The first experiences with Brightspace

A number of lecturers from Aarhus BSS have tested the new LMS Brightspace as part of a pilot project. In this article, two of them share their experiences as well as their advice for all the members of teaching staff who will soon have to build their own courses on the new platform.

2021.04.19 | Ida Marie W. Vilbæk

Photo: Pexels

Photo: Pexels

This spring, a series of lecturers from Aarhus BSS have had their first go at managing their courses through Brightspace - the new learning management system which will replace Blackboard across Aarhus University in August.

We have interviewed two among the 35 lecturers who participated in the pilot project at Aarhus BSS. What did they think of the new platform? And do they have any advice for new users?

"Personally, I did not experience a huge difference”

Asbjørn Skjæveland from the Department of Political Science has used Brightspace to manage a seminar for Bachelor’s degree students. He chose to build the page for his course along the lines of his usual pages in Blackboard, and that has worked well for him.

“Personally, I did not experience a huge difference as a lecturer. Brightspace offered me the same functionality I am familiar with from Blackboard, just wrapped somewhat differently,” says Asbjørn Skjæveland.

However, he does emphasise that some features are noticeably different, e.g. the message board, the file uploads and the opportunity to display previews.

Adapting workflows versus exploring new features

Similarly, there are features in Brightspace that support entirely new ways of doing things. In Asbjørn Skjæveland’s opinion, this is a positive development, although the need to explore new features will differ among teaching staff:

“Many lecturers will only need to be able to transfer and adapt their workflows from Blackboard. In general terms, I believe this is possible in Brightspace. Besides, the new LMS still awaits course templates at the moment, and when these templates are ready, it will definitely be of help for new users. It also does not hurt that the available support is excellent,” he points out.

“I had my doubts, because my courses usually challenge Blackboard considerably”

Christina Uldum from the Department of Business Development and Technology participated in the pilot project as well. She used Brightspace to manage three courses. Taken together, they encompass a broad portfolio of academic requirements, technical specifications and – not least – students.

“I had my doubts, because my courses usually challenge Blackboard considerably due to the need for very specific configuration. But I was pleasantly surprised. I have not had to compromise,” Christina Uldum recounts.

In her view, Brightspace offers all the features lecturers are used to expect from a LMS , but with a better user interface than Blackboard:

“Brightspace is nicer to look at, more clear and structured to work in for lecturers and students alike, as well as highly intuitive, even when it comes to advanced features,” is Christina Uldum’s assessment.

Three specific improvements in the interface

There are three specific improvements that Christina Uldum finds particularly relevant:

  1. Brightspace has a feed similar to social media. This makes it easier to use for students, and it enables you to turn on two-way communication in the form of student questions directly in the feed, which should decrease the staggering number of emails you often receive as a lecturer.
  2. Visually, the user interface works better than in Blackboard. In addition to an update in graphic design, the platform is more dynamic and makes it possible to display previews of files as well as better overviews and lists of courses.
  3. You will also find good options for copying elements and moving them around – actions that were hard to perform in Blackboard. This simplifies the process of adapting, adjusting and collecting elements in Brightspace.

“I found Brightspace great to work in and I look forward to the point when all my courses take place in the new LMS,” Christina Uldum concludes.

Advice for new users of the new LMS

Based on the first accounts of Brightspace, it is possible to compile some advice for all the lecturers who will soon have to build their own courses in the new LMS.

  • Begin well in advance and set aside some hours dedicated to trying out the new platform.
  • Think about your course structure - it has to make sense for your students as well as you.
  • Use the different workshops, guides and support options, but also bear in mind that you will benefit from clicking your way through the system on your own.
  • Save any items and materials from Blackboard that you wish to keep or reuse.

Try out Brightspace with your own sandbox course

All teaching staff can now access Brightspace. This means that you can log on to the platform and try out the features in your own sandbox course.

Read more

Aarhus BSS