Migrating Blackboard Organizations

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Canvas (by Instructure) is a cloud based learning management system (LMS) that is currently used by more than 700 colleges and universities. The university will transition to Canvas from Blackboard for all LMS activity by Summer, 2018. Blackboard access will end May 15, 2018. Data will not be retrievable after June 1, 2018.

Migrating Blackboard Organizations

ITS can move your Blackboard Organization

If you know you need ITS to move your Blackboard organization to Canvas, click here: https://its.unl.edu/services/canvas/blackboard-to-canvas.  Complete the form prior to December 21, 2017

Read on for more information.


Blackboard organizations function much like Blackboard courses, but users have different roles (Teachers are called Leaders, and Students are called Participants). Blackboard organizations can be used to hold documents, form collaborative online groups, and facilitate communication between online groups. In Blackboard, organizations and courses appear in two distinct lists, giving users a relatively easy means to navigate course lists and organization lists independently.

Upon request, ITS can bulk-move any and all Blackboard organizations (and all their contents) into Canvas in May of 2017. As is the case in Blackboard, Canvas organizations will look exactly like classes, but will have organization-specific roles for users. Unlike in Blackboard, however, all Canvas courses and organizations will appear in a single list (the Canvas Courses list). Users can “favorite” specific course and/or organizations in Canvas to control which courses and/or organizations appear in the Canvas dashboard.

Canvas may not be your best option

When the concept of Blackboard organizations first evolved at UNL, there were few if any ways that users could collaborate online. For many years, Blackboard was the only campus-wide tool that could handle document sharing and mass communication on the Internet. Now however, there are many tools available campus-wide that can facilitate online collaboration.

While Canvas can meet the needs of groups looking for online collaboration, it may not be the best option. Users should be aware that there is a data cap of 500 MB for Canvas organizations, meaning using Canvas for storage of large files is not advised. Additionally, the Canvas toolset and development strategy is very narrowly focused on optimizing the teaching and learning experience. While teaching tools can be useful for administrative purposes, the Canvas toolset will always be targeted expressly for teaching and learning. This means that Canvas will not prioritize feature requests or develop new tools that are focused specifically on administrative collaboration.

Your need should drive your tool selection

Our research shows that Blackboard organizations are primarily used for three things: 1) Document sharing 2) Mass communication to a static group of users 3) Both document sharing and mass communication.

Document sharing: use Box

If your primary need for an organization is document sharing or collaborative document authoring, your best option is to use UNL’s box.com service. This service has no storage cap and allows for real-time collaborative editing, revision history, document permission control, and limited (one-way) group messaging.

Mass messaging: use Listserv or Outlook

If your primary need is to send messages to a large group, UNL’s listserv tool or the grouping tool in Outlook may be best.

Listserv gives you the option to manually enroll users or invite users to enroll themselves in an e-mail group. The creator of the list can assign publishing rights to various users, and can share the ownership role with as many users as needed. Listserv is most useful for very large groups, or groups in which the majority of the communication is one-way. It is also useful is users want to use a non-university e-mail address or if you want them to enroll themselves.

Outlook lets users set up e-mail groups using the NU directory. Outlook contact groups are best for groups that are smaller or whose enrollment is fluid and need regular management. They should be used if you want your users to have a ”normal” e-mail experience for the collaboration, and if your users are using NU-generated e-mail accounts.

Document sharing and mass communication, or other teaching tools: use Canvas

If you need to both share multiple documents and send frequent messages to your group, or if you need to use other teaching-style tools for your collaboration, then Canvas is the tool for you. You can either move your organization content into Canvas yourself or request that it be moved as part of our planned bulk move of organization content content. If you want to move the content yourself, you can send a massage to canvas@unl.edu requesting an empty organization shell be built in Canvas. If you want ITS to move the organization for you, then click here: https://its.unl.edu/services/canvas/blackboard-to-canvas. Complete the form prior to December 21, 2017.

ITS will not move Blackboard organization content if there is no request to do so using the above form. 

The attached document details the best way to use Box, Listserv, and Outlook for collaboration. If you have any questions about these tools or about Canvas, you can contact ITS support at mysupport@unl.edu.