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Brightspace takes time to get used to

Aarhus University is changing its learning management system (LMS) from Blackboard to Brightspace. According to the educators on the ongoing pilots, this has several benefits. However, it takes time to get used to the platform. We have collected some of the experiences from the current pilot tests, which we will present in this article

[Translate to English:] Foto: Melissa B. K. Yildirim, AU Foto

When it comes to teaching, an essential element is the university’s LMS, which from the upcoming semester is called Brightspace. Selected courses across the faculties are already being held in Brightspace to test the platform in teaching. On 19 April, all employees at AU were granted access to the platform to start testing tools and functions in their sandbox course. 

Janne Saltoft Hansen is the project manager of the pedagogical implementation of Brightspace. She points to several benefits of the new system:  

“First of all, Brightspace has an up-to-date design, which means that the system is easy to access. Brightspace is constantly working to improve the system and supports better communication between students and educators”, she says.  

The educators on the pilot tests are positive  

Improved communication between students and educators is something that the teaching staff in the pilot tests can relate to, including Knud Ryom, who has used Brightspace for his teaching at the Department of Public Health: 

“It has been surprisingly easy. There are certain similarities between the old Blackboard systems, but the functions in Brightspace are just more intuitive and easier to access for me as an educator. Among other things, submissions for written assignments and uploading videos have been made easier with the new system. My impression is also that the students find Brightspace manageable and good, and I have received very few questions about its use,” he says.   

Christiane Marie Høvring from the Department of Management points out that Brightspace excels in the way she can communicate with the students and send messages through the function Activity Feed: 

“The fact that the students can comment on my messages means I have a feeling of connecting with my students even though we work under the conditions we currently do. Therefore, in many ways, my experience is that Brightspace is a lot better integrated with the teaching than with the former systems. You have communication that is more ongoing when the students respond directly to my messages and when everyone can see this communication. I view this as a very central part of a good information flow between the educator and the students,” she says.  

It is about cracking the code 

It is not always easy to know where to start when introduced to a new and unfamiliar system. Several educators who have tried the new system mention that, among other things, you have to get acquainted with new terminology.  

“When I first cracked the code with a good deal of help from others and by searching around in the tutorials, it was relatively easy and intuitive. Nevertheless, there were many frustrations and a lot of time wasted along the way in learning how to use the functions the way I wanted to and, for example, transfer elements from one course to another. In other words, it required relatively good experience with online platforms, a lot of patience, and help,” says Andreas Lieberoth, who teaches at the Danish School of Education (DPU), and points out: 

“The system requires time for practice. Not to get things explained but to explore how they work in practice. There is already too much information to expect that ordinary mortals read everything – and it is hard to know exactly what to read and search for.” 

Content from previous courses must be rebuild 

From May to June 2021, the autumn semester courses will be created, so you can start building and getting them ready for the start of the semester. It takes time and work to get ready and have the best possible start on the new platform. 

Assistant Professor Knud Ryom from the Department of Public Health points out that copying courses could be the element you need to use extra energy on in the transition to Brightspace: 

“The transfer of courses from Blackboard to Brightspace is what takes a little extra work. It isn’t certain that your previous course structure makes sense, so you have to rethink the usual framework. Other than that, it is relatively quick to get acquainted with as a user. In addition, there’s been quick help from the CED if something doesn’t work as intended”, he says.  

For project manager Janne Saltoft Hansen, the copying of courses is an essential part of a good start with the new system: 

“Switching to Brightspace requires that you set up your course again. Content from Blackboard will be transferred to Brightspace so it can be copied into your new course. And if you need help, you can always contact the CED to get help with setting it up.” 

Get started this spring 

Employees at AU will be offered various workshops in Brightspace. It will also be possible to get individual help with setting up the courses, and here are several online resources to look at:  

“It is possible to sign up for Brightspace workshops or to explore AU’s online course about Brightspace, which will be offered through Brightspace. From May to June, there will be access to prepare the courses for autumn,” Janne Saltoft Hansen says. 

Keep yourself updated on https://staff.au.dk/brightspace/. Here you will find information and news, Brightspace support information, and links to tutorials and workshops about Brightspace.