History of Canvas at Penn



Canvas is a learning management system (LMS) developed by Salt Lake City-based Instructure. Prior to 2012, Blackboard was the University of Pennsylvania’s primary LMS. After learning about Canvas’s strengths over Blackboard from Wharton and GSE, both of whom adopted Canvas early (2011 and 2012, respectively), the Penn Libraries decided to lead a pilot of Canvas during the 2012-2013 academic year, and the majority of instructors involved found that Canvas met or exceeded their needs and offered better teaching tools than Blackboard.

Based on the pilot, and the positive experience of faculty in Wharton and GSE, the Council of Deans and the Provost agreed that a campus-wide adoption would be beneficial for Penn faculty and students, so the decision was made to transition from Blackboard to Canvas during the 2013-2014 academic year. The official announcement was made in the July 16 issue of the Almanac.


  • 2011: Wharton is the first school to pilot Canvas at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • 2012: The Graduate School of Education (GSE) pilots Canvas.
  • 2012-2013:  Penn Libraries offers a Canvas Pilot to schools using Blackboard, after which the decision was made to migrate from Blackboard to Canvas.
  • 2013-2014: Penn Libraries manages the Blackboard-to-Canvas Migration with assistance from other schools and programs (Annenberg, Arts & Sciences, Biomedical Graduate Studies, Dental, Design, Engineering, Nursing, and Social Policy & Practice). Wharton and GSE instances merge with the UPenn Canvas instance. Penn Law maintains a separate Canvas instance.
  • 2014-2018: 11/12 Schools use Canvas, except for Penn Vet, which uses Moodle.
  • 2018: Penn Vet migrates from Moodle to Canvas. Now all schools at the University of Pennsylvania use Canvas.

Last Updated: 11 Nov 2020