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Navigating the Switch From Moodle to D2L Brightspace: Part One

  • 5 Min Read

Professor of mathematics Mark Schneider shares how the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology is preparing to switch from Moodle to D2L Brightspace.

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Mark Schneider is a professor in mathematics and currently serves as the director of LMS transition at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), a polytechnic located in western Canada. In 2023, NAIT selected D2L Brightspace to replace Moodle as their new learning management system (LMS). In the first of a four-part series on transitioning from Moodle to Brightspace, Mark shares his initial hesitation around migration, the Brightspace functionalities he’s most excited about and what it’s been like to work with D2L.

Students Leave NAIT With Practical Skills  

The value we offer as a polytechnic is preparing students for the workplace. We offer diverse educational streams, including diplomas, apprenticeships and certificates in science, tech, business and healthcare.  

We aim to train and prepare students for employment. We work closely with varying industries to ensure our graduates have the skills and experience necessary to excel in the fields they trained in.

Programming Designed to Meet the Needs of Learners   

We have a 9 am—5 pm academic schedule and offer hybrid, synchronous and asynchronous options. Many students are currently working and have decided to study at NAIT to broaden their skill set in the hopes of leveling up or changing career paths. We offer a range of classes to suit diverse schedules and learning needs.

Our Previous LMS Wasn’t Meeting the Needs of Our Students 

Before choosing Brightspace, we used Moodle as our LMS. As an open-source solution, there were several reasons why Moodle wasn’t sustainable for us. To get the most out of it, we had to rely on passionate users to enhance the functionality and build out future functionalities within the software. Ultimately, this didn’t work for us long-term.   

Our students were also seeing inconsistencies in their Moodle experience. The platform wasn’t doing what they expected and was often slow. An underwhelming user experience, coupled with the fact that it was unsustainable to grow with Moodle, made us think about other options.

Before choosing Brightspace, we used Moodle as our LMS. As an open-source solution, there were several reasons why Moodle wasn’t sustainable for us.
Mark Schneider
Mark Schneider Professor of Mathematics, NAIT

Build in Time for a Proper LMS Evaluation  

The review, request for proposal (RFP) and migration of a new LMS can take years. We started our review process in the spring of 2021 and finished in the fall of 2022. We reviewed the RFP process and selected Brightspace as the winner in early June 2023. From June to August, we proceeded with implementation, installation and configuration.   

Our most significant milestone was in January 2024, when we launched an early adopter’s pilot. In September 2024, we’ll move into our full-scale launch and are aiming to have all academic programs in Brightspace by then.  

Cost Isn’t Everything  

We brought in an independent review firm to perform a needs analysis and used their core recommendations to formulate an RFP. We then went to market and carefully analyzed the vendors based on our needs analysis scorecard. 

Interestingly, cost was the lowest factor on the RFP scorecard. The scoring was based on the end users—the staff and students who use the LMS, and, ultimately, the feedback they provided through our review cycle. When we scored the candidates, Brightspace was the clear winner.

Brightspace’s end-user support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The fact that students have a place to go at 11 pm on a Saturday is huge.
Mark Schneider
Mark Schneider Professor of Mathematics, NAIT

What Set Brightspace Apart  

One of the reasons we selected Brightspace was the mobile interface. We loved the data and visualization capabilities.   

Another feature that steered our decision was the Quick Eval tool to support our instructors. In Moodle, grading papers requires several tedious steps. Brightspace’s Quick Eval offers a solution that helps streamline this process.  

Progress tracking in Brightspace is also more accessible than in Moodle. Our instructors care so much about their students. They want to support their education journey and ensure that each student is engaged and thriving in their course. Progress tracking in Brightspace makes this simple. In Moodle, it was a manual process to gather data from multiple sources and analyze it in Excel. With Brightspace, we won’t have to worry about that.  

We’re also excited about the Brightspace templates and Learning Object Repository. This will help us share content with other schools and across our institution. Not only will this minimize the duplication of content, but it will allow us to play on the strengths of our people. 

Our students have yet to see much of Brightspace, but there’s no question that they will like it. They can immediately leverage many features, from the media library to the video tool.  

We also purchased Brightspace end-user support. Currently, our students are primarily supported by faculty. This additional end-user support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The fact that students will now have a place to go at 11 pm on a Saturday is huge.

Testing a Multitude of Courses in Our Pilot 

We had 100 instructors and about 2,000 students take part in our pilot. We strategically chose which courses to run to ensure we explored as many offerings and materials as possible. 

We also wanted to ensure we weren’t exposing the same vulnerability multiple times. For example, we invited them into the pilot if there was a noted migration challenge. We knew we couldn’t overexpose that same vulnerability multiple times. So, we would work on one program area, fix it, and then ensure the other five courses didn’t have the same problem.   

We also diversified our selection regarding the modality the students are exposed to. Is it a face-to-face course? Is it online or hybrid? Is it a single-day or hybrid course? We wanted to make sure that we were exploring Brightspace from all the different angles.  

With Change Can Come Challenge   

Surprisingly, one of our biggest challenges is excitement about the new system—which shouldn’t be a challenge, but it is. People are genuinely curious and eager to start using Brightspace. Because we need to ensure a successful transition, we need time to test and ensure everybody has a positive experience.

We’ve never felt like D2L is trying to sell us a product. Instead, they’re partnering with us on a solution.
Mark Schneider
Mark Schneider Professor of Mathematics, NAIT

Partnering With D2L for a Seamless Transition

We’ve never felt like D2L is trying to sell us a product. Instead, they’re partnering with us on a solution. They ensure we have the resources to support us through the transition.   

I’m confident with our selection of D2L. Every time we bring up constraints or challenges, they have been efficient at responding and helping us through. They want us to succeed. We are truly equal partners with D2L.

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Table of Contents
  1. Students Leave NAIT With Practical Skills  
  2. Programming Designed to Meet the Needs of Learners   
  3. Our Previous LMS Wasn’t Meeting the Needs of Our Students 
  4. Build in Time for a Proper LMS Evaluation  
  5. Cost Isn’t Everything  
  6. What Set Brightspace Apart  
  7. Testing a Multitude of Courses in Our Pilot 
  8. With Change Can Come Challenge   
  9. Partnering With D2L for a Seamless Transition