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MSU Denver selects Canvas as its new learning-management system

The University expects to begin supporting course migration during the spring 2021 semester.

By Matt Griswold

March 2, 2020

Two students working on desktop computers.After a year of research and multiple efforts to gather comprehensive feedback from faculty and students, Metropolitan State University of Denver has selected a new learning-management system — Canvas.

Selection process

MSU Denver has used Blackboard for more than a decade. In fall 2019, however, the University convened a review committee chaired by Cynthia Erickson, Ph.D., assistant professor, Psychology, to consider possible replacements. Other members include:

  • Sarah Schliemann, Ph.D., lecturer, Environmental Science
  • Jeffrey Taylor, Ph.D., professor, English
  • Danielle Holmes, student representative
  • Kwang Cho, senior budget/financial analyst, Office of Budget
  • Alex McDaniel, associate director, Instructional Design
  • Truong Nguyen, interim director, Client Services
  • Kevin Taylor, chief information officer and associate vice president, Information Technology Services
  • Matt Griswold, Ed.D., associate vice president, Online Learning


Feedback from two faculty surveys, a student survey and an ASA Assembly poll suggested Blackboard was not meeting academic or administrative expectations, specifically in the areas of student experience and ease of use for faculty. 

A December request for proposals netted technical proposals from D2L (Brightspace) and Instructure (Canvas). The committee’s combined technical scores and cost-proposal scores were competitive for both vendors, with Canvas scoring slightly higher. Subsequently, both companies were invited to present a live product demo, after which committee members had the opportunity to adjust their technical scores. After the live demos and hands-on experience, Canvas took a close but clear lead in the overall technical scoring.   

Both vendors submitted a best and final offer that included the University’s request for premium implementation and additional nonstudent users. After combining the committee’s final technical scores and the cost scores, Instructure (Canvas) received the higher overall score and was awarded the contract.

“Based on this process, the committee is confident Canvas will provide a better learning experience for students and better design and instruction experience for faculty teaching online, hybrid and face-to-face courses that use the LMS,” said Erickson. “After migration, the new contract will save the institution approximately $2 million over 5 years.”

Next steps

A to-be-formed implementation team with complete University representation will ensure a smooth rollout of the new LMS, including providing periodic communications to the University community.

The first steps are contracting and technical implementation, after which faculty will receive training and course-migration assistance. Those migrations will likely occur in the spring 2021, summer 2021 and fall 2021 semesters. The initial goal is to have all courses migrated into Canvas by the spring 2022 semester.

Follow-up Early Bird articles will describe Canvas’ functionality and services, in-person and virtual training, and MSU Denver’s inclusion in Internet2 — a collaborative of 321 higher-education institutions striving to use technology to advance student learning.

For more information, please contact Griswold.

Topics: Academics, Access, Inclusion, Inclusive leadership, ITS, Student Success, Technology

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