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Aarhus University to switch from Blackboard to Brightspace

Aarhus University is switching to a new common learning platform. This has now been confirmed following a statutory tendering procedure, after which the choice has fallen on Brightspace. Quality and user-friendliness were decisive factors – and existing course content can be transferred to the new platform.

2019.11.13 | Camilla Schrøder

The platform is expected to be ready for implementation in the spring of 2021, so that it will become fully operational as of the autumn semester in 2021.

The university's learning platform, Blackboard, has been subject to a statutory tendering procedure. As a result, a new learning platform– Brightspace – has been selected. The system is a good matching relation to the specifications AU set out in the tender documents. This applies in particular to the platform’s pedagogical-didactic quality, functionality and user-friendliness.

Although Pro-rector Berit Eika had hoped to avoid switching systems, she is positive about the new learning platform.

“It take a lot of resources to switch learning platforms, and at this point we could do without switching to yet another new system. But when you look at the quality of the learning platform itself, I'm very satisfied with the decision. Brightspace will provide us with a state-of-the-art and user-friendly learning platform, and there is every indication that we will benefit from continued technological support for teaching and learning at Aarhus University," says Berit Eika, who heads the steering committee responsible for implementation of the new system.

The platform, from the Canadian company Desire2Learn, is recognised as a market-leader in its field, and is currently being used by leading universities all over the world. Brightspace is known for its intuitive design and a simple user interface which is designed to make it easy to design courses and create learning content. Moreover, Brightspace can be used on all types of device, including mobile phones. With regard to studies administration, Brightspace supports exchanging data with all the different studies administration systems at AU.

Solid plan for transferring content

“When we introduced Blackboard across AU, the university took a gigantic step, with a common learning platform that has accelerated the digital development of teaching. The success of the new platform at that time was based to a high degree on willingness and commitment from the degree programmes to using the program, as well as the pedagogical and administrative forces that carried this through. This effort was not in vain – on the contrary,"Berit Eika states. She encourages teaching staff to continue their activities on Blackboard as usual.

"The material and the activities that have been developed or are in the process of being developed are of significance to the students' academic life and learning – and there is no reason to put initiatives and activities on hold. One of our system requirements for the new system was that it has to be possible to transfer existing course content to the new platform.”

She stresses that there will be strong focus on making the transition to a new learning platform as simple and smooth as possible for teaching staff, and that resources for practical help and support will be prioritised during the transition, especially in relation to transferring course materials and getting off to a good start with Brightspace. The platform is expected to be ready for implementation in the spring of 2021, so that it will become fully operational as of the autumn semester in 2021.

Get updates on the status of the project at: https://medarbejdere.au.dk/administration/it/projekter/prioriterede-projekter/learning-management-system/ (in Danish). At a later date, when the concrete implementation plan is complete, a round of visits is expected to be carried out in the academic environments.



About Brightspace

Brightspace is a learning platform – also called a Learning Management System (LMS) – from the Canadian company Desire2Learn (D2L). Brightspace has a considerable market share in North America, and in recent years it has seen significant growth in the European market for cloud-based LMS solutions. D2L's Brightspace is high in several international LMS rankings, including Gartner, and in 2018 it was top of the Ovum Research LMS in Higher Ed ranking.

Queens University, Ghent University, the University of Calgary, Harvard Business School, Leiden University and DTU are among the universities currently using Brightspace.

Some of Brightspace’s features include:

  • Contains the familiar features of a classical learning platform
  • Offers flexible options for course design
  • Supports the communication and collaboration between the teacher and students as well as the students
  • Allows users to work with advanced data analysis and various types of adaptive and personalised learning
  • Has an intuitive design and a simple interface that makes it easy to design courses and create learning content
  • Can be used on all types of devices, including mobile phones

About the organisation

The organisation will now have to be developed and adapted for the upcoming implementation. So far, it has been confirmed that Berit Eika will chair the steering committee in the implementation phase.

In addition to a steering committee, there are a number of working groups which are broadly composed of representatives from the administrative and academic environments as well as the teaching development centres.

AU Student Administration and Services has overall responsibility for the project management in close collaboration with EDU IT, the teaching development centres and AU IT.

Administrative, Administration (Academic), All groups, All AU units, Rector’s Office, Academic staff, Health, Technical / administrative staff, Department of Biomedicine, Department of Public Health