Following the announcement of BU’s plan to implement its new Brightspace virtual learning environment, a detailed list of all participating programmes can now be found on the Vision4Learning (V4L) Sharepoint site. Almost half of BU’s programmes will lead this exciting transition, which will be in place by the start of the new academic year in September 2017.
Over the summer months all participating staff will receive training from BU’s Learning Technologists and from the CEL Academic Learning Designers, who will together be heading up BU’s VLE training provision. Learning Technologist availability will be limited at key stages during this time as they acquire the expert knowledge needed to make a smooth transition from Blackboard to the new platform Brightspace.
Alongside the design and roll-out of a University-wide training initiative, work has also ramped up behind the scenes to prepare the Brightspace platform for its first BU users.
“It’s a bit like buying a house that’s empty – you get the structure, but you have to connect it to the mains and fill it with furniture before people can live in it. You know you need essentials like electricity, but where exactly do you put the light switches so that you get the best out of your new home?”, said Learning Technologist, Tim Galling.
The new VLE offers an opportunity both to cherry-pick best practice from Blackboard, and also to come up with fresh solutions that solve historic problems, improve the user experience and reduce staff workload in the future. BU is being given the creative freedom to shape Brightspace with its own unique community’s needs in mind.
One example involves how communication is managed across an entire programme and at a specific level. “We want to see if we can create singular programme communities that staff can target groups within, so that if you want to send an announcement you can select the level, unit or entire programme instead of creating separate announcements for each. It’s all very much a work in progress. But solutions like this will eventually make life easier”, Tim Galling added.
Whilst Learning Technologists tackle the soon-to-be visible part of the VLE, a project technical team is working on Brightspace’s integration with BU’s existing systems.
Brightspace will be amongst the first of the University’s systems to use Single Sign On (SSO), which will reduce the number of logins needed to use core university systems such as the main student records system (SITS), Talis Reading Lists, and BRIAN.
The student records system will provide the information and triggers that drive the underlying structure of the Brightspace VLE. Through its integration with SITS, the V4L project technical team are currently working on ways to simplify the use of Brightspace and empower staff, such as the assignment of a lead tutor to each unit. This addition could provide a potentially popular shortcut, allowing academics to quickly add other staff to their unit when needed – for example, in the instance of a late starter or PTHP member of staff.
“At the moment, it’s about exploring possibilities. Previously we’ve had to work around any problems in the VLE, which can take a lot of manual intervention and a lot of people’s time. The exciting part of having a new system is that we can look at it with fresh eyes and design it with what we need, rather than what we’ve inherited”, concluded Tim Galling.