Photo courtesy: Desire2Learn

Brightspace not as bright as expected

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By Noella Ovid

Usability and email delays remain to be the top issues concerning Ryerson faculty and students after switching to Brightspace by D2L from Blackboard this fall.

The Learning & Teaching Office (LTO) hosted a workshop along with the Digital Media Projects (DMP) to discuss Ryerson University’s initial experiences with D2L on Oct. 27.

“I think we expected there would be challenges when you switch systems [but] I think there have been a few more than we would’ve expected especially and some real frustration at the beginning of term,” said Brian Lesser, chief information officer at Ryerson.

Neil Thomlinson, associate professor for politics and public administration, said that the timing of the system would have been much better introduced at the end of the winter term.

“I’d say I probably prefer Blackboard because it seemed more intuitive, or at least the professors all mostly knew how to use it.” –Benjamin Kent, a fourth-year English student

“The DMP was overwhelmed with ‘help’ requests, with the result that there was about a two-day lag to get answers … at a time when nobody had two days. Once again, I must observe that there is a pattern here:  RAMSS/SAS was also introduced in late summer and caused absolute chaos in the first days of its operation. But apparently nobody remembers that,” he said in an email.

After switching to D2L Brightspace as the new Learning Management System (LMS) in September, the program had trouble getting students registered in their courses and receiving emails. In one instance, an email took 14 hours to be delivered.

“I’d say I probably prefer Blackboard because it seemed more intuitive, or at least the professors all mostly knew how to use it — most of my classes this year are struggling with the changeover and emails aren’t being sent to students,” said Benjamin Kent, a fourth-year English student.

Current issues discussed at the meeting revolved around usability as Blackboard, having been at Ryerson for 12 years, was a simpler system than D2L Brightspace.

According to Lesser, it takes more work to accomplish some things in this new system because of the additional features being available.

“D2L does more than the old Blackboard did so that wasn’t really a surprise. So some of them would be ‘OK it worked this way in Blackboard, but now it seems more complicated in D2L just because it’s different,’” he said.

“Submitting work on D2L is much easier. Only problem is that sometimes if I’m on one page for too long, it may freeze,” said Eric Jaskierski, second-year computer science student.

“Submitting work on D2L is much easier. Only problem is that sometimes if I’m on one page for too long, it may freeze,” –Eric Jaskierski, second-year computer science student

In terms of students having the option to sign up for email notifications, “a part of that is [because] they have a different philosophy about the way they were designed,” Lesser said. “And so, I don’t think when D2L was designing their interface, they thought this was that important. But for our instructors who are coming off a very different world, it’s like ‘I need to reach all my students, I want that email to go to all of them.’”

There have also been some privacy concerns in relation to the new system. A part of the class’ group feature had to be disabled because there is a bug in D2L Brightspace through which students can automatically see any other student’s name and email address within the group.

“It’s also creepy how professors can see and call us out on what we have and haven’t looked at, which is unnecessary. We’re all able to take responsibility for our work or doing readings, we don’t need to have our profs checking up on us. It just seems like a step too far,” Kent said.

From what he’s noticed, Thomlinson said that D2L Brightspace does more or less the same thing Blackboard did, “which is why so many users resent the amount of time [they’ve] had to spend learning a new system that, while having some discernible advantages, also has some discernible disadvantages. This, without slagging BrightSpace, raises a very central question: “was it worth it?”

Ryerson is going to make a feature request to D2L regarding these issues in hopes of getting them fixed for the new year. Additionally, they are hoping to turn on Google integration so things like Google Docs will work within the course shell easily and make it more likeable for the winter term.

“We are continuing to work with Desire2Learn to try to get some of the small issues that we have fixed. We’re submitting teacher requests to try and improve the operation of the system and try to improve the interface, and I think we’re working to try and make it as smooth and possible for people,” said Jim Buchanan, assistant director of client services at the computing and communication services.

Infographic: Josh Beneteau

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