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The University of Pennsylvania Libraries system is taking the final steps to prepare for Penn’s change from Blackboard to Canvas, which will become permanent on May 30.

Below is a list of some ways Penn Libraries is putting the finishing touches on the transition.

Migration between platforms

Come May 30, the Penn Blackboard URL will be decommissioned, and the website will no longer be accessible, said Kimberly Eke, Penn Libraries’ director of teaching, research and learning services.

In light of this, Penn Libraries has been offering faculty members a variety of options for migrating the materials that are currently on Blackboard websites to new pages on Canvas.

Depending on their preferences, professors can choose to have the entire contents of their Blackboard sites exported to Canvas or they can choose specific information to be included or excluded in the migration process, Courseware Services Manager Molly Bonnard said. Bonnard added that professors are also able to start new Canvas pages completely from scratch, which some professors have already chosen to do with their courses.

Though the information that is stored on Blackboard websites will not be readily available to students as of May 30, Penn Libraries is taking steps to preserve the data.

“We’ve been working all year to archive all of the data from all courses that have used Blackboard and store the information on the Blackboard servers,” Bonnard explained.

The purpose of keeping the Blackboard data in archive format is to ensure that the information can be accessed under certain circumstances. For instance, if a student decided to dispute a grade he or she received in a course that was conducted through Blackboard at the time, the information could be obtained from the archives to cross-check the assignments and grade calculations.

Eke still urged students to download all necessary files from their professors’ Blackboard pages prior to the official changeover date.

Effects on hardware and software

In June, Penn Libraries will back up and archive all data from Spring 2014 Blackboard courses. Once all of the materials are archived online, the data will be put on a local storage device, and the Blackboard servers — which are housed in the basement of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library — will be shut off.

Since Canvas’ servers are owned by Amazon, Penn’s information for the new courseware system will be stored in the cloud — specifically servers that are not on campus, Eke said. Following the Blackboard server shutdown, technology specialists from Penn Libraries will decide the fate of the old hardware, which could mean that the servers could be repurposed for other use, Bonnard stated.

In terms of internet security, there will not be any major differences between Blackboard and Canvas, said Penn Libraries’ Director for Planning and Organizational Analysis Joseph Zucca. Zucca added that “the necessary patches” have been made for both courseware platforms so that they are safe from Heartbleed — a worldwide internet bug that was discovered a few weeks ago by personnel at Google and workers at a Finnish internet security firm, separately.

Canvas mobile app

Students and faculty alike may also be interested in downloading one of the mobile applications that Canvas offers.

Professors and teaching assistants can install the speedgrader app on their mobile devices, which aids instructors in grading and responding to students’ assignments.

Students can also download the Canvas mobile app that is available for Android and iOS users, Bonnard said. With this app, students can view content on their professors’ sites and submit assignments, depending on what settings the instructor has enabled for a particular assignment.

Bonnard added that the Canvas app is an improvement from the Blackboard equivalent, which was often “problematic” and for a time was only available free of charge to Sprint customers.

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