The final countdown: Compass site meets ultimate end 

The timer set on the Compass website shows almost an hour left before the website goes offline on Tuesday. The closure of Compass, also known as Blackboard, is due to the Universitys transition to Canvas.

Photo courtesy of yessir5925 Reddit

The timer set on the Compass website shows almost an hour left before the website goes offline on Tuesday. The closure of Compass, also known as Blackboard, is due to the University’s transition to Canvas.

By Faith Allendorf, Interim Summer Editor in Chief

When 11:59 p.m. rolled around, the countdown began — it was 60 anticipated seconds before an enemy of some of the University’s student body would vanish forever. 

Posts about the countdown quickly spread on the University’s Reddit, r/UIUC, and a few videos were taken seconds before the clock hit zero. Users commented on how it was time for the enemy to fall. 

Five, four, three, two one. 

When the clock hit zero, Compass — or Blackboard — went offline and was no longer accessible to the public. 

At midnight on June 1, Compass, one of the University’s three learning tools, was taken offline for good.  The shutdown was part of a transition to Canvas that began in February 2021 after the Office of the Provost announced the website would become the central student learning management system. 

A message from the Compass homepage announcing the site officially offline on Wednesday. (Willie Cui)

According to Drew MacGregor, the interim deputy CIO for IT operations at the University’s technical services department, a number of factors went into the decision to discontinue Compass services. 

“First, over several years, multiple committees reported that there were too many learning tools on campus,” MacGregor said in an email. “Second, the student success initiative of 2018–2020 recommended a common learning management system tool.”

Genesis Del Real, senior in LAS and Media, said she didn’t like how the University could not stick with one learning management system, referring to the three systems that were in place for many years at the University: Compass, Moodle and Canvas. 

“I feel like they’ve switched a few times now,” Del Real said. “If they could just choose and be consistent, I would be fine, but I don’t like switching back and forth.”

MacGregor said the switch was also prompted by the fact that other schools had already made the switch. He also said transfer and graduate students from other institutions were recommending the switch — the student’s previous schools used Canvas. 

“11 of 14 Big Ten schools were using Canvas, and only Illinois was still using Blackboard,” MacGregor said. 

According to MacGregor, the University’s contract with Blackboard was also set to expire at the end of June, and the hosting service the site used was facing “end of life” in December.

The timing was critical for the University to begin the transition, for they had to make sure the courses were fully off Compass before the service reached its end. 

MacGregor explained the transition started last spring after the announcement by the Office of the Provost. The University began making plans and creating training materials that professors and other affiliated participants could use to make the change smoother. 

“For faculty, transitioning started in May 2021,” MacGregor said. “For IT and educational technology staff, we began transitioning in the middle of spring 2021.”

Course materials slowly moved off Compass and onto Canvas. Content including slide shows, PDF documents and more were carried over and organized in the new learning environment. The University used a vendor called K16 to manage the migration of course materials. 

Macgregor said that they didn’t require professors to move to Canvas for Fall 2021.

“Rather, we provided 12 months to move,” MacGregor said. “We started … a website that sought to address common questions, links to training and a comparison/chart that maps tools inside Compass and Moodle to what they are called in Canvas.”

The University also made a quick guide to introduce the basics of getting started in Canvas. 

“Some instructors chose to start from a blank Canvas space and then move content that we migrated from compass into their new space,” Macgregor said. “We offered in-person training, office hours, online session and 24/7 access to instructors on the Canvas learning site.”

Macgregor also said the transition was not just an effort of the University’s Technology Services Department. Instead, there were a lot more individuals involved. 

“We viewed this as an ‘Illinois project’ and gathered partners in the Center for Innovation and Technology and every college, with more than 90 full-time staff working on training and transition,” MacGregor said. “This was a tremendous team effort for the good of our campus. We hope students will be better served with Canvas as we move forward.”

Anjola Akinosun, senior in LAS, was happy that Compass shut down. 

“I hate Compass,” Akinosun said. “I actually like the new platform … Canvas is the most user friendly and easiest to navigate — all my assignments are easy to see.” 

On the other hand, Del Real was sad to see Compass’s end. 

“I liked it,” Del Real said. “I think over everything, I liked the confetti that comes out after you submit an assignment. I also liked the weekly calendar that they have on the homepage.”

As the countdown struck zero, there was no confetti. Now, the webpage sits unmoving and will remain a memory for the students and professors that used it. 

 

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