After 20 years with Blackboard, Binghamton University will be shifting its learning management system (LMS) to Brightspace by software company Desire2Learn (D2L).
Faculty training and transitioning of courses are slated to take place during the spring 2021 and summer 2021 sessions, and full implementation of Brightspace will begin in fall 2021. According to Paula Russell, senior director of the Center for Learning and Teaching (CLT), the switch was motivated by the fact that BU’s contract with Blackboard was set to expire, and Brightspace met all of the University’s requirements.
“We’re a very student-centered university, so we wanted to find the most advanced learning management system on the market,” Russell said. “After a review of the options, it was clear to us that Brightspace was the best solution for our students, faculty and administration.”
According to LMS survey results collected in spring 2018, some of these requirements include integration with iClicker, allowing course instructors to see what the screen looks like for students and the ability to share files and links with students. Ease of use and accessibility were also major factors in the decision to choose Brightspace.
Following this survey, a pilot program, including both faculty and student representatives, was held in spring 2019 to decide whether or not to switch from Blackboard. It tested two programs by D2L, Canvas and Brightspace, as well as Blackboard’s new program, Blackboard Ultra. According to the final LMS pilot report, both the participating faculty and students preferred D2L’s programs to Blackboard. The report stated that students particularly found D2L’s mobile applications much easier to use than Blackboard’s.
Upon completion of this pilot program, BU announced a request for proposal (RFP). The RFP was sent to James Pitarresi, distinguished teaching professor and vice provost and executive director of the CLT, who made the final decision. Pitarresi declined to comment.
Ryan Yarosh, senior director of media and public relations at BU, noted the importance of technology maintenance within the BU community.
“As needs and tools change over time, it is important to continually evaluate them to ensure they are still meeting the needs of our students, faculty and staff,” Yarosh wrote in an email.
While participating students in the pilot program preferred D2L’s programs, some students have concerns about switching platforms. Em Fuller, a junior double-majoring in geography and English, said she strongly dislikes the change and considers it unnecessary, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s an incredibly stupid thing to pull on us since [Blackboard] can be confusing, but at least it’s reliable,” Fuller said. “Don’t [change] a system that already works. Both professors and students really don’t need any more unnecessary changes in a time like this.”
Hannah Nahavandi, a junior majoring in integrative neuroscience, said she is worried about potential difficulties faculty could face while transitioning to a new LMS.
“It just seems unnecessary,” Nahavandi said. “[Blackboard] is one of the few things that generally works fine for me, and professors are used to it. The professors are really bad at adapting to new systems, and the burden of [technologically] incompetent professors is once again going to fall on us while they try to figure it out.”