Canvas vs. Blackboard Learn: Which Is Better?

Canvas and Blackboard Learn are both learning management powerhouses. Find out which LMS is the best solution for your small business.

Best for Enterprises

Canvas

Canvas is a leading LMS with advanced features, reliable performance, and excellent support. See if it's a good match for your business training needs.   Full Review »

The Blueprint Score

8.2
out of 10

The Blueprint Score

7.2
out of 10

Blackboard Learn

Is Blackboard Learn a good choice for your small business? Learn about this industry-leading LMS and what it offers your business.   Full Review »

Best for Enterprises

Canvas

Canvas is a leading LMS with advanced features, reliable performance, and excellent support. See if it's a good match for your business training needs.

The Blueprint Score

8.2
out of 10

Blackboard Learn

Is Blackboard Learn a good choice for your small business? Learn about this industry-leading LMS and what it offers your business.

The Blueprint Score

7.2
out of 10
Canvas
Blackboard Learn
What We Like
Canvas
  • Highly developed features
  • Organized user interfaces
  • Free trial
Blackboard Learn
  • Free trial
  • Scalable
  • Customizable
Could Be Better
Canvas
  • Complex to set up and manage
  • Academic orientation
  • No e-commerce feature
Blackboard Learn
  • Academic orientation
  • Subpar user experiences
  • No e-commerce
Key Features
Canvas
  • Advanced features
  • Orderly user interfaces
  • Free trial
Blackboard Learn
  • Free trial
  • Scalable
  • Customizable
Pricing
Canvas
  • Available by quotation
  • Annual subscription
  • Based on number of users
Blackboard Learn
  • Available by quotation
  • Subscription-based
  • Some features charged separately
Support
Canvas
  • Phone support
  • Live chat
  • Email support
Blackboard Learn
  • Phone support
  • Live chat
  • Web support
Ease of Use
Canvas
  • Clean, organized interface
  • More complex than some LMSes
  • Ample resources for guidance
Blackboard Learn
  • Complex to master
  • Subpar user experience
  • Extensive resources available

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Canvas and Blackboard Learn are advanced learning management systems that can support learning environments of any size or complexity. They're not as focused or streamlined as many up-and-coming systems designed expressly for business, but their feature sets are far deeper.

An advanced learning management system (LMS) can help you develop a learning culture in your business. The benefits of continuous learning at work are profound, including greater employee engagement, better performance, and lower turnover.

Canvas and Blackboard Learn share many key features including mobile-responsive design, sophisticated user-management tools, and the ability to support multiple, customizable learning portals. So which is better for building a learning culture in your small business? Let's compare them side by side to see how they stack up.


Canvas vs. Blackboard: An overview

Canvas and Blackboard are both leading learning management systems for academia with recent iterations tailored for business training. Here's how they compare.

Who is Canvas for?

Canvas is a highly secure, open-source learning management system that can be tailored to suit your business and your learning goals, no matter how big or complex. It is well suited for businesses that want to create multiple interfaces tailored for different user groups. It doesn't come with e-commerce functionality built in, so if you want to sell courses, it is not an ideal solution out of the box.

Canvas is not as easy to use as some simpler LMSes designed for business training such as WorkRamp or SkyPrep. Businesses with experienced LMS users or web development resources will find it easier to unlock Canvas's full potential. The company provides onboarding training to help users get up to speed quickly.

Instructure offers two versions of Canvas specifically for business: Canvas Corporate for enterprise and Canvas Bridge, a streamlined version for business training. If you find that Canvas's full version is more than you need, be sure to check out Bridge. This review covers Canvas Corporate.

Who is Blackboard for?

Like Canvas, Blackboard is an LMS with a hefty academic pedigree. It began as an open-source LMS but sold that system in 2020. Blackboard's LMS for business training is Learn Ultra.

Blackboard Learn Ultra is ideal for enterprise-level training. Like Canvas, Blackboard Learn Ultra doesn't support e-commerce out of the box, so you will need to address that independently if you want to sell courses online.

Blackboard doesn't have quite the depth of innovative features that Canvas offers. Blackboard also has some catching up to do in its user experience and design. But Blackboard is worth considering if you have substantial training needs. Like Canvas, Blackboard offers extensive training materials to help you build your learning environment.


Canvas vs. Blackboard: Features

Canvas edges Blackboard out in innovation and flash, but make no mistake: Both these LMS giants have deep features and capabilities to explore. Here are some highlights.

What Canvas offers

Canvas lets you host and brand multiple learning portals independently, with built-in themes that are click-button easy. You can also customize the system using custom cascading style sheets (CSS) or JavaScript.

Canvas's built-in themes.

You can theme multiple learning portals independently in Canvas.

Source: Canvas software.

Canvas has outstanding course-building tools for building immersive, media-rich course modules. You can easily import or create whatever content you need, including documents, media, assessments, and embedded web pages. You can also import content directly from systems such as Moodle and D2L, a great tool if you have an existing body of courses to offer.

Canvas also provides unique tools to foster interactive learning that go far beyond polls and quizzes. Social learning tools such as comments, discussions, chats, and collaborations integrate seamlessly into lessons.

One unique tool, Canvas Studio, allows students to comment directly within the timeline of a video. Canvas pauses the video, bookmarks the comment, and resumes playing when the student is done. Other students can easily see the comments and respond.

A video with comments in Studio.

Bookmarked video comments are a good example of Canvas's innovative features.

Source: Canvas software.

That's a great feature for connecting remote learners and enriching asynchronous coursework. Canvas also allows learners to record video, audio, and screen capture, a helpful feature for practicing skills and gathering feedback.

Canvas LMS analytics and admin features are equally deep and well-thought-out. From grouping users and assigning permissions to automating events and sending notices, Canvas has a tool for it.

What Blackboard offers

Blackboard offers many of the same core functionalities as Canvas. Blackboard can host multiple, customized learning portals to support live and asynchronous training. This is ideal for businesses that want to provide unique learning experiences to different audiences, such as employees, customers, and partners. It also allows you to manage administrators, courses, and learner groups independently.

Learn's Create New Brand page.

Blackboard supports multiple learning interfaces with independent branding.

Source: Blackboard Learn software.

Blackboard's course-building features also run deep. You can import content via file uploads or simple drag-and-drop functionality. You can also bulk import entire courses from cloud accounts such as Google Drive and Dropbox.

Learn's management tool for connecting to cloud services.

Blackboard connects with cloud accounts for easy content importing.

Source: Blackboard Learn software.

In addition to importing content, Blackboard features a relatively standard toolset for creating learning units, discussions, quizzes, surveys, and other course components. Courses can be easily connected into learning paths. Like Canvas, Blackboard includes a portfolio feature to allow users to showcase their accomplishments, a nice touch for engaging employees in learning.

A dropdown of Blackboard's question types.

Blackboard features full content-building tools.

Source: Blackboard Learn software.

Where Blackboard really stands out is in its administrative capabilities. For example, Blackboard makes it easy to set up parameters such as course prerequisites, minimum grades, time limits, and permitted attempts. You can create an access code to secure tests and even lock the browser during testing to prevent cheating.

These features take on a lot of the work of delivering course content, from moving learners through your curriculum to grading tests and tracking learner progress.

Blackboard is equally adept at system administration. As an example, Blackboard comes loaded with no fewer than 10 pre-built roles for system users alone. You can also add custom roles and assign primary and secondary user roles. This allows you to exert very precise control over what users can access and do.

The winner: Canvas

Canvas and Blackboard both provide full features for creating courses, providing on-demand and live training, and managing users. Across the board, however, Canvas's features are better designed and more innovative than Blackboard's.


Canvas vs. Blackboard: Support

The best software in the world is useless if you're stuck and can't get an answer. So where can you turn if you have questions about Canvas and Blackboard?

What Canvas offers

Canvas offers phone, chat, and email support as well as vast online resources for users. In addition to a massive knowledge center and online videos, Canvas has a user community with more than 1.3 million members.

Canvas's community login page.

Canvas's user community is large and active.

Source: Canvas software.

With Canvas, you're never really alone, and you're never far from an answer to your questions.

What Blackboard offers

Blackboard also provides comprehensive support via phone, internet, and live chat. Blackboard has extensive online resources including user forums, video tutorials, online courses, and a help center.

Some Blackboard packages also come with onsite or remote training to help you get up and running.

The winner: Canvas

Canvas edges Blackboard out once again with its user-friendly online resources.


Canvas vs. Blackboard: Ease of use

User experience is a major differentiator between Canvas and Blackboard.

What Canvas offers

Canvas presents a mind-boggling array of features and capabilities in an orderly user interface. Nested menus, tabs, and breadcrumbs are there to help you drill down and find what you want.

Account settings in Canvas's admin dashboard

Canvas's admin dashboard is encyclopedic but orderly.

Source: Canvas software.

Still, with so many options at every turn, Canvas has a steeper learning curve than streamlined systems made for business such as Lessonly or TalentLMS.

What Blackboard offers

User experience has never been a strength for Blackboard. Blackboard's interfaces are logical enough, but they're not particularly intuitive or user-friendly.

Admin tools for assigning system roles.

Blackboard's admin tools run deep.

Source: Blackboard Learn software.

For admins and instructors, especially, Blackboard has quite a learning curve.

The winner: Canvas

Canvas and Blackboard are both complex, but Canvas edges Blackboard out in user experience. The functionality in Blackboard is a bit harder to unearth and deploy, and the navigation is not quite as appealing or intuitive.


Canvas vs. Blackboard: Pricing

To compare Canvas vs. Blackboard costs, you will have to do some digging. Both companies provide pricing details only by quote. Here are the basics.

What Canvas offers

Canvas is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) system. You pay a one-time implementation fee upfront, plus an annual subscription fee based on your total number of users. The company offers a free unlimited trial, so you can see what you're getting before signing up. Some features are charged separately.

What Blackboard offers

Blackboard's pricing is also subscription-based and proprietary. Blackboard offers a free trial, CourseSites, which you can use to try out the platform and even teach up to five courses.

Blackboard Learn's free trial sign-up page.

Through CourseSites, you can enjoy a free trial of Blackboard Learn Ultra and teach up to five courses.

Source: Blackboard Learn software.

Results: Tie

You'll have to contact a sales rep to find out whether Blackboard or Canvas is more affordable for your business.


Canvas vs. Blackboard: Integration with other software

Integrations are key for instilling a culture of continuous learning in your business. How well do Canvas and Blackboard connect with your existing systems?

What Canvas offers

Canvas offers extensive integrations with external applications and systems. And with its open application programming interface (API), you can integrate Canvas with just about any system you use in your work.

Applications in Canvas.

Canvas integrates with a wealth of applications. Source: Canvas software.

Canvas also supports learning tools interoperability (LTI), connecting you to further educational resources and applications.

What Blackboard offers

Blackboard doesn't sport the full complement of ready-made integrations that Canvas offers. It does support integrations via REST API and LTI.

The winner: Canvas

Canvas has built-in integrations with more applications than Blackboard.


How They Compare: Canvas vs. Blackboard

Canvas Blackboard
Mobile response
Yes
Yes
E-commerce
Phone support
Yes
Yes
User-friendly
Yes
Cutting-edge features
Yes
Transparent pricing

Give them a try

Canvas and Blackboard are basically space-shuttle LMSes: big, hefty, and sporting a whole lot of bells and whistles. If you're creating an online university for large, distinct audiences, they're both up to the task. But a space shuttle isn’t the best vehicle for every journey.

Canvas is flashier and easier to drive, while Blackboard Learn is still finding its feet in the world of streamlined, made-for-business LMSs. But with free trials on both sides, it's worth taking them for a spin before settling on a corporate LMS.

Canvas Corporate LMS is an open-source, mobile LMS with tools for creating collaborative, interactive learning experiences. Test it with a no-obligation free trial.

Blackboard is a global leader in learning management solutions. Get a free demo and talk to a sales rep to find out what Blackboard Learn has to offer your business.

The Motley Fool has a Disclosure Policy. The Author and/or The Motley Fool may have an interest in companies mentioned.