Universiteit Leiden

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The future is Brightspace

Brightspace, the new online learning environment, will replace Blackboard as of September 2020. Around 50 courses will already be migrating to Brightspace on 1 September this year. How? And what are the advantages?

‘The new system, Brightspace, is much more user-friendly for lecturers and students alike,’ explains project leader Robert van ’t Sant. In Blackboard, there were few rules about how to use the environment, which meant that individual lecturers could set it up as they saw fit and use whichever terminology they wanted. This meant that what one lecturer would call a ‘reader’ another lecturer would call a ‘syllabus’ whereas another again would summarise the information under the heading of ‘practical information.’ ‘In Brightspace, lecturers enter information about their course in a more standardised way and we work with uniform terms. All courses are entered in the same way, which makes it more user-friendly for students,’ says Van ’t Sant.  

Plenty of support during implementation

All courses from all degree programmes will gradually be migrated to Brightspace in the course of academic year 2019/20. It’s a big job, says Van ’t Sant, but we’re on schedule. The migration is a good opportunity for degree programmes and lecturers to tidy up because there’s no need to migrate outdated information. Lecturers and staff from the degree programme will receive plenty of support: a large team of student assistants will be available to help, several training sessions will be held and all lecturers will have their own test environment (a ‘sandbox’) in which to experiment.

Faculty implementation teams

Each faculty has its own implementation team that is coordinating and supporting the migration, says Van ’t Sant. ‘This means that the individual faculties can take their own approach and that we can take lecturer preferences into account. Our support comes in different flavours.’ Student assistants can move all the information to Brightspace, so that the lecturers and degree programmes can then set to work. Or staff members can enter the information into Brightspace themselves. ‘Migrating will also be fairly simple for small courses because we provide a clear and easy structure in Brightspace.

Better links to other systems

Another advantage of Brightspace is the link to uSis: this means that students will only have to log in to one digital environment. And there is another big advantage for degree programmes: they will save money on copyrighted publications. The project team is working on a link to the University Library’s online catalogue. Many articles that are now available as a PDF in Blackboard will soon be replaced by a link, which will mean no more copyright fees.

Other universities already using Brightspace

Leiden University is not the first Dutch university to use Brightspace. ‘Delft University of Technology and Radboud University Nijmegen are already using it, and we are benefitting from their experiences,’ says Van ’t Sant. Leiden has been using Blackboard for almost 20 years now, but had to put its digital learning environment out to tender because the contract was coming to an end.  

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