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From Blackboard to Brightspace – one step closer

You have probably heard that AU’s new learning platform, Brightspace, will replace Blackboard next year. If you would like to know more about what you can expect and what will happen in the coming period, please read on.

2020.11.24 | Sinne B. Jakobsen

Brightspace will be used in the teaching from autumn 2021, but employees will get access to the system in April. Photo: AU Photo.

Intuitive and modern design, a high degree of user-friendliness and better opportunities for communication and collaboration. These words were repeated again and again during this autumn's pilot test of AU’s new shared learning platform, Brightspace, which will replace Blackboard from the autumn semester 2021.

Pro-Rector Berit Eika is pleased with the positive response and she also points out that the Committee on Education has recently decided to use a uniform and recognisable identity for all courses at Aarhus University precisely to improve user-friendliness and make it easier for students to navigate between courses.

"The students have been looking for a recognisable identity across courses, and the academic environments have been keen to target this in work to co-ordinate a joint visual identity for courses available at AU. I’m pleased that students have been taken into account, and that the simple user interface makes it easier for teaching staff to create learning content and to follow the progression of the individual student," says Berit Eika, who is also chair of the Brightspace steering committee.

Practical help and support during the transitional period

Brightspace will be used in teaching from the autumn semester 2021, while teaching in the spring semester will still use Blackboard. All teaching staff and administrative staff will have access to Brightspace as early as April 2021, so there is plenty of time to get to know Brightspace and get content transferred to the new system before the autumn semester.

Throughout the transition period, there will be help from the new Centre for Educational Development (CED), which is responsible for implementation of the pedagogical/didactic part of Brightspace. According to Centre Director Anne Mette Mørcke, course planning and preparing teaching materials are already in full swing:

"All teaching staff and administrative staff will be offered targeted introductory workshops in Brightspace during the spring, and there will also be special courses for part-time teaching staff. Furthermore, there will be access to a new website with guidance and advice, and we will also help navigate the content and provide guidance on the many educational opportunities in the new system."

Teaching templates available

The CED has been responsible for the autumn’s pilot tests. The centre will also run pilot tests on selected degree programmes in the spring semester. All the experience gained will be included in further work on Brightspace, says Anne Mette Mørcke.

Among other things, the CED is developing a number of teaching templates for Brightspace as an extra service for teaching staff.

"It will be possible to adapt these templates to the learning context of the individual degree programme or individual course when Brightspace is taken into use. They are designed as an aid, so that teaching staff do not have to start from scratch every time a course is planned," says Anne Mette Mørcke.

In the period up to April, teaching staff will be hearing more about Brightspace through the CED and the local management team.

Milestones in the implementation of Brightspace

  • 1 December 2020: Second round of pilot tests starts at all faculties and runs through to the spring semester.
  • April 2021: All teaching staff and programme-administrative staff have access to Brightspace.
  • Spring 2021: The CED offers courses and workshops in Brightspace for teaching staff and programme administrative staff.
  • August 2021: Students have access to Brightspace, and the system is used throughout the university.

What happens to course content?

  • The vast majority of course content from the last two semesters (Autumn20 and Spring21), which have not been created by or linked to individual students, will automatically be transferred to Brightspace during spring 2021.
  • Teaching staff can get help from the CED to set up courses in Brightspace on the basis of the material transferred. 
  • If course content has to be transferred from Autumn18-Spring20, the CED will also help with this. 
  • A new tool in Blackboard will also make it possible to download course content from Blackboard to your own computer.
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