Organisatie - 12 december 2018

Brightspace to succeed Blackboard

tekst:
Luuk Zegers

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@WUR

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.’

Outdated
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 A new system was becoming necessary, as the current Blackboard was getting outdated.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.’


Several advantages of Brightspace
• 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.

What the testers of Brightspace thought:

Teacher and course coordinator Jessica de Koning of Rural Sociology was on the testing panel for the new electronic learning environment (ELO). She is pleased about the decision to use Brightspace. ‘For me, it was the most intuitive of the three systems we tested. It took me the least time to figure out how to do things or where to find something. It is also easier to see students’ progress at a glance, so you can cater for that.’
Teacher and course coordinator Jessica de Koning of Rural Sociology was on the testing panel for the new electronic learning environment (ELO). She is pleased about the decision to use Brightspace. ‘For me, it was the most intuitive of the three systems we tested. It took me the least time to figure out how to do things or where to find something. It is also easier to see students’ progress at a glance, so you can cater for that.’
Assistant professor of Remote Sensing Harm Bartholomeus has mixed feelings about the decision to use Brightspace. ‘It wasn’t at the top of my list, mainly because it will be hard to get used to. The implementation can take up time and energy, and may cause frustration. But let’s not be afraid of new things. A change in the electronic learning environment forces us to reflect on the way we are teaching now.’
Assistant professor of Remote Sensing Harm Bartholomeus has mixed feelings about the decision to use Brightspace. ‘It wasn’t at the top of my list, mainly because it will be hard to get used to. The implementation can take up time and energy, and may cause frustration. But let’s not be afraid of new things. A change in the electronic learning environment forces us to reflect on the way we are teaching now.’
Student of Food Technology Thomas Nissink has faith in the transition to Brightspace. ‘When we were testing the systems I was prejudiced in favour of Blackboard because I was used to it. But I really liked Brightspace. What struck me most was that Blackboard looks like a system from 2000, while Brightspace is hypermodern: totally white and minimalist. It works intuitively, but in a very different way to Blackboard. It’s sure to take some getting used to. But all the tests went pretty much without a hitch, and if I can learn to use it in an afternoon, any student can.’
Student of Food Technology Thomas Nissink has faith in the transition to Brightspace. ‘When we were testing the systems I was prejudiced in favour of Blackboard because I was used to it. But I really liked Brightspace. What struck me most was that Blackboard looks like a system from 2000, while Brightspace is hypermodern: totally white and minimalist. It works intuitively, but in a very different way to Blackboard. It’s sure to take some getting used to. But all the tests went pretty much without a hitch, and if I can learn to use it in an afternoon, any student can.’
Assistant professor Martine Reij of Food Microbiology was pleasantly surprised by the help function in Brightspace. ‘That helped me to find pretty much everything I was looking for. I don’t manage that in Blackboard even after all these years. I usually ask colleagues for help, or they ask me.’
Assistant professor Martine Reij of Food Microbiology was pleasantly surprised by the help function in Brightspace. ‘That helped me to find pretty much everything I was looking for. I don’t manage that in Blackboard even after all these years. I usually ask colleagues for help, or they ask me.’

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