Canvas learning management system ready for pilot phase


Pitt is preparing to test Canvas as the new learning management system this summer.

The intended replacement for Blackboard software will be piloted among selected faculty and courses, Adam Hobaugh, Computing Services and Systems Development’s director of services and solutions, told the University Senate’s Computing and Information Technology Committee on April 12

A steering committee consisting of administration representatives — and adding members among faculty and students soon — is reaching out to deans for selected volunteer faculty to test Canvas in their courses. This pilot program will run into the fall, Hobaugh said, with summer 2020 as the target date for campuswide Canvas use.

“We want to make sure we represent all the types … of classes” during the pilot, Hobaugh said, which will help the Center for Teaching and Learning hone what areas of Canvas usage it will most need to support. He suggested the University may desire to purchase Canvas’ own support services for at least one year, since faculty and students “will need as much help as they can get,” and then re-evaluate the usefulness of Canvas’ support.

“From what we understand,” he said, “for the majority of people, this is not going to be a burden on them. But there’s going to be some pool of people” who may have difficulties adjusting to the new software or transferring their courses to Canvas from Blackboard.

In other committee news:

  • “The CIO search is, as I understand it, done,” according to committee chair Michael Spring, faculty member in the School of Computing and Information. Chancellor Patrick Gallagher is reviewing the final two candidates to replace recently retired Chief Information Officer Jinx Walton. Both candidates are from outside the University and have backgrounds in higher education, Spring said.

  • Center for Research Computing (CRC) director Ralph Roskies, vice chancellor for Research Computing, said CRC usage is up 73 percent, involving 35 percent more users from 50 percent more Pitt departments, when comparing the six months ending Dec. 31, 2018 to the same period in 2017. In that period, research using the CRC has been featured on six journal covers, “which is a good sign about the level of scientific achievement” of research projects using the center, Roskies said. He also announced that the CRC had now joined the medical school’s research cluster with the center’s main cluster, increasing its accessibility, and has made it easier for all center users to connect to high-performance computing through a graphic user interface. “It helps users of many pieces of software, so you don’t have to learn Linux,” he said.

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