After careful consideration and evaluation by Duke Learning Innovation (DLI) and the Office of Information Technology (OIT), Duke University and Duke Kunshan University are moving from Sakai to the Canvas platform. We are optimistic about the opportunities this transition represents for the Duke community, and are eager to see how Canvas will transform the teaching experience at Duke.

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.

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

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: 


Where are we now?

All Duke University and Duke Kunshan University instructors may teach using Canvas!* This Spring, the project team is focused on:

  • Providing support to the Duke community as Canvas is widely implemented, including migrating content from Sakai to Canvas and creating Collaboration Sites (the alternative to Project Sites in Sakai).
  • Investigating third-party tools that integrate with Canvas.
  • Delivering training to instructors and staff who plan to use Canvas starting in Summer and Fall 2024.

*Instructors at the School of Medicine and Fuqua should continue using their respective instances of Canvas for courses based out of those schools. Additionally, some schools and departments - such as the Divinity School and select Nursing programs - have decided to wait to use Canvas until Summer/Fall 2024. Messages to affected instructors have been sent by those programs' local Canvas support teams.

See the Full Timeline

Who Is Bringing Canvas to Duke?


  • Tracy Futhey, Vice President & Chief Information Officer
  • Yakut Gazi, Vice Provost for Learning Innovation and Digital Education
  • Evan Levine, Senior Director of IT Services & Support

Project Team

  • Project Lead – Michael Greene, DLI 
  • Project Manager – Logan Roger, OIT
  • LMS Service Lead – Marty Soupcoff, DLI
  • Communications – Blythe Tyrone, DLI; Camille Jackson, OIT
  • Evaluation – Grey Reavis, DLI
  • Technical implementation – Liz Wendlend, OIT
  • Third-Party Integrations –  Chris Lorch and Ashley Walker, DLI
  • Faculty support –  Brenda Knox, Pratt, and Seth Anderson and Heather Hans, DLI
  • DKU – Haiyan Zhou, CTL

Functional Stakeholders

The Functional Stakeholder group is composed of volunteers from the Duke community to represent the members of their respective schools or units and provide input to the project team and sponsors.

  • Alex Glass, Senior Lecturer, Nicholas
  • Brenda Knox, Instructional Designer, Pratt
  • Dave Johnston, Associate Dean of Learning Innovation, Nicholas
  • Ed Gomes, Dean of IT, Trinity
  • Hugh Crumley, Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs, Graduate School
  • Jennie De Gagne, Professor, Health Systems & Analytics Division, Nursing
  • Jacqui McMillian-Bohler, Assistant Clinical Professor, Nursing
  • Jax Nalley, Vice President of Academic Affairs, Duke Student Government
  • Jiaxin Wu, Assistant Director, Center for Teaching and Learning, DKU
  • John Campbell, Senior Director, Student Information Systems, DKU
  • Julia Conrad Fisher, Educational Technology Specialist, School of Medicine
  • Karen Newberry, Head, Library Systems and Integration Support Department, Libraries
  • Karin Breiwitz, Instructional Technology Analyst, Divinity
  • Ken Rogerson, Professor of the Practice, Sanford
  • Linda Daniel, Reference and Digital Services Librarian, Libraries
  • Luisa Li, Educational Technology Specialist, DKU
  • Mark Hart, Associate Dean, Sanford
  • Meagan Dunphy-Daly, Lecturer, Nicholas
  • Preston Nibley, Undergraduate Student
  • Rachel Porter, Senior Education Strategist, Physician Assistant Program
  • Sharon Kaiser, Manager, Information Systems, School of Medicine
  • Tina Johnson, Manager, Educational Technology, Nursing
  • Zoe Tishaev, Undergraduate Student