April McMahon: Replacing Blackboard Learn with Canvas by Instructure

by | Mar 14, 2024 | SLT, Teaching, Uncategorised | 2 comments

Our University has started on its journey to replace Blackboard Learn with Canvas by Instructure as our central learning environment (CLE). We’re now configuring the system, structuring training and support plans, and preparing for a full rollout in 2025.

This means we are entering an exciting and important phase of enriching the experiences of our students and colleagues through the transformation of our digital teaching and learning landscape.

To do this, we need you. Our colleagues will be key to establishing Canvas by Instructure with our students and across our teams, and embedding it as part of our digital learning environment. We’ll all work together to deliver a robust training plan and provide regular communications and engagement to help you understand, communicate and advocate the transition.  

All colleagues are invited to hear updates from our Flexible Learning Programme team, along with colleagues from working groups and a representative from the supplier, Instructure, at our next planned open meeting on Tuesday 19 March at 1pm. There is also an opportunity to ask the panel any questions.  

Why Canvas by Instructure?

Our existing contract with Blackboard Learn will end after 14 years in 2025. We have therefore undertaken a full open tender process to identify the most suitable CLE to meet our needs.

An evaluation panel undertook extensive analysis of three CLE suppliers, mapping the capabilities of each system against our key requirements. They could only do this by understanding the needs of users – and that meant involving our students and colleagues in a consultation process, because they will be the day-to-day users of this technology.

A rigorous testing period involving over 260 students and staff was conducted to identify what users need from the CLE. It was essential to test accessibility and user experience of each system across a cross-section of teams with a broad range of differing needs and expectations.

Canvas by Instructure was recognised as the most suitable of the systems trialled. Thank you to everyone who has supported and informed the selection process!

What are the benefits?

Canvas by Instructure is an intuitive, user-friendly platform designed with users at its heart. The system showcases modern technology which will enhance teaching, learning and student experiences. It is designed to be cohesive, easy to navigate and to positively influence user experiences.

The move to the new CLE is an opportunity for some housekeeping and decluttering, ensuring that we don’t take what we no longer need into our new system. This means teaching and learning will be easily accessible to students and colleagues.

The CLE also offers the ability to build fresh integrations and operability with our learning applications, so our tools are available when the CLE goes live, which is important for a seamless transition. This will also enable quicker and smoother diagnoses of technical issues through IT Services.

What is the expected timeline for rollout?

We contracted Instructure and made announcements to students and colleagues in November 2023; this led into a discovery phase, where stakeholders across the University attended workshops with the supplier to understand the detail about our technologies and pedagogies.

We have now moved to the implementation phase, where key staff groups are involved in role-specific training which will help us review design, delivery and support processes.  

Over the next year, we will gradually engage and train student and staff groups with a soft launch approach, to integrate Canvas by Instructure in a way that supports everyone.

Training and access to the system will be available from January 2025, with a full migration by September 2025.

How can we get this right?

The move from Blackboard Learn to Canvas by Instructure should be seen as a priority – after all, it will affect our future teaching and learning at The University of Manchester. The success of embedding the CLE relies on all users understanding its importance and its potential – so please make sure to ask any important questions, either at the open meeting or via flexiblelearning@manchester.ac.uk. Common FAQs can be found here.

This is a massive opportunity to improve our use of technology to provide teaching and learning content. Canvas by Instructure will set us on our path to further opening up Manchester education to more people, allowing for more positive experiences for both students and colleagues.

We appreciate people are busy, but the Flexible Learning Programme team is working with line managers to ensure time is allocated to colleagues to understand, question and familiarise themselves with the CLE.

It’s so important that colleagues are strong advocates for the changeover and work with us to create a smooth transition. Please join us in ensuring the introduction of our new CLE is seen as an exciting opportunity, and a positive step in innovative work and study at the University of Manchester.


Professor April McMahon, Vice-President (Teaching, Learning and Students)


  1. April McMahon

    Thank you, Banji – the team and I much appreciate your support!

  2. Banji Adewumi

    This is indeed a great opportunity for us to improve our use of technology in providing teaching and learning content for all – Thank you, April and team.


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