Poll: Should NIU move on from Blackboard?


Joey Trella

NIU currently use Blackboard as their online learning management system but surrounding schools use D2L Brightspace or Canvas.

By Philip Arduini, Opinion Columnist

Blackboard is an online learning management system that has been used by NIU since 1999. These management systems allow students to view grades, submit assignments and connect with faculty. While Blackboard has long been NIU’s management system of choice, nothing lasts forever. NIU should move on from Blackboard.

The importance of learning management systems was put on full display during the pandemic, when students were forced to do school work remotely. 

The 2020-21 academic year was NIU’s final year of a three-year contract with Blackboard. 

In search of the best LMS on the market, NIU’s Division of Information Technology and the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning conducted a review of Blackboard. 

“Of the three LMS platforms reviewed (Blackboard Learn, D2L Brightspace, Instructure Canvas), Blackboard Learn received the highest review score and is recommended for renewal for another five-year contract term,” the review report concluded. 

With this recommendation, NIU is sticking with Blackboard for the near future; however, the current contract will be up after the 2025-26 academic year, and other LMSs should continue to be considered for replacing Blackboard. 

In a 2019 survey of NIU faculty and instructors, 67.5% answered that they found Blackboard easy to use and 64.5% answered that Blackboard helps students to be more successful in their courses. Not everyone is a fan of the system.

The other options for NIU’s next LMS are Canvas and D2L Brightspace, which are used by other universities throughout the state. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign uses Canvas, as does Illinois State University, which is in the process of fully switching to the LMS. Eastern Illinois University, Western Illinois University and Southern Illinois University use D2L Brightspace.

From personal experience with the system, I found Canvas to be preferable to Blackboard because of its gradebook feature. In Canvas, future assignments can be posted in the gradebook and students are able to put in hypothetical scores on these assignments to see how their grade would be affected. Blackboard can often be frustrating to use with extra tabs, a calendar that leaves off certain assignments and a messy activity stream feature.

This poll has ended.

What should NIU do with their online learning management system?


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