Air University phases out Blackboard with new learning management system

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Charles Welty
  • Air University Public Affairs

The Air University Communications Directorate has been hard at work over the past 21 months implementing the Canvas learning management system into all Air University schools to improve student and teacher workflows and the gradual phasing out of its old LMS, Blackboard.

To date, the directorate, or AU/A6, has launched nearly 1,600 courses and created more than 104,000 Canvas accounts, supporting more than 35 AU programs that provide the full spectrum of Air Force education.

“Over many years, Air University had grown multiple instances of an LMS across the campus,” said Lt. Col. Tony Branick, AU director of communications. “We needed to deliver an enterprise LMS that allows students to access course content from any device, anywhere, which increased our capability and capacity for the AU learning environment to educate more Airmen.”

As one of the early adopters of Canvas, the Curtis E. LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education shared some feedback and initial thoughts based on their experience using the new LMS.

“The LeMay Center saw the transition away from Blackboard to Canvas as an opportunity to gain a new tool and new skill sets that will enhance the learner experience,” said Matt Correia, LeMay instructor. “Canvas is a tool that when placed in the hands of people, is as effective as the people who hold that tool. Much like the airplane is a tool, it was people such as General William “Billy” Mitchell, General Curtis E. LeMay and the many other Airmen that followed who took that tool and crafted airpower. Canvas is a tool that in the hands of skilled individuals can craft learning.”

One of the more noticeable functions of Canvas is its standardized user interface, which Correia said makes for an enhanced student experience.

“When AU employed Blackboard, the different centers and schools had diverse interfaces to access their content,” he said. “This created an environment where students were having to spend time to learn a different user interface for each program of study or course they attended.”

Canvas simplified things for the students and offers features such as a course calendar, a syllabus and announcements that inform them of their learning progress. Additionally, Canvas offers faculty functions and features, such as quizzes, discussions, outcomes and rubrics, which assess student learning and help them achieve learning objectives, said Correia.

According to a recent survey of LeMay Center students, more than 97 percent of respondents agreed that the Canvas online site is easy to access, the page layout is intuitive and easy to navigate and the ability to access lessons via the site at any time aids the learning experience.

Looking forward, the AU/A6 team said they will continue to provide agile and secure enterprise technology solutions to advance AU’s ability to develop total force Airmen.

Some of their near-term solutions include an enterprise student information system to support AU and the Airman Learning Record, an AU .edu domain to provide IT services and instructional toolsets on a commercial cloud-based infrastructure and Microsoft Office 365 enterprise implementation to provide anytime, anywhere, any device access to cloud applications for real-time collaborative learning.