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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Brightspace to replace Blackboard for 2017-18 academic year

The new system, Brightspace, will be optional for summer courses and mandatory by next fall.

Beginning in the 2017-18 academic year, the Blackboard course management system will be replaced by a new system called Brightspace.

Brightspace is a more intuitive and modern program than Blackboard, and will be more optimized for smartphone and tablet use.

Vanderbilt has been using Blackboard (previously known as OAK) for around 13 years, and with the license to Blackboard being up at the end of this academic year, the Center for Teaching decided it was time for a change in course management systems. They formed the CMS Selection Committee, which was comprised of 15 representatives from all graduate and undergraduate schools, including two student undergraduate representatives, junior Sam DeFabrizio and sophomore Mitesh Bahlani.

DeFabrizio serves as the committee chair of the VSG Academic Affairs committee, and when he was offered a chance to represent the undergraduates on the CMS Selection Committee, he wanted to take on an engineering student with him to provide a different perspective. He chose Bhalani, another member of the committee and a biomedical engineering major.

Brightspace features the online submissions of assignments, a universal portal for grades, online tests and quizzes, and is a platform for a variety of digital content.

In looking for a new system, the committee started by identifying the main issues that have arisen while using Blackboard. First of all, they believed that the Blackboard system isn’t intuitive or easy to navigate.

“[Blackboard] can be really confusing sometimes because things might be a different place from where you expect or you have to click this link and click again and then click again, so you have to go through a bunch of different pages to get to where you want to go,” Bhalani said.

Additionally, the committee noted that Blackboard requires a lot of individual attention and time on the IT side of things.

“We spend a lot of man hours, which is essentially money, upkeeping Blackboard just because the system causes a lot of problems internally,” DeFabrizio said.

Three different vendors presented demos to the committee, and they ended up selecting Brightspace due to its intuitive interface, ease of communication and its mobile app, among other reasons. Students can expect to see more online submissions of assignments, uploaded grades, online tests and quizzes and a variety of digital content other than readings, such as videos.

“We are hoping that with this completely new learning system, professors can take advantage of more of the features that it has and kind of shift the model of the classroom,” Bhalani said.

Additionally, students will be able to access Brightspace on their cell phones and tablets via its mobile app or its mobile-optimized website.

“This is that new type of web design that works with whatever screen size you have, so that even on your phone, everything will be in the right place, instead of Blackboard where you’re trying to click the really small buttons.”

Brightspace also has a calendar feature that directly ports information from a class’s syllabus into the calendar, so that students can compile all of their due dates and important tests and quizzes in one place.

“You can check your calendar as opposed to having to write down everything in your planner,” DeFabrizio said.

A few professors around campus are piloting Brightspace this semester through the Center for Teaching, and those teaching summer courses will be able to use either Brightspace or Blackboard. By the start of the fall 2017 semester, all professors are required to switch over to Brightspace.

The Center for Learning is working on creating tutorials to train students and professors on how to best use the new system.

“Students should give feedback to the professors on how they are utilizing it, because if there’s more content that could be put online, or if they had one class where all the grades were online and all their rubrics were online and they like that, urge professors to do things, because this is a shift for all of us and at the end of the day if something makes learning easier, advocate for it,” DeFabrizio said.

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About the Contributor
Sarah Friedman, Former Editor in Chief

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