Scaffold Migration

Northeastern University

How Northeastern University switched from Blackboard to Canvas on a tight timeline with help from K16 Solutions

LMS Migration to Canvas made easy

Managing a learning management system transition takes thoughtful planning and execution–but even some of the most carefully adopted strategies required changes in the wake of the unprecedented pandemic. Northeastern University initially adopted a measured approach to its migration from Blackboard to Canvas. After piloting an initial shift in the fall of 2019, the university had planned to methodically switch its 15000+ courses over to the new platform, finishing in June of 2022. But when COVID-19 hit, Northeastern, which has expanded its reach beyond Boston and built a global university system over the past decade, had to change its plans.

“We knew just how critical this migration project was for Northeastern… It was exciting to see the uplift of the courses as they transitioned from Blackboard to Canvas.”

– Sam Yaghoubi, VP of Client Success at K16 Solutions

Tight Timelines Managed

Northeastern moved teaching and learning online when the pandemic first hit in the spring. For the fall, administrators planned to welcome students and faculty back to the classroom using a flexible hybrid model to accommodate the reduced density restrictions. Some students would be attending classes in person, while others would be joining class sessions virtually from a distance. The fall was already shaping up to be its most challenging semester ever—trying to manage it in two different course platforms seemed even more burdensome. After consulting with other universities that had recently migrated platforms, Northeastern administrators reached out to K16 Solutions for help.

K16 Solutions helps institutions migrate course content easily, accurately, and quickly from one platform to another by applying its automation technology, saving universities the labor and hassle of doing it on their own. In this case, K16 Solutions also applied automation to find Kaltura videos within Northeastern’s learning management system and replace them with the university’s new Panopto videos.

“We knew just how critical this migration project was for Northeastern; especially since their timeline to move to Canvas had been reduced,” said Sam Yaghoubi, VP of Implementation at K16 Solutions and lead on the project. It was our job not only to meet their timeline but also to ensure the content accurately transferred so faculty could begin teaching immediately.”

Easing burden on faculty

Northeastern started working with K16 Solutions in the late spring of 2020 and found its faculty did not use Blackboard in a uniform manner. Many had never utilized the system for online courses, while some had developed a lot of structure around their courses. Others used it simply as online filing shelves.

To garner more support among faculty at a time when engaging students virtually was critical, administrators used the migration as an opportunity to showcase options in Canvas that create a dynamic student experience, including customizable home pages for individual courses, the ability to link assignments to the Canvas calendar and the option to sync with students’ Outlook accounts.

With K16’s help, Northeastern automatically imported its content into a templated homepage, which pulled in instructors’ names, office locations, and contact information, saving them steps and, more critically, time. It also provided a model for the ideal branded homepage to give students a consistent experience across courses. Instructors even received information on creating videos as well as a top-5 list of things they could do to improve students’ experiences and get their courses in shape. This approach helped the university think through gaps between their original learning management system and Canvas. The result: courses didn’t just migrate, they were elevated.

“We were delighted by the level of transformation Northeastern was interested in applying to their content,” said Yaghoubi. “It was exciting to see the uplift of the courses as they transitioned to Canvas.”

Specialized solutions for large volumes of content

Many instructors took advantage of the opportunity to improve their content—or develop it for the first time if they hadn’t already used a learning management system. For faculty who had to transfer large volumes of content, K16 Solutions offered time savers. For example, instructors often post answer keys after exams. And while those keys provide useful insights, the university obviously didn’t want them floating around before tests. To keep faculty from spending time hunting for these keys after the content moved to Canvas, K16 applied its find and replace mechanism to any items that included the word “key” in the title and automatically unpublished them. That way, faculty could see them but students could not.

The same was true for video migration. Northeastern had decided to change its video management system from Kaltura to Panopto. K16 Solutions identified all Kaltura video embeds found within Northeastern’s courses and replaced them with migrated Panopto videos. During this project, K16 solutions scanned approximately 14,000,000 objects across more than 78,000 courses in order to update 128,870 videos. The Kaltura to Panopto migration happened quickly and efficiently, without impacting instructor or student experiences.

Thinking of moving to a new Learning Management System (LMS)? Get key insights about what successful LMS platform migrations look like from those who have gone through it.

“We were very impressed with Northeastern’s migration from Kaltura to Panopto. K16 Solutions automated the deletion and replacement of obsolete links and replaced them with correct mapping to Panopto files. The large volume of videos they updated saved a significant amount of manual time and effort.”

- Dave Neway, Panopto’s Vice President of Marketing

This kind of automation allowed Northeastern’s faculty to focus on improving the student experience, instead of the mechanics of moving content from one learning management system to another.

“Faculty and students love Panopto because it’s easy to use,” Neway continued. “K16’s rapid migration enabled these users to continue doing what they do best—teaching and learning—versus spending their valuable time fixing links and finding content.”

Survey feedback from students and faculty so far is positive. Students are enjoying having their information organized online and hope their instructors will continue to provide robust virtual offerings. Faculty are content as well, noting they plan to continue using the tools, even after students return to the classroom.

“We are not just providing a service. We are giving schools the freedom to move to the platforms that best support their faculty, students, and staff. No school wants to be tied to a solution that no longer meets their needs. Now they don’t have to be.”

– Sam Yaghoubi, VP of Client Success at K16 Solutions

This content originally appeared on Inside Higher Ed.