About Our Migration to Canvas

On Friday, July 20, 2012, UCF announced that Instructure Canvas would become its new Learning Management System (LMS) platform. Canvas replaced the previous system, Blackboard Vista, which was discontinued by its vendor. Following a six-month evaluation process in which faculty, students and staff exhaustively reviewed three alternative learning management systems, the overwhelming recommendation was Canvas from Instructure. Over 30 faculty (teaching 76 courses) and nearly 2,500 students participated in the final migration pilot using Instructure Canvas.

The Pilots

Each LMS vendor visited UCF and provided a two-hour demonstration of their platform that was advertised to both students and faculty, with an additional hour set aside for questions. The sessions were recorded for those who could not attend and divided into multiple videos to keep the size of the files manageable. Videos varied in length but were approximately 15-20 minutes long.

These comparison charts provided a comparison of tools in Webcourses@UCF (Blackboard Vista) to those available in the three pilot learning management platforms. These documents were updated as we learned more about each system.

The LMS Evaluation Checklist was used to evaluate the three platforms. The checklist was initially created through a collaboration between the Center for Distributed Learning, Computer Services & Telecommunication and the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning. The checklist was sent to each vendor for completion. Additionally, the checklist was used by the CMS evaluation teams and faculty participants.

Cloud Hosting

Although UCF supported online courses using on-campus servers for the past 17 years, Canvas is hosted off campus on Amazon Web Services (in the “cloud”). Unlike other learning management systems, Canvas does not require its customers to go through periodic disruptive upgrades or periods of downtime; rather, updates are rolled into the product (for optional adoption) every few weeks. Running on Amazon Web Services allows Canvas to scale up computing and storage resources automatically as needed; thus, we see no impact from the rush of activity during semester start-up, midterms, or final exams.


For general questions about our migration process, you may contact the Center for Distributed Learning at distrib@ucf.edu.

Faculty Communication

A key part of the migration process was communication with faculty to ensure that concerns were met and that the process was transparent. This portion includes the official faculty messaging provided on the Teaching Online website.

UCF is Migrating to a New LMS

UCF is preparing to migrate to a new version of Webcourses@UCF. This is a big undertaking that will ultimately effect all online course sections.  There is a great deal of curiosity about what the system upgrade will look like and when the migration will occur.  The purpose of this site is to provide information about planning efforts, learning management system reviews, timelines, training opportunities, and additional support as it becomes available.

Why Are We Changing?

There are a number of factors influencing this undertaking. Most importantly, our current system, a Blackboard product called WebCT Vista, is being discontinued by the company at the end of 2012. In addition, learning management systems (LMSs)—other terms are sometimes used, such as course management system or CMS—have evolved since we began using our current platform. Blackboard itself has a newer and more sophisticated system, called Learn 9.1.  Other vendors have competing products with differing capabilities.  In addition to Blackboard’s Learn 9.1 platform, we are going to evaluate two other platforms this summer, Instructure Canvas and Desire 2 Learn.

Tips for Migrating Your Course

Due to the tight timeline, UCF chose to migrate existing courses, rather than build them fresh in the new system. These are the documents and guidelines provided to our faculty to assist in this transition.

Organize your Course Content

Do you have old backups or multiple versions of files in your File Manager? Do you have articles, videos, or modules that you don’t plan to use the next time you teach this course? Take some time to thin out unused files and old backups. Doing so will mean that your course migrates to Canvas cleanly and will be easier to manage as you get used to the new system. Before you do anything, please create a backup of your course and download it to your computer or a local storage space.

Faculty Tip: Diane Wink, College of Nursing, recommends you organize File Manager and delete old files!

  • When your course migrates to Canvas, your files will not have a “last modified” date. Therefore, it can be confusing if you have multiple copies of the same document.
  • Organize your files in folders so you can quickly find everything. For example, put everything for your first week of content in the same folder.


There are some issues that crop up from one semester to another, even without a software update to worry about! Check these items in your course:

  • Publisher Content – If you currently use any publisher content in your course, check with your publisher for updated content. Ask for an Instructure Canvas package. Most likely, they will provide the content in a “common cartridge” format. If updated content is not available, start identifying changes you will need to compensate for this change. Talk to Webcourses@UCF Support or your instructional designer for the best method to migrate your course.
  • Heritage (Old) Content – When was the last time the HTML code was updated in your course? If the answer is something like: “When we used WebCT CE4″, “1998″, or “This is the third time I have migrated this course”, then perhaps it is time to rebuild your course. Use the Canvas migration as an opportunity to rebuild your content and utilize the Canvas format.
  • Web Links – If you know a little HTML, check the links in your course to make sure that they include http:// – if you use relative links within your course, your links will break when the course is migrated.
  • Assessments with Images and Audio – If you use image or audio files in your assessments, there are known issues with the links breaking.
  • SCORM – SCORM packets must be re-imported into your Canvas course. SCORM packages don’t carry over well in a migration.

Review for Accessibility

As you are reviewing your course content, keep an eye out for accessibility concerns. Use our Accessibility Tips and technical assistance to prepare for future needs. It is much easier to make accommodations if you already meet Section 508 guidelines.