Canvas @ Princeton

Students studying


Canvas is a robust and intuitive online platform for teaching and learning (also known as a Learning Management System or LMS). Starting in the Spring of 2020, it will gradually replace our longstanding LMS, Blackboard. The transition will be complete in the Spring of 2022.

The adoption of Canvas, with its powerful capabilities, marks an exciting new chapter for teaching and learning at Princeton. We feel confident that Canvas not only offers a more user-friendly experience for students, staff, and faculty, but that its tools and features can expand learning activities, improve assessment strategies, and provide new opportunities for collaboration. We hope this change will spark valuable conversations around teaching and enhance pedagogical innovations on our campus.

The decision to move to Canvas was made collaboratively by a team from the Office of the Dean of the College, the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning, the Office of Information Technology, and the University Library. In making our decision, we relied greatly on the input of faculty, staff, and students. Given the central role the LMS plays in teaching and learning at Princeton, the Canvas Implementation Project will be led by the McGraw Center.

This site provides information about the Canvas Implementation Project and the timeline for the transition. This is also the site from which you eventually will log into your Canvas courses, find information about individual and group training opportunities, and be able to access help documents.

Canvas Implementation FAQ

What prompted the change to Princeton’s LMS?

Last year, the McGraw Center and the Office of Information Technology (OIT) began a comprehensive evaluation of our Learning Management System. The review was initiated in part because Blackboard had not been evaluated since it was adopted in 1999. Over the past decades, the LMS market landscape has also changed considerably and LMS providers have greatly expanded and improved their products. In addition, the McGraw Center and OIT felt that good stewardship demanded that we should thoughtfully and comprehensively survey all options for our next iteration of a campus-wide LMS.

The LMS Evaluation Project started in Spring 2018 and ended in June 2019 with the adoption of Instructure Canvas.
Read More: LMS Evaluation Project

Why was Canvas chosen as Princeton’s new LMS?

The LMS Evaluation Team recommended the adoption of Canvas after an extensive review process. The input of faculty, staff, and students proved instrumental in our determination that Canvas is the best choice for Princeton. Our review demonstrated that Canvas will allow faculty to engage students more readily both inside and outside the classroom. Some of the tools that Canvas offers include:

  • User-friendly tools that will streamline communications between faculty and students, including a mobile app.
  • A scheduler tool that makes it possible for faculty to set up an office hours calendar in Canvas and allows students to request appointments within the course site
  • A calendar tool that makes course deadlines obvious and unambiguous for students, and which can easily be integrated with other platforms, such as Google Calendar and Outlook
  • A grade center that speeds up and simplifies grading by allowing faculty to leave comments and feedback on students’ work. It can also be integrated with our other systems to establish a more straightforward process for faculty to report midterm and final course grades.

Read more: LMS Evaluation Project

What will happen to course content in Blackboard?

The Canvas Implementation Team will help faculty transfer content from Blackboard to Canvas. Faculty can also download a zip file of their old courses. We will maintain an archive of Blackboard courses to make sure no one loses content that they care about. We will also have a read-only license of Blackboard for three years following the completion of the move to Canvas so that faculty can easily access their former courses should they want to.

How will Blackboard courses be moved to Canvas?

The McGraw Center will work with each faculty member to determine what migration solution will work best for them. Our project team consists of instructional designers who have the technical and pedagogical expertise to provide personalized support to all instructors. We can migrate the entire course using automated copying tools, rebuild the course in Canvas, or show faculty members how to reconstruct their course in Canvas—our approach will be guided by each faculty member’s preference.

When will the transition to Canvas happen?

The transition will take place gradually over five semesters, starting in the Spring of 2020 and ending in the Spring of 2022.

  • During the Spring of 2020, only a small group of “early adopters” will use Canvas. This pilot group will help us refine our communications, training, and support process in preparation for the full rollout.
  • Starting in the Fall of 2020, about one-quarter of faculty will be moved to Canvas each semester. Over the following 3 semesters, the remaining faculty will be moved over. The transition will wrap up in the Spring of 2022.

We will release a complete transition plan, which details when each department will start to use Canvas, in the Spring of 2020.

Read more: Canvas Implementation

I am a student; will I have classes on both Canvas and Blackboard?

Yes, until the transition to Canvas is complete, most students will have courses on both Blackboard and Canvas. We will build a smooth integration between the two systems and offer ample support to minimize any inconvenience this might cause. 

Who is leading the Canvas Transition project?

Given the central organizing function of the LMS in teaching and learning, the McGraw Center is taking the lead on this project, with the Office of Information Technology providing critical technical and project management expertise. In addition, faculty, graduate students, undergraduate students, and many offices and centers on campus take part in project advisory groups. Read more: Project Team 

What is Canvas and which other universities are using it?

Canvas is a cloud-based Learning Management System created by Instructure. It is used by most of our peer institutions, including Brown University, the University of Chicago, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, MIT, Stanford University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University.

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Friday, Sep 20, 2019

On Friday Sept. 20, 2019, the Strategic Advisory Group on IT (SAGIT) approved the funding request for the Canvas Implementation Project.