those will need to be recreated in Canvas. They do not transfer over.

This is the tenth entry in my Preparing Your Canvas series, documenting NKU's transition from Blackboard to Canvas. If you want to start from the beginning, here's the rest in chronological order:



My last post ended on a lower note than usual, looking back at the obstacles and learning moments we experienced in our migration. However, I believe we also struck upon several strategies that worked/are working really well. I think overall our migration has been a success, so I'm not going to try and cover every single thing that worked. This time I want to look at the things that felt like discoveries, that I'd gladly do again if I found myself charged with migrating an LMS.


Adapt to the needs of the many.

When we started thinking through how to prepare faculty and staff for a new system, we initially started with sequencing the content to follow an instructor moving for the first time from Blackboard to Canvas. We compiled this into an all-encompassing resource, a kind of "How do I Canvas?" bible. However, we quickly ran up against the limitations of this strategy. We had created this beautiful masterpiece that, despite our intentions, ended up being almost as intimidating as the LMS itself for some. Bear in mind, not everyone was intimidated; many instructors were technically literate enough and had the time to go through it. But many instructors weren't helped by it. So we adapted. 


Part of that adaptation we've discussed in other posts: we went synchronous and asynchronous, online and in-person. By offering multiple methods of engagement we lowered the barrier to learning for instructors that were remote or scheduled out of normal training workshops. Another adaptation was changing the content itself. One major group that colleges identified was their pool of adjuncts. Generally, our adjuncts don't build courses. They run them. The conceptual distinction between a Module, a Page, and a File is irrelevant to them because generally they don't need to worry about that. They need to unlock a quiz, not structure the quiz to minimize cheating. So we built a lean version of our larger Canvas 101 to better address that group.


If I were a wizard (I'd also accept warlock), and I could magic myself back in time, I think I would bake this adaptive approach into our process from the beginning. What would our Canvas 101 look like if, instead of treating an instructor building and running a course as the primary use-case, we identified several major use-cases, and found a way to sequence them so people could hop off the training train once they got what they needed?


 Advertise. Aggressively.

Coming out the other side of this, I firmly believe you can't advertise a change like this enough. Part of your migration strategy must account for shaping the narrative of that migration. We had rumors seeping through campus about why we were migrating, or how the migration was related to other events at the university. Through our emails, our digital advertising, and ambassadorship to colleges and programs we were able to communicate the truth: that faculty who piloted Canvas overwhelmingly preferred it to our old LMS. That the old LMS had a shaky, unclear path forward to continue supporting their product we were using. That Canvas could help create a better learning experience that was less about figuring out the idiosyncrasies of an instructor's organizational preferences and more about the actual learning.


Had we not put effort into shaping our institution's perception of the migration, it would not have been as successful in my opinion. Putting on my wizard hat from earlier, I would have done even more advertising. Its about more than just letting faculty, students, and staff know that a change is happening. Its about getting their buy-in on how that change is beneficial, because ultimately it is their perception of change that will have the greatest influence on the success of that change. Even if something is quantifiably faster or more efficient, it won't matter if it doesn't feel that way.


When I stack what we excelled at versus what we could improve on, the scales tip in our favor. 


Last week we ended with questions about how we learn from our failures, especially in an environment where memory is tied to a constantly changing group of people. This week, I'm thinking about how we maintain forward momentum as we gain those new people. Currently, almost every instructor on campus is experiencing Canvas via comparison to the old LMS. Canvas is the new and shiny, but it won't always be. How do we create the same level of enthusiasm when we don't have the crutch of an old LMS to point to? How can we measure our effectiveness when so much of our experience is filtered through the past? 


Next: Preparing Your Canvas: Tying it all up

This is the ninth entry in my Preparing Your Canvas series, documenting NKU's transition from Blackboard to Canvas. If you want to start from the beginning, here's the rest in chronological order:



If the break in my updates wasn't a clue, Spring 2018 has been a busy semester for us! Yesterday was May 31st, 2018, and it was the last day that our old LMS would be available to faculty. About this time 12 months ago my team was outlining our plan for assisting the migration, and now we're at this pivotal milestone. For me, tackling a project of this scale has been an immensely beneficial learning process, even if I didn't play a central part. Also, writing up our experiences of going through the migration has been helpful to me, and I hope its been helpful to some of the people reading these posts, too! Attempting to translate a course from one LMS to another forces you to confront some of the philosophical issues that underpin course design. It also makes you face very practical concerns about time and resources. Because I'm a geek for mythology, it makes me think of "the feather of truth." In Egyptian mythology, once a person dies, part of their path in the afterlife involves weighing their heart against a feather from the goddess Maat, the personification of order, balance, and truth (among other things). On this final day of the old LMS, it feels appropriate.


To wrap up my Preparing Your Canvas series, I want to use this post to "weigh" our migration, and take an honest look at some of the challenges we faced. In my next post, we'll talk about what I would want to replicate because it was effective. In the final post of this series, we'll wrap up loose ends and take a look at the future. Now, let's see how these truths stack up.


1. Account for everything that must be migrated.

One truth we ran into during the migration was making sure truly everything got moved out of the old LMS that needed to be moved. Its easy to say "we need to move your courses," and just leave it at that. But what about courses that aren't taught every year? What about courses that were last taught by an instructor who is no longer a part of your program or institution? Thankfully, our IT can backup everything as a failsafe, but that definitely should not be your Plan A for retrieving course content. Besides courses, what other processes rely on your LMS? Our institution uses courses to organize the faculty review process for tenure. All of that tenure documentation also needs to be moved, and potentially recreated in a short time frame depending on when that instructor is up for review next. Many programs also ran their organizations through the old LMS, storing meeting minutes, forms, templates, and more in a course shell. Identifying these earlier in the process will give everyone more time to assess how much material needs to be moved over.


2. Put your migration in context when you plan it.

My workgroup was identified as a major resource for supporting the migration to Canvas. However, the LMS migration was not the only project that we engaged with this past year. Among other things, our institution has aggressively developed its online programs to gain access to a new market. Coincidentally, my workgroup traditionally has been a resource for developing online instruction. Both of these initiatives have been in progress for several years and they happened to line up in this critical 10-12 month window. I have definitely felt challenged at times to provide adequate support and attention to both of these projects. Part of the conversation about managing a migration needs to involve ensuring resources are allocated to fully support everything else happening around the migration, too.


3. Identify breakpoints.

Moving to a new LMS can potentially have consequences outside the LMS. For example, the way our institution generates courses and manages course sections doesn't line up with how Canvas treats courses and sections. This isn't to say the way we've been doing this is bad, or that the way Canvas does this is bad; the two systems just don't effectively communicate in every situation. While this would often go unnoticed from a student's perspective taking a class, it can have ramifications for course developers managing multiple sections, working with TA's or coaches, or integrating publisher content. This one is tricky, because how exactly are you supposed to plan for the things you don't yet know will break? Separately, you may also need to consider creating in-house solutions to account for important services or features. For example, a number of faculty rely on the built in photo roster functionality of our old LMS. Canvas doesn't have that. So, our IT group did what several other schools have done and built our own photo-roster integration with Canvas. They also had to recreate a grade copying tool that faculty to use to quickly import grades to our SIS. The earlier these needs are identified, the more accurately you can road map the migration.


To me, these are three big takeaways from our migration experience. Because of how long people stay at a job and how long a system can be used, some people may only go through a process like this once at an organization. This is my first time migrating to a new LMS. I suppose the last thing I wonder about is institutional amnesia. Now that we've learned these lessons, how do we ensure we won't have to learn them again? With employee churn, what perspectives/knowledge do we risk losing, and how do we preserve them?


Next: Preparing Your Canvas: Coda

It's important to decide whether you want to build your courses from scratch or if you want to import all of your content from Angel.  In most cases all course content in Angel does copy over into Canvas, but will need some tweaking.


Benefits of moving your entire course over from Angel

The only real benefit of moving your entire course over from Angel is that pretty much all of your course content will automatically be in Canvas. Yet, in many cases it might take just as long to adjust your course after copying all the content over as it would if you started from scratch.


Want to give it a try?

If you want to copy an entire Angel course over into your Sandbox to see how it looks before you make your decision, there is solution!  You can copy all Angel course content over into your Sandbox, try it out, and if you hate it and want to start from scratch you can literally clear out all content from your Sandbox course in Canvas and start fresh. Be cautioned though, it really does delete everything and even Online Learning will not be able to get the content back! If you are interested in this option, the "Reset Course Content" button is located on the right under Settings in your Sandbox Course.


Adjustments needed when going from Angel to Canvas

  • IMPORTANT! Be sure to UNCHECK the "Calendar" box before exporting your course information from Angel!!
  • Checking and possible resetting all assignment (dropbox, discussion, and exam) settings and due dates
  • Reviewing course content to make sure links, video, and other media are showing up and working correctly
  • Make sure LOR content is copied (and not linked) into your course
  • Reviewing gradebook settings and making necessary adjustments
  • Reordering course content. If you have a lot of folders inside of folders in Angel, then you may need to do some reordering.


Benefits of starting your Canvas Course from scratch

The main benefit of starting your Canvas course from scratch is that you have a chance to review your course materials, make updates, and rethink how you are doing things and if you could do them different/better in the Canvas environment.


Video Comparison

Below is a video comparison of an Angel course and the same course copied over into Canvas.  The Canvas course hasn't been tweaked since copying the course content over so you can really see what a copied course from Angel will look like in Canvas

It's been a few years since we needed to deal with this, but at the time I felt the need to improve on the built-in Blackboard import into Canvas. I tried to replicate the structure of the original course in Blackboard in a new course in Canvas as closely as possible.


My code is posted to GitHub, but has not been updated to handle Blackboard 9 exports (if they're different) or a few lingering issues.


Feel free to have at it, improve it… or just use the built-in importer! If you want to use my code and want a hand getting it cranked up and running, feel free to reach out to me.

This chart shows common Angel 8.0 features, what those features are called in Canvas, and how they are different. In addition, there is a section showing Canvas features with no equivalent in Angel.


This list was originally created in 2012  (with the assistance of Elizabeth (Online Learning) Jackson) when we made our transition, but I tried to update it before posting it. If you have recommendations of things that should be added or changed, please comment and I'll update the chart.


Angel 8.0


How is Canvas Different



  • Students can reply to announcements



  • A quiz in Canvas can be a practice quiz, graded quiz, graded survey, ungraded survey.
  • EASY to extend test time for one student or add extra submission attempts.
  • Ability to schedule different opening times or days for individual students and/or course sections.



  • Ability to mark students as present, late, or absent
  • See student’s profile pictures
  • Arrange students in a seating plan
  • Can link to the gradebook
  • Can download attendance report

Automate tab


  • Require students to complete a certain module before they can gain access to another module
  • Set requirements for what a student needs to do to complete a module. This includes students viewing something, contributing to a discussion, submitting an assignment, or scoring a certain grade.
  • Much more user-friendly compared to Angel



  • Drag & drop to make changes
  • Assignment due date changes made in your calendar are automatically updated everywhere else in the course.
  • View up to 10 classes at once with color-coded global calendar view
  • Use the Scheduler to student meetings
  • Copy calendar feed link into any app like Google Calendar, iCal, Outlook, etc.

Course Mail

Conversations (Inbox)

  • Messages can be forwarded out to the email of your choice and can come back into Canvas from your email!!
  • Functions more like a Facebook wall than an email inbox
  • No subject lines
  • Receive notifications via social web services, text, etc.

Course Tab


  • Choose what content you want students to see when entering the course (Modules, Syllabus, Communication Stream, Assignment List, a page you create yourself)
  • View course analytics
  • View student progress for modules

Course Theme Selector

No Equivalent

  • Canvas does not allow individual course customization of themes/backgrounds



  • Only has the normal and post first options; does not have the private user/team journal, fishbowl, or hotseat.
  • Students can create new discussion topics
  • Can allow students to edit their posts
  • Students can’t easily add images to discussion threads.
  • Receive notifications via social web services, text, etc.



  • Assignments can be submitted online through text entry, file uploads, media recordings, Google Docs, URL’s, or Canvas pages



  • Pick where you want each different type of course activity information sent outside of Angel. Example: College email, other email address, text message, Twitter, etc.
  • Pick how often you want each different type of course activity information sent to you. Example: ASAP, Daily, Weekly, or Never.


No Equivalent

  • Canvas does not have the option for individualized icons

Instant Messenger


  • Ability to view chat history
  • Can't delete chat messages



  • Dashboard for students/instructors with overall grades and statistics
  • Faculty can enter grades and comments directly from here, but if the assignment was turned in to Canvas the best way to grade is using Speedgrader.
  • Students can figure hypothetical “what-if” grades.
  • Sort columns in one click by due date or assignment category
  • Student submissions are highlighted in red if the submission was turned in late.
  • Message students who haven’t submitted yet, scored less than or more than a specific grade on an assignment.
  • Learning Mastery Gradebook


  • Speedgrader tool displays submitted assignment, grading rubric, and media comment options all on one page.
  • Easy to click from student to student when grading an assignment.
  • Add comments directly to student’s assignments (Word, PDF, Excel, & PowerPoint) within Canvas. No need to download the assignment, add comments and re-upload.
  • Add audio or video comments directly to assignments from within Canvas. All you need is a microphone or webcam.



  • Search the Canvas guides - these guides are actually useful!
  • Report a problem – where you report a problem in Canvas with your Institution and Canvas Support
  • Ask the Community – if you want you can ask the entire Canvas community a question
  • Request a feature – is there a feature you’d like to see in Canvas? Request it here!

Learning Object Repository (LOR)

Canvas Commons

  • Ability to share with yourself, anyone at your Institution, specific Institution sub-accounts, or will ALL Canvas users.
  • Ability to tag shared content and describe it.
  • Ability to set copyright and license restrictions

Lessons Tab


  • No folder system; Lesson folders are now modules
  • Individual modules (like folders) can be called anything you want, example: Week 1, Chapter 1, Unit 1, etc.
  • No layering of content in Modules (no folders inside of folders)
  • Drag & drop individual content items and entire modules
  • Easily and quickly set prerequisites so students have to go through course content in a certain order.

Live Office Hours


  • Microphone/Audio (for instructor and students)
  • Webcam/Video
  • Desktop sharing
  • Upload documents (Word, PowerPoint, PDF) to share with students
  • Choose whether you’d like to invite all course members or specific students/individuals in the course
  • Ability to record conference session

Manage Tab


  • Course Details
  • Set-up course navigation
  • Student view
  • Course Statistics
  • Copy Course
  • Import Content into this course
  • Export Course Content
  • Reset Course Content



  • Set your communication/notification preferences
  • Add a picture of yourself (avatar)
  • Link your web services to Canvas if desired (Twitter, Skype, etc.)

Question Banks

Question Banks

  • Question banks have to be added to each course you want to use the questions in.
  • No single repository for all your question banks.
  • If you change a question in your question bank it does not change in the quizzes that the question is being used in. You must update it everywhere.

Question Pool

Question Groups

  • Ability to pick a certain number of questions from a Question Bank
  • Must use Question Groups to randomize the order of questions


Course Analytics

  • See the number of page views each day and if user took an action within the course that day
  • View the percent of students who turned each assignment in on time, late, or didn’t turn it in at all.
  • View the grade distribution for each assignment
  • Quickly view overall page views, participation, and assignments turned in on time or late for each individual student.
  • Click on the students name for additional details.
  • Course Statistics


Below are for individual students

View Student Progress for Modules

  • View the progress of each student through the assignments for the course.



Below are for individual students



  • Ease of use – drag features to add columns
  • Can be used for grading or just feedback
  • Ability to free-form comments when assessing students
  • Can be linked to Assignments, Discussions, and Quizzes
  • Integrates seamlessly with Speedgrader for easy grading.



  • Can be created for division, course, or individual instructor.
  • Add Outcome Criterion directly to a rubric, assignment, or quiz question.

Student view

Student view

  • Creates a “Test Student” that you can test the contents of the course.
  • You can reset the student view to try things as many times as needed.



  • Is no longer associated with extended times or different days for assessments
  • Used as a collaboration tool for students who are working on projects or group assignments.
  • A group workspace is created where students can create pages, announcements, collaborations, discussions, calendar events, and chat in real-time

The following Canvas features are not available in Angel

Angel 8.0


How is Canvas Different

No Equivalent

Assignments Page

  • Gradebook set-up happens here

No Equivalent


  • Usees Google Docs to allow multiple users to work together on the same document at the same time.
  • Collaborative documents are saved in real-time, meaning a change made by any of its users will be immediately visible to everyone.

No Equivalent


  • Tool that allows instructor and peer review annotation (markup) in Canvas Speedgrader.
  • Instructors will not need to download papers, make comments, save and then re-upload the paper.  All of this can be done directly in Canvas.
  • Works for the following file formats (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, & PDF)

No Equivalent


  • Faculty can create their own e-Portfolio
  • Students can create their own e-Portfolio and share it with the instructor as an assignment.
  • e-Portfolio’s can be made public

No Equivalent


  • These files are accessible to students via a tab/page unless you hide this tool or you lock files

No Equivalent

Inline Previewer (Box)

  • Inline viewing that allows students to view documents directly in Canvas without having the program on their computer. (Example: Word, PDF, PowerPoint, Excel, Open office files, Plain text, & Rich text)

No Equivalent

Peer Review

  • Ability to manually or automatically assign students to peer review other student’s assignments.

No Equivalent


  • Grade papers by opening up paper within Canvas, adding audio or video feedback, adding notes or other annotations directly to the paper, and save it directly to Canvas in one step. No downloading into word, adding information, resaving it and re-uploading it.
  • Rubric opens in the same window as the document you are grading.
  • iPad app is available for grading, but currently the Crocodoc feature does not work.