Home » FAQ


Last updated March 20, 2023

Have a question not answered on this page? Contact the project team at lmstransition@duke.edu with any questions, concerns or feedback. Join our email list to receive updates about the transition.


Why does Duke need a new learning platform?

Sakai has served Duke well for over a decade. However, the large number of universities that have already migrated off Sakai—a community-supported LMS—has left the sustainability of the platform precarious given the small number of remaining clients. 

Additionally, in order to connect Sakai to external applications (for example Gradescope and Zoom), the developers of those applications need to build an “integration” (piece of software code) that connects their application to Sakai to transfer information seamlessly between the two. As the number of Sakai universities has decreased, it means that often the Sakai integrations we might want for external applications used commonly at Duke do not exist. 

Finally, the amount of effort needed to keep up with the current leading LMSs, build new features and evolve with Duke’s educational needs can no longer be met by the Sakai Community, Longsight (our Sakai hosting vendor), or Duke.


How was Canvas chosen as Duke’s next learning platform?

In Summer 2022, Duke Learning Innovation (DLI) and Office of Information Technology (OIT) leadership determined that Duke University needs a more robust learning platform to achieve its goals over the coming decade. A project team of representatives from DLI and OIT was selected to investigate and propose a platform by December 2022. Observing that many universities had already moved to the Canvas platform, the team began its evaluation by focusing on whether or not Canvas would meet Duke’s needs. The evaluation process included independent research, consultations with peers at other universities who have switched from Sakai to Canvas, meetings with representatives at Instructure (the company that owns and operates Canvas), and inviting input from various campus stakeholders, including our Functional Stakeholder group of volunteer faculty, staff and students.

The project team focused on the following criteria during the evaluation process:

  1. Accessibility
  2. Analytics and insights
  3. Customization
  4. Mobile Options
  5. Security and Privacy
  6. User and Account Support 
  7. Sustainability
  8. Teaching and Learning 
  9. Third Party Integrations
  10. User Experience


Why was Canvas chosen as Duke’s next learning platform? 

Canvas is the largest LMS provider in higher education, and has already been successfully adopted by programs at the Fuqua School of Business and School of Medicine, as well as many of Duke’s peer institutions. Features and functions of Canvas that the evaluation team found especially valuable include – but are certainly not limited to: 


When will I switch from Sakai to Canvas?

We plan to employ a phased approach to transitioning courses from Sakai to Canvas. You may opt-in to transition to Canvas as early as Fall 2023, and our goal is to have all courses using Canvas by Fall 2024.


Will there be support to help me migrate my content from Sakai to Canvas?

We are currently developing our plan for migration support. To reduce the effort needed to prepare future courses, we are building a service called Sakai2Canvas that will allow those with the Instructor role in a Sakai course site or the Owner role in a Sakai project site to migrate the site to Canvas. This service is designed to copy instructor content for future courses and ongoing projects.  Additionally, we will devote a significant level of project support personnel and resources to providing training and converting course sites, with and for users, in order to minimize the impact on instructors. 


How much of my Sakai content may be migrated into Canvas? 

We are currently exploring various methods of migration as there are differences between the two platforms. No student data will be migrated from Sakai to Canvas.

Because Canvas will have a different interface and toolset than Sakai, you may find that the content you anticipate migrating may no longer achieve the same learning objectives. Thus, you may find it easier to start course building from a blank slate and explore the new opportunities and features Canvas has to offer. Learning Innovation will be available to discuss options and provide pedagogical advice. 


How long will I retain access to my content in Sakai?

You will be able to access your previously created content in Sakai at least one year after the full transition to Canvas. An exact date will be announced at a later time.


What will happen to my project sites?

We are evaluating how to migrate project sites into the Canvas Platform.


What training opportunities will be provided to learn how to use Canvas?

We are currently developing our plan for onboarding and training, but we are devoting a significant level of project support personnel and resources to providing training to ensure the successful adoption of Canvas at Duke. This will include, at a minimum, workshops and self-service materials. Additionally, you will have access to the Canvas Community, which includes resources such as the Instructor Guides and the Question Forum. Canvas also has many built-in training tools that provide instruction and support as you learn the platform.


I teach at Fuqua or the School of Medicine and already use Canvas; will I be affected by this change?

We are currently evaluating the impact that this transition will have on Duke’s current Canvas users. More information will be shared when it is available. 


I teach at Duke Kunshan University; how will I be affected by this change?

DKU will transition from Sakai to Canvas with Duke University. You may opt-in to transition to Canvas as early as Session 1, Fall 2023, but our goal is to have all courses using Canvas by Session 1, Fall 2024. We anticipate Canvas will be accessible similarly to Sakai. 

Haiyan Zhou, Associate Director for DKU’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), is a member of the Project Team, and the following representatives from DKU are members of the Functional Stakeholder group: Jiaxin Wu, Assistant Director for CTL; John Campbell, Senior Director of Student Information Systems; and Luisa Li, Educational Technology Specialist for CTL.


Can I use Canvas in Spring 2023?

Canvas will not be ready to be used by Duke or DKU instructors in Spring 2023.


How can I use Canvas in Fall 2023?

In order to ensure the successful adoption of Canvas, we are limiting the number of Fall 2023 instructors who can use Canvas (“Early Adopters”). This will allow Learning Innovation to provide our Early Adopters the focus and support they may need in moving from Sakai to Canvas, and will help us better understand Duke instructors’ needs for future, scaled adoption of Canvas. Though we have reached the maximum capacity of Early Adopters, if you are interested in using Canvas in Fall 2023, please pay attention to any communications sent from the LMS Transition Team, as opportunities to do so may become available.


Is the Saba LMS affected by this change?

No, the LMS Transition project only relates to the Sakai LMS. Visit hr.duke.edu/training/learning-management-system for more information on the Saba LMS.


Is Kits affected by this change?

Kits https://kits.duke.edu won’t go away as it provides value outside the LMS and outside the course context for those working on projects and collaborations. We are evaluating the relationship between Kits and Canvas to better balance the functionality Kits provides with the complexity that comes with it. The integration between Kits and Canvas may be different than what currently exists between Kits and Sakai.


Have a question not answered on this page? Contact the project team at lmstransition@duke.edu with any questions, concerns or feedback.