Provost Advisory Committee for Learning Technologies

Learning Management System Recommendation

February 29, 2016

Provost Advisory Committee for Learning Technologies (PACLT) began evaluating our current Learning Management System (LMS) and the LMS options in Fall 2015.  The re-evaluation of the learning platform was based on the decision made in 2014 to stay with the current system, Desire2Learn, for two more years and to evaluate the progress of D2L in mobile and user experience as well as any innovations in the LMS marketplace.  PACLT used the following criteria when analyzing the current and available LMS:

  • User Experience – a user friendly system that followed modern software design philosophy and require minimal training for faculty and students.
  • Mobile – a fully mobile app that allowed student to take actions on common LMS functions, (checking grades, submitting assignments, responding to message/discussion, etc.) without having to go to a browser or laptop computer.
  • Data – An open data structure that would allow integration with other enterprise systems on campus and third-party learning technologies
  • Reliable and Tested – a system that had been successfully piloted and implemented at an institution similar in size and course delivery profile as the University of Oklahoma

Desire2Learn has made incremental changes to its core LMS since 2014.  There were small changes in the user experience with some navigation enhancements and visual update. The mobile experience is still primarily in a responsive browser experience (as opposed to a native mobile application) with apps that allow view of the content, notifications, and grading.  Data integrations with D2L have continued to be difficult for OU Information Technology, and there are some concerns with data access with D2L cloud-hosted option.  There are also long-term concerns with OU’s current D2L on-premises instance of the system.  In January, D2L informed OU that an upcoming Summer 2016 upgrade to version 10.6 would be the last upgrade for on-premises systems and that this version would only be supported for two years.  Without further information, the end-of-service for OU’s on-premises D2L system will be Summer 2018.

After considering the available systems, PACLT received demos of two systems, NoteBowl and Canvas, in December.  NoteBowl is a creative system focused on many attractive features one would find in modern social media platforms. Unfortunately, many of the core desired features are still in beta.  Further, it had also had limited implementations with a pilot of about 3,000 students planned.  Conversely, Canvas is a familiar product that was piloted at OU during Spring 2014. The pilot showed that Canvas was a competitive system at the time but was not seen as a significant enhancement over the current system to be worth the substantial effort of a campus-wide migration.  One college, the Michael F. Price College of Business, continues to use Canvas, most notably, for their Executive MBA in Energy program.  The Fall 2015 virtual demo of Canvas indicated that significant improvements in their core user experience and functions since Spring 2014 and PACLT agreed to continue to evaluate Canvas as a viable LMS option.

Following the virtual demos, Canvas was brought in for a more in-depth demo on campus on February 8. Along with PACLT, representatives from the College of Liberal Studies, Center for Independent and Distance Learning, College of Arts & Sciences Online & Academic Technology Services, and campus leadership were invited to the demo of Canvas and the roadmap for future development.  The participants were asked to provide feedback on the system:



  • User Experience – a modern user interface that uses design features from common online tools, such as Google Apps.  A logical workflow with multiple points on entry into functions and transitions within the system.
  • Notifications — puts control in users’ hands in a much more sophisticated way.
  • Anonymous and Peer Grading – grading can be done by the instructor anonymously and by students with peer grading capability
  • Open Data – the system has an open data structure using REST API and IMS Global  LTI standards
  • Calendar — provides more options for students to keep track of their upcoming assignments and to plan ahead for the semester.  The calendar feature is also useful for instructors who need to keep track of assignment extensions on an individual, as opposed to class, level.
  • Video integration — makes it easy for instructors to record and share instructional videos, as well as for students to record videos and share their own feedback via video in response to discussion and graded materials.
  • Rubrics — can be integrated at the institutional, school, and course level.  The speed grading feature also makes it easier for instructors to ensure that they are connecting student performance to learning outcomes.
  • Instructor-level Third-party App Integrations – faculty can choose to add functionality with third-party apps with easy one-button installs.  Apps include OER content, publisher content and online systems, and enhanced learning technologies
  • Included Functionality – Canvas includes a response system, learning object repository, ePortfolio, and synchronous video conferencing
  • Peer and Aspirational Institutions, such at UT Austin, Harvard and Stanford, are moving to Canvas. Canvas has been the most widely piloted LMS in a decade.  In the past two years, 32% of the U.S. News and World Report Top 25 Universities have moved to Canvas.  The migrations to Canvas have gone smoothly and adoption rates of the LMS have increased at many institutions.


  • Effort and time involved in converting courses to a new system. Specifically, online course that use functions beyond content, grades, and communications that are the most commonly used tools in traditional courses.
  • Training of hundreds of faculty and thousands of students.  Any change in a software system will require an adjustment to the new system. This is a significant impact that is important to consider with any change in technology.

Considering the positives, concerns, and need to move from the current on-premise instance of D2L in the next two years, the members of the Provost Advisory Committee for Learning Technologies recommends a migration to Instructure’s Canvas LMS over the 2016-17 academic year.  PACLT agrees that a move to Canvas provides an opportunity to bring a modern learning platform to OU that could save faculty time in performing common tasks and enhance students engagement and success.


  • Start move to Canvas in Summer 2016
  • Run side-by-side instances of D2L and Canvas through the 2016-2017 Academic Year
  • Complete the migration to Canvas by the end of the current contract with D2L, June 30, 2017
  • Strongly consider implementing a migration plan that would provide resources to simplify the migration process for faculty and provide assistance in learning the new system.

In Support of Recommendation:

Theresa Cullen, Associate Professor, Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education

Will Drover, Assistant Professor, Price College of Business

Heather Ketchum, Associate Professor, College of Arts & Sciences

Amy McGovern, Associate Professor, Gallogly College of Engineering

Colin Rhinesmith, Assistant Professor, College of Arts & Sciences

Aaron Biggs, Executive Director of Technology Advancement

Kevin Buck, Program Manager for Digital Spaces

Adam Croom, Director of Digital Learning

Chris Kobza, Executive Director of Campus and Community Engagement

Mark Morvant, Associate Provost for Teaching and Technology


Robert Kerr, Professor, Gaylord College of Journalism & Mass Communications

NOTES: (added March 31, 2016)

  • “The University of Oklahoma was on Brightspace version 10.3 for one-premise clients from December 27, 2014 to January 6, 2016.  This was the version that was being used during the evaluation process.”
  • D2L has not made an End-of-Service announcement for the on-premise version of Brightspace.