Building Brightspace: an update from behind-the-scenes

Photo (L-R): Neil Bottomley (Principal .NET Developer, IT Services) and Tom Ormerod (IT Project Manager, Vision4Learning)

Preparation for the September 2017 launch of BU’s new virtual learning environment, Brightspace, continues to steam ahead from both a technical and training perspective.

Over 350 academic and administrative staff have now received Brightspace training, with further sessions for new starters and any remaining staff who have not been able to attend their allocated training days scheduled for July.

BU’s change in virtual learning environment has provided 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.

Behind-the-scenes, a team of 14 people representing 5 technical areas of the University are working hard to make the most of both this opportunity and the creative freedom that BU has been given to shape Brightspace with its own unique community’s needs in mind.

Led by BU’s Digital Solutions team and supported by the IT Communications team, Business Information Systems team, IT Test team, Student Records Systems Programme team, Learning Technologists and D2L, the educational technology company behind Brightspace, this effort has been overseen by V4L’s IT Project Manager, Tom Ormerod.

“After months of development and testing, we’re now starting to see real progress,” said the IT Project Manager.

Whilst part of the technical team focusses on ensuring that Brightspace is integrated with additional teaching tools such as Turnitin and Panopto, much of Brightspace’s development has focussed on ways to simplify its use and empower staff.

To this end, the interface between the Student Records System (SITS) and Brightspace has been streamlined, which allows data to flow between the two seamlessly. This data is transformed into a format that Brightspace recognises and can work with.

“The structure we’ve created has a number of benefits,” Tom continued. “For example, it gives staff the flexibility of sending targeted communications – to a level, unit or entire programme cohort. It also means that a wider range of people, including academic leads, are able to assign staff to units. Which is great in the instance of late starters or in situations where additions need to be made at speed.”

Brightspace will also 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 SITS, Office 365 and BRIAN.

“This proved far more challenging than originally expected and required us to upgrade parts of the BU SSO infrastructure to the latest version. We’re finally in a position to switch Single Sign On from today, which is a tremendous achievement!” the IT Project Manager exclaimed.

For more information, to view FAQs or to ask questions, monitor the V4L Sharepoint site or email

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