Work moving ahead to transition from Blackboard to Canvas


“Everything’s still on schedule” for faculty transition to Pitt’s new learning management system online, the University Senate’s Computing and Information Technology Committee members were told on Dec. 13.

“They’re working to transfer a lot of the courses over from Blackboard to Canvas,” said Jay Graham, of the Computing Services and Systems Development's (CSSD) employee information staff. “The thing that doesn’t transfer is the student product,” such as quiz and essay question answers students have submitted online. Graham says his office is working with the University Center for Teaching and Learning to rectify the issue. “That’s not a real problem. There are solutions to that,” he says.

One early Canvas adopter — committee member Dmitriy Babichenko of the School of Computing and Information — says he is “very happy” with the performance of Canvas thus far. “I am switching all of my courses to Canvas next semester. Students seem to like it too. I haven’t heard any complaints.”

In other committee news, chair Michael Spring, emeritus professor in the computing school, asked that CSSD report back about the cost and feasibility of faculty members using their own cell phones in place of office phones. Some Pitt academic departments have already chosen to do without landlines, instead either using individual Pitt numbers that bounce to their cell phones or routing all calls to a central department number, from which they are transferred to individuals by an administrator.

Ralph Roskies, vice chancellor for research computing and director of the Center for Research Computing, warned the committee that federal export control issues, which may prevent Pitt faculty from accessing Pitt computer facilities while visiting certain proscribed countries, are not well enough known or understood by University personnel. The list of affected regions includes Cuba, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Sudan, Syria and others, Roskies said.

While CSSD can block Internet traffic originating in these countries, he noted, “I still think we should do something to inform our faculty of the problem. It matters where you are when you try to access these facilities” remotely.

Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at or 412-758-4859.


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