Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

In Spring 2016, the Eberly Center launched an initiative to evaluate CMU's centrally-supported learning management system (LMS) with respect to evolving needs and new tools. As part of this process, we will be piloting Canvas and comparing it to our current Blackboard LMS. We also anticipate evaluating a projected release of a new version of Blackboard, Blackboard Ultra, in Fall 2016. Members of our teaching and learning community (students, faculty, and staff) will comprise an Advisory Group to help inform this effort.

Below you will find more details about the various phases and efforts associated with this project, and we will continue to update this site as the project progresses.

For additional information, contact us at:

Spring 2016

Summer 2016

Fall 2016

  • Communications out to the community (August 2016):
    • Announcement of Canvas Pilot continuation
    • Invitation to participate
  • Canvas pilot expanded to include Qatar
  • Blackboard Ultra beta internal review
  • Presentation to the University Education Council (October 2016)
  • Announcement to all University Instructors (October 2016)
  • End of Semester Report to Advisory Committee
  • Decision and Communication to the Community

Spring 2017

  • If needed, LMS Migration Activities begin.



Blackboard 9.1

Blackboard Ultra*

*Beta only, not ready to pilot

Course Navigation is customizable (omnipresent left course navigation is customizable) (omnipresent left course navigation is customizable and editable) Anticipated but not yet present

Inline editing

Anticipated but not yet present
Assignments with inline grading √+ 

√-  (inline grading for Turnitin assignments only)

Anticipated but not yet present

Quizzes with feedback

(feedback presents only after quiz is ended)

√ (feedback presents only after quiz is ended)

Anticipated but not yet present

Tool Plugins/Extensions

Third party tools (e.g., Turnitin, Piazza, OLI courses)

Anticipated but not yet present
APIs √+ open source √- proprietary Anticipated but not yet present (proprietary)
User Management
SIS integration Anticipated but not yet present
Course Sections √? (still testing details of SIS integration)
√- (some issues with enrollment synch) Anticipated but not yet present
Groups Anticipated but not yet present
Hosting Options and other functional requirements
Self-hosted on premise and SaaS/hosted by company √+ (both hosting options, +open source) (both hosting options, proprietary) – not available for self-hosted
Digital Accessibility Compliance (WCAG Level AA) Anticipated but not yet present
Analytics on user behaviors (e.g., access, completion, some performance indicators)     Anticipated but not yet present

As part of our investigation activities, the Eberly Center surveyed 17 universities who have done or are doing an LMS evaluation. Many of the institutions evaluted Canvas and were users of Blackboard at the time of evaluation. Of the 17 surveyed, 6 chose to migrate to Canvas from Blackboard; 3 migrated to Canvas from another LMS; 1 migrated to Sakai from Blackboard; 2 stayed with Blackboard (1 of whom will re-evaluate in Fall 2016); 3 are currently piloting Canvas; 1 is improving on an in-house solution; 1 uses both Blackboard and Canvas. Institutions we benchmarked include:

  • Baylor University
  • Cornell University
  • Duke University
  • Emory University
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Northwestern University
  • Oregon State University
  • Penn State University
  • Purdue University
  • Rice University
  • Stanford University
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • Washington State University
  • Yale University

Criteria cited as influencing the decision to migrate to Canvas or stay with Blackboard, that we also have on our list of criteria include:

  • Ease of use, improved user experience, clean design, low learning curve
  • Adaptability and flexibility
  • LTI integrations, API availability
  • Mobile support
  • Digital Accessibility
  • Stability/uninterrupted service/low downtime

View the Benchmarking Report here...

The LMS Advisory Committee is an interdisciplinary group of students, faculty, and staff who meet regularly to discuss the progress of the LMS evaluation, raise concerns or areas of investigation, and inform the decision on the future of Carnegie Mellon's learning management system.

Members of the LMS Advisory Committee are:

  • Nasser Alaeddine - Director, Educational and Media Technoloy, Carnegie Mellon Qatar
  • Shlomo Balass - Assistant Director, Services Development, Computer Services
  • Kathryn Barraclough - MBA Head, Tepper School of Business
  • Norman Bier - Director, Open Learning Initiative
  • Judith Brooks - Director, Educational Technology & Design, Eberly Center
  • Sushain Cheirvirala - Sophomore, Computer Science Department
  • Jeff Galak - Associate Professor of Marketing, Tepper School of Business
  • Elizabeth Hargrave-Thomas - Masters Student, Tepper School of Business
  • Lorelei Hoover - Educational Technology Consultant, Eberly Center
  • Kristen Kurland - Teaching Professor, Information Systems, Heinz College
  • Marsha Lovett - Director, Eberly Center, Teaching Professor of Psychology
  • Sarah Moss-Horwitz - Senior, Social & Decision Sciences, Human-Computer Interaction
  • John Papinchak - University Registrar
  • Ryan Roderick - Doctoral Student, English
  • Majd Sakr - Teaching Professor, Computer Science Department
  • Peter Scupelli - Assistant Professor, Design
  • Karen Stump - Director of Undergraduate Studies & Teaching Professor, Chemistry
  • Tim Zak - Associate Teaching Professor, Heinz College

Would you like to pilot Canvas for your course, or explore what Canvas has to offer with a sandbox course?

Would like to be on the dlist to receive project updates?

  • Send us an email so we know to add you to the list and/or to request more information about participation options: