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How the faculties are preparing for the introduction of Brightspace

By the next academic year the University will have migrated completely to the new learning environment Brightspace. The faculties are working hard to transfer all the University’s courses to the new system. Two project leaders, Rob Goedemans and Remco Jansen, tell us how things are going at Humanities and Medicine/LUMC. What tips do they have?

Both faculties are taking part in the pilot, training teachers and developing instruction materials. At the Faculty of Humanities five courses of the Honours Programme are already in Brightspace for the first semester. The programme will be scaled up rapidly in the second semester; at that time more than a hundred courses given by the Academic Language Centre will have to be available in Brightspace. Within the whole faculty there are around a thousand courses that have to be migrated before the next academic year. ‘It’s a huge task,’ comments Rob Goedemans. ‘But it’s going well. It’s all about having a strict and workable schedule.’  As faculty project leader, he is jointly responsible for the roadmap for such matters as training courses and migration and he is assisted by the four-member Faculty Implementation Team.  

Dedicated test environment

At the Faculty of Medicine/LUMC, two courses have transferred completely to Brightspace this semester, and next semester a further three courses will be added. Remco Jansen: ‘Obviously, in the meantime all the courses for the coming academic year also have to be migrated.’ At every faculty, the lecturers have the option of doing that themselves. Teachers and assistants can already practise in the form of training courses, walk-in sessions and their own test environment - called Sandbox. According to both project leaders, most lecturers are enthusiastic about Brightspace. It is a user-friendly, and clear system. Goedemans: ‘My message is: It’s not complicated and we’re there with you. It’s our job to make sure that the lecturers have nothing to worry about.’ If they prefer, lecurers can also leave the migration to a member of the support staff. Jansen: ‘In that case, the lecturer checks that everything is present and correct in Brightspace once the course has been migrated.’   

Feedback from the faculties

The pilot gives the project leaders the opportunity to find out what is working well and what still needs some adjustment. One issue that has come up is that the Canadian supplier of Brightspace - D2L - uses a registration system based on surnames, which is less common in the Netherlands. Goedemans: ‘It takes a bit of working out to adapt it to the Dutch environment, but we’re getting there,’   

Tips and tricks 

Jansen mentions the unusual situation at the LUMC, where lecturers are not often to be found at their PCs, but are more likely to be carrying out operations or talking with patients. This means they can be hard to contact, and by no means all lecturers will migrate their courses themselves. Jansen has learned that a detailed intake discussion with the lecturer in advance is what works best. This gives the lecturer the chance to say what information has to be migrated, so that very little in the way of corrections is necessary after the migration. This intake was introduced after Jansen heard about the Law Faculty’s experiences with Brightspace. Twice a month all the faculty project leaders exchange experiences and tips. Goedemans: ‘That works really well. It saves us each having to reinvent the wheel!’  

Start the clean-up in good time

Both project leaders also point out the importance of doing a major clean-up of Blackboard in advance and deleting outdated information. ‘That saves a lot of time and money,’ Jansen comments. Another way to save money is by replacing PDFs containing course literature with hyperlinks to public sources wherever possible. That way there’s no need to pay copyright fees. Jansen has one last tip for lecturers and assistants. ‘Read as much as you can before doing a training course or going to a walk-in session, and take a look in Sandbox.  Then it won’t all be so new and everything will fall into place quicker.’

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