Some classes this semester are using Desire to Learn’s “Brightspace” as Taylor University transitions to another Learning Management System. Though Blackboard is still used in some classes, the university hopes students and faculty this semester will become acquainted with the new learning system. All classes will use Brightspace starting in the spring semester.
Barb Bird, dean of faculty development, said most freshmen classes currently work with Brightspace. The tactic will prevent newer students from having to navigate two platforms at once.
The integrated use of Blackboard and Brightspace this semester, Bird said, will help to minimize chaos during the full transition next semester.
The Bedi Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence (BCTLE) assembled a group of Brightspace Ambassadors on Taylor’s campus — a designated group of faculty who volunteered to be early adopters of the system.
Brightspace Ambassadors participate in additional training sessions and provide feedback to the BCTLE. Their involvement will help solve any early complications, and their familiarity with the platform’s tools and processes will allow them to assist other faculty during the full shift in the spring.
The primary frustration has been the learning curve. The university has used Blackboard since the 90s, Deb Hatland, digital learning specialist and LMS administrator, said.
However, Bird said that most of the feedback the BCTLE received is positive. Faculty have praised the overall appearance of Brightspace and its ease of adding content into their course.
Brightspace offers a wide variety of options to faculty and students in many areas, one of those being communication. Students can automatically be emailed for various things, creating additional avenues to receive feedback and promote learning engagement.
Jakob Miller, associate professor of political science, volunteered to be a Brightspace Ambassador. Students seem to find his readings easier in his Brightspace classes, he said. The automatic emails in Brightspace are also a feature he enjoys.
“If your grade is dipping low — even I don't see it in my regular review of how students are doing — the system will send me a quick little, ‘Hey you need to talk to (this person)’ (notification),” Miller said. “That's a good way to help us keep track of our students. It’s a good way to help us just to communicate.”
The new platform also makes data more accessible to faculty. Faculty can observe such data to gauge their students’ learning experience, course content and course outcomes.
Bird and Hatland both said they like how Brightspace is more education-oriented — it focuses on the student’s learning engagement. Students can also expect increased consistency in the Brightspace structure for each class, Bird said.
“(I’m excited about) the increase in student learning and the engagement by expanding students learning in Brightspace,” Bird said. “That opens up the classroom time for deeper learning and things that you can only do face to face.”
Students will also be able to access their Brightspace account through the Pulse App, which is more mobile-friendly than Blackboard’s app, Chris Jones, vice president and chief information officer, said. He encouraged students to download the mobile app.
Hatland and Jones commended the experience they have had with Brightspace so far.
“It's amazing what's on their community site for instructors, for students and for administrators,” Hatland said. “So you can go into the Brightspace community, and if you don't know how to submit an assignment, it provides you with the instructions.”
Any questions from faculty or students can be emailed to the email@example.com — any Brightspace-related tickets will be routed to the BCTLE.