About the Change

The selection process has been framed by both a set of principles of effective teaching and learning developed from a USask e-learning research study done by and with faculty in 2017 and Our Learning Charter. A variety of LMS vendors submitted proposals based on the principles and requirements, in the fall of 2019 and were compared to criteria generated in consultation with faculty, technical teams, learning specialists. The various applicants were shortlisted to Brightspace and Canvas, who were tested over the entire winter term of 2020 in order to determine which would be more effective for USask faculty and provide the best student learning experience. The assessment included the following:

  • course pilots of Brightspace and Canvas.
  • faculty and student surveys.
  • presentations from Brightspace and Canvas and feedback about the presentations from faculty and students.
  • usability testing of Brightspace and Canvas with students and faculty.

Canvas was selected based on the scoring of all the data collected.

The transition to remote teaching has challenged our assessment and instruction approaches on campus.  The new LMS will offer a substantially enhanced online student experience in a remote environment, making this transition a high priority for USask. With remote instruction, faculty have been requesting more robust technologies that support a wider range of needs and are easier to learn. For that reason, USask has decided to keep moving towards a new LMS. Blackboard will continue to be available at this time, greater functionality will be available for faculty as soon as they access the new LMS, including:

  • Easy to use on the mobile devices that many students and faculty are relying on during the pandemic.
  • Effective, easy to use tools for online or remote class discussions that significantly improve student learning experiences.
  • Easy ways to comment on student work via audio, video or in-text comments that improve faculty and student communication.
  • Online assessment and grading tools that share the information seamlessly with students and support peer assessment.
  • More options for communicating online with students in one simple channel.

Each college or school is choosing a window for implementation of Canvas, and is striking a working group that includes representatives for the college or school, the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching and Learning, and ICT. The working group will plan and monitor each stage of implementation including: timeline, professional learning for instructors, support and consultation for individual faculty, and migration of Blackboard courses.


With the goal of streamlining our support and providing a consistent student experience between courses, we are hoping to transition into Canvas relatively quickly, but we do not want to rush. We want to make sure that the transition is done well, with the necessary planning and support in each case. Having said that, we will keep Blackboard during the transition, with the final possible end date being the end of the 2021-2022 academic year. We will communicate well in advance of any cut-off date.

Blackboard courses will remain accessible in Blackboard for as long as Blackboard is still being used by any classes. Beyond that point, the project team is developing a plan to inform the campus community about how to extract their data from Blackboard so they can retain it longer term. If possible, it’s recommended that you extract any information or files that you need from Blackboard well in advance of its retirement. Still, you will have ample notice before any data becomes inaccessible.

All Fall 2020 courses were uploaded to both Blackboard and Canvas on July 8, 2020. In our course creation process, there was no realistic way to distinguish between the courses that would be taught I Canvas or Blackboard, so you will have a copy in each system and then you can begin using whichever system you like. When students go to access their courses, they will be directed first to Blackboard where there will be a link to Canvas at the top. That link will tell them that they may have to go to Canvas to find their course instead, but it’ll vary by course.

If you plan to use Blackboard, then you just build your course in Blackboard as you would in any previous academic term. The Canvas version of your course will not appear to students until you manually publish it, so you will not have to worry about students stumbling upon it.

If you plan to use Canvas, then it is a good idea to go into the Blackboard version of your course where you can post an announcement and/or content item in the Course Materials area directing people to Canvas instead. It may also be helpful to email your students with the Send Email button in Blackboard to let them know that they should be signing in at https://canvas.usask.ca instead for your course.

If your college/department has committed to move to Canvas in Fall 2020, then you should begin using your Canvas course. If not, you may begin using your Canvas course if you like on your own. If you do choose to use your Canvas course, then we suggest signing up to be an early adopter. This will mean that you’ll receive communications from the Move to Canvas team with updates about the transition, as well as in-house professional learning and support opportunities to ensure that your first term in Canvas is as successful as possible.

Accessing Canvas

All current faculty and staff are able to sign into canvas.usask.ca, where you'll see any courses you have access to. If you do not see any courses, then that means you are not in any courses currently.

Students don't yet have access to Canvas, but they will be granted access closer to the start of the term.

You can access Canvas directly by going to canvas.usask.ca. A link to Canvas will be added to PAWS as we approach August 2020, when Canvas will begin to be used in live courses.

It is not possible to move student data between Blackboard and Canvas, and as such once a course has begun it is not possible to transition partway through a term. Furthermore, we are providing a carefully designed support and learning plan to help you be as successful as possible in Canvas, and this plan begins well in advance of the first term in which you’ll begin using Canvas so that you can adequately prepare and fully leverage all the tools that Canvas has to offer.

Using Canvas

The Canvas project team is working closely with the Office of the Vice Provost, Teaching, Learning, and Student Experience to collect resources that will help students learn to use Canvas. These resources will be posted in a publicly and easily accessible location that you can link to from wherever you like to help your students get started with the basics of Canvas.

You’ve spent lots of time recently in our existing technical tools, and could use less change in your teaching life where possible. 

Our existing teaching tools, including Panopto and WebEx, will be integrated in Canvas too and will work well with it.

There is no dedicated Blog feature in Canvas. Instead of a formal blog feature, you can create a page for your students and give them permission to edit the page, allowing it to serve as a blog.

If you require a publicly accessible blog for each of your students please contact amanda.mackenzie@usask.ca as we are collecting needs and requirements to determine the best option for Fall 2020.
You can now add people directly to your own courses in Canvas.  Start by navigating to the course you want to add someone to, then:
  1. Go to the People menu item and click the green +People button.
  2. Select Login ID and type the NSID of the person/people you want to add.
  3. Select the desired role for the person/people, then click Next.
  4. Verify the names of the person/people you are adding to your course, then click Add Users.

There are a number of ways to integrate open educational resources (OER) into Canvas, without concerns about copyright that normally go along with the use of commercial resources. You can:

  • Put links to OER within your course
  • Embed all or sections of an open textbook into Canvas
  • Embed other types of OER such as images, rubrics, or activities into Canvas

For more information about using OER with Canvas and potential funding to support your use of OER, please contact the Gwenna Moss Centre (gmctl@usask.ca) or Distance Education Unit (deu.support@usask.ca).

We have created a USask Default Template that you can use as a starting place as you design/build your course content. Information about this template can be found at the link below.

There are 17 different courses listed on our Supported Learning webpage. Acknowledging that it can be difficult to know the order in which to attend these sessions, we've created a helpful graphic to guide you.

Test courses are courses created for individuals to explore and use the features of Canvas for the benefit of their own learning. It is a safe place for you to try new things without having to worry about reverting the changes or otherwise unintentionally making changes you don't intend to make in a live course. Test courses are typically not used to build real content for courses, although they can be used in this way if you like.

By contrast, your actual courses will have enrollments managed automatically based on student course registration in Banner. Changes you make in those courses will be seen by students, and so you should not experiment in a live course in a way that may adversely affect student learning or have other unintended consequences.

Canvas has a useful import tool to do precisely this! Please see the Canvas documentation for copying content to learn how to do this.

Using the Canvas Mobile App

Canvas has three mobile apps, all three of which are available in both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store for Android. The Canvas Teacher app is designed for course instructors, including features that allow you to post content, review content, grade assignments, and more – all on the go. Teaching assistants are equivalent to instructors for these purposes, and they should install the Canvas Teacher app.

Students have a separate app called the Canvas Student app. This will allow students to view course content, make discussion board posts, check in on their Canvas To Do list, message their instructor, and more – all from within the app.

There is a third app – Canvas Parent. This is intended for Canvas’ K-12 customers, and isn’t used by their higher education customers, like USask. Please ignore this app, as parents will not be able to use this to get information about a student’s progress.

You can do nearly everything in the Canvas Teacher app that you can do sitting at your computer, although the physical screen size may limit how effective certain features are. Still, the app is formatted slightly differently to make better use of a smaller screen to ensure that it is still overall a pleasant experience. If there is any feature that the mobile app doesn’t have, it will open a web browser on your phone where you should be able to complete that task. Here are some examples of things you can do with the Canvas Teacher app:

  • Grade student assignments using Speed Grader and markup the assignment to give students feedback
  • Send a message to your students quickly and easily
  • Post pages in your course
  • Add files to your course
  • Read and post in your class’ discussion boards

Canvas uses a responsive design, meaning it will automatically format Pages to make the best use of the screen. To take full advantage of this, it’s best to paste content into Canvas directly whenever possible, rather than posting files as PDF or Word documents. Also, when you’re giving instructions to your students in Canvas, try not to mention specific attributes of items – for example, a button that is blue in the web version of canvas may not be blue in the app. Similarly, a button that appears in the bottom-right of a screen in the desktop version may not be in the same position in the app.