After two years of consultations across the University of Toronto, proposals to reform the Portal system have been made by three vendors at a Q&A session this past Wednesday.

Vendors D2L, Instructure, and Blackboard presented tentative Portal replacements entitled Brightspace, Canvas, and Blackboard Ultra.

Simone Laughton, a key member of the portal project and an instructional librarian at UTM library, stated in an email to The Medium that the aim of the new Learning Portal would be to have a similar functionality as that of a smartphone—such as integrated teaching and learning applications.

Laughton explained that the new Portal will have an “operating system” of core functionality referred to as “Learning Management Engine,” similar to any smart phone.

All three interfaces had a notably unified and jointed interface.


VP Global Strategic Sales of D2L, Adam Moore, stated in an email to The Medium that Brightspace “engages students with the tool they love, such as social and mobile applications, game-based learning, simulations, and advanced learning analytics.

Moore also stated that Brightspace is designed to work on all mobile devices. Students using Brightspace can remain “organized” through tools that incorporate alerts on progress, assignment notifications, and updates on courses or grades.

Brightspace is designed to work across all mobile devices, and is available on a laptop, tablet, or phone.


Stan Wendt, Instructure’s Regional Director of Higher Education in Canada, told The Medium, “We strongly believe in developing with the end user in mind and creating a beautiful user experience.”

Wendt explained that Canvas considered social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

According to Wendt, Canvas students are involved in an “engaged experience” on Canvas through automatically generated to-do lists that incorporate all the upcoming assignments, quizzes, or discussion threads a student has to complete.

Other features of Canvas include a display of recent feedback on submissions. Here, students can reply to this feedback with their comments.

Blackboard Ultra

“Our new generation of teaching and learning products that we refer to as ‘The New Learning Experience’ or ‘Ultra’ are designed based on empathetic research conducted by our team,” wrote the University of Toronto’s customer success advocate with BlackBoard, Tristan Plummer, in an email to The Medium.

Plummer stated that BlackBoard Ultra offers a “streamlined set of capabilities that work harmoniously together.” The BlackBoard Ultra app is also available on mobiles, on browsers, and on virtual classroom softwares such as “Collaborate Ultra.”

“Based on the vendor presentations and the university community’s feedback, a recommendation will be made to the provost in December 2016. Once that is completed, a roadmap will be developed for implementation,” stated Laughton to The Medium.

The date of implementation of the new portal is yet to be estimated.

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