After fifteen years, WUR will take leave of Blackboard. The system will be succeeded by Brightspace, which will be phased in over the course of 2019.
Brightspace was officially presented on Tuesday morning, during the lecturer’s day in Orion. Dean of Education Arnold Bregt was involved in the tender. According to him, Brightspace was in a league of its own compared to the other candidates Blackboard and Cumlaude. ‘Brightspace has a sound technological structure. It also ties in well with WUR’s new vision for education. Among other assets, it has better support for the creation of student portfolios and for distance learning.’
WUR’s contract with Blackboard ended, and the university was legally required to ask several parties for tenders for a new electronic learning environment. A new system was becoming necessary, as the current Blackboard was getting outdated. ‘The current Blackboard is obscure and unclear’, says associate professor of Rural Sociology Kees Jansen. ‘The help function doesn’t work properly, and if you want to give feedback to students, you never stop clicking.’ Jansen and his colleagues try to avoid working with Blackboard as much as possible. ‘We use it like a glorified Google Drive. We put some info on it that students can access. Other functions either don’t work or are so obscure, it’s better to use other tools, like Google Forms or Sign Up Genius.’
Jansen hopes that the time the lecturers will require to learn to use the new system was considered when choosing Brightspace. And he would like for an expert to be available for questions after the start-up phase as well. ‘This is something I really miss with Blackboard at the moment.’ According to Bregt, people are being trained to help with the switch from Blackboard courses to Brightspace courses. ‘A properly working support structure is vital, so we are working hard to prepare for that.’ How support will be provided after the start-up phase is unclear as of yet.
Presentation of Brightspace during the lecturer’s day in Orion. © Luuk Zegers
‘Do we have to?’
Still, the switch will demand a lot from lecturers, Bregt says. ‘It will be a lot of work, and we should not deny that it will demand a lot of time from the lecturers. The only thing we can do is provide as much support as we can. But lecturers are busy as it is, so I can imagine none of them are really excited for it.’
The new environment will be phased in over the course of 2019. From 1 March, the first lecturers will be able to start transferring their courses to the new system. In term 6, the first fifty courses should be available in Brightspace. This means that during that period, some students will have to use both Blackboard and Brightspace. All courses are to be transferred to Brightspace by term 3 of next academic year.’
|• Lecturers can see the progress of students at a glance and easily provide feedback.|
|• Drag-and-drop (dragging files from your computer to the right spot in Brightspace) makes sharing content easier than before.|
|• Students keep a portfolio in which the courses they attended are listed, including what they did for those courses.|
|• Brightspace works smoothly on computers, mobile phones and tablets.|