California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) | D2L
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California State University, Long Beach (CSULB)

Driving exceptional student outcomes

CSULB rises to the challenges of COVID-19 and keeps graduation rates rising year over year

At a glance

Client: California State University, Long Beach (CSULB)
Learners: 38,000
Industry: Higher Education
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  • D2L’s Brightspace platform
  • Quizzes
  • Release conditions


  • Marvin Mayo, Coordinator of Extended Programs & Special Projects


  • The platform’s automation capabilities helped CSULB handle a 300% increase in student and faculty support requests during California’s lockdown.
  • The platform is contributing to rising academic standards: the four-year graduation rate for first-time students has more than doubled from 16% to 34%.
  • CSULB student athletes achieved an NCAA graduation success rate of 89%, the highest of any CSU school and second-highest among public institutions in the state.
  • An improved ability to deliver high-quality learning experiences at scale will help CSULB move toward its goal of 70,000 students by 2030.
California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) Logo


When the global pandemic hit, CSULB was able to respond quickly thanks to its well-established Brightspace learning management system. Students and faculty can collaborate effectively on a central, digital platform, helping the university protect the health of its members, promote high-quality online learning experiences, and achieve some of the highest graduation rates in the state.

"We increased our four-year graduation rate for first-time students from 16 percent to 34 percent last year, and thanks to our new digital learning capabilities we’re on track to continue that positive trend this year."

Marvin Mayo, Coordinator of Extended Programs & Special Projects, CSULB


Innovating through the pandemic

California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) is an important engine for California’s economic growth, producing talented graduates who build successful careers in key industries across the state. As one of the largest and most affordable public four-year university systems in the U.S., CSULB offers a comprehensive range of undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs from its 322-acre campus.

CSULB has big ambitions for its higher-education programs. Its “Beach 2030 Vision” aims to almost double its student population over the next ten years, and its Graduation Initiative 2025 is targeting a 70 percent graduation rate for first-year students within six years.

Marvin Mayo, Coordinator of Extended Programs & Special Projects, comments, “To help boost attainment for a fast-growing student population, our goal is to empower our 2,500 faculty members with the tools and resources they need to deliver outstanding learning experiences. Digital channels are a key enabler for CSULB, and D2L’s Brightspace platform, which we’ve branded as BeachBoard, plays a central role in supporting our students on their learning journeys.”

When the COVID-19 crisis swept around the world in early 2020, CSULB faced the challenge of helping its students continue their education despite stringent local lockdowns and social distancing restrictions throughout the state. To help keep students on track for success, the university decided to ramp up its online learning capabilities.

Marvin Mayo continues, “Our immediate goal was to enable our faculty and students to seamlessly transition from face-to-face classes to fully digital teaching using Brightspace and Zoom. To achieve that objective, we knew we’d need to sprint ahead to deliver effective training and support for learners and teaching staff alike.”

male professor teaching online


Strengthening a trusted partnership

Working with experts from D2L, CSULB’s Academic Technology Services team sprang into action, designing targeted training programs for online learning and a streamlined user experience for the Brightspace platform.

“One of the first things we did was look at ways to enable our teaching staff to translate their in-person classes to online teaching,” says Marvin Mayo. “We worked closely with our experience designers to make sure that all our templates and resources were in one easy-to-access place. We also ran a series of large-scale Zoom training sessions to ensure that all 2,500 of our faculty members understood the basics of Brightspace, and where to find additional help if they needed it.”

He adds, “The support and documentation from D2L were truly invaluable, especially since the clock was ticking for the start of the next semester. We built on existing materials from D2L to create an online knowledge-base that explains how to record lectures, set up quizzes, set and review assignments, and share grades with students.”

Today, CSULB has unified all its teaching and student resources on the Brightspace platform, including resources such as frequently asked questions, an integrated button to launch Zoom sessions, and even a chatbot to answer common queries.

“The COVID-19 crisis has touched everyone, but some of our students have been hit especially hard. Using Brightspace, we can offer a lifeline for students experiencing food scarcity or housing challenges by providing quick links to emergency support.” — Marvin Mayo, Coordinator of Extended Programs & Special Projects, CSULB

"It’s also been wonderful to hear feedback from our students about how Brightspace has made a positive difference to their learning."

Marvin Mayo, Coordinator of Extended Programs & Special Projects, CSULB


Empowering learners to thrive

By partnering with D2L, CSULB has turned a trial into a triumph—helping its students thrive despite the COVID-19 crisis.

“We’ve been hearing heartening success stories from our students and faculty,” says Marvin Mayo. “For example, Dr. Jelena Trajkovic, one of the Assistant Professors in our Computer Engineering and Computer Science department, told us that she has actually seen a significant improvement in student performance in lab work since she switched to Brightspace.”

For example, by using release conditions in the Brightspace platform to share five-minute preparation videos ahead of each lab session, Dr. Trajkovic can give students an introduction to the fundamentals of each new topic in advance, which helps them get more out of their contact time.

Marvin Mayo continues: “It’s also been wonderful to hear feedback from our students about how Brightspace has made a positive difference to their learning. For example, at a recent student panel, one of our postgraduates, Samantha Wallace, shared how Brightspace helped her to forge connections with other students and explore the class materials on a much deeper level.”

“Samantha’s experience is particularly interesting because she’s a military veteran who now works as a police officer, and she’s looking after her four children while studying for her third degree! The fact that the Brightspace platform enables students like Samantha to balance their study time with all their other commitments really demonstrates how we’re using technology to make learning accessible for people in all kinds of circumstances” concludes Marvin Mayo.

Boosting adoption and graduation rates

Since its drive to extend Brightspace across the university, CSULB has measured a significant uptick in adoption rates. As more faculty members have ported their lectures and materials into the platform, CSULB can now offer many more courses online than ever before.

As new users flock to the Brightspace platform, support requests have risen by more than 300 percent. Despite this huge increase, CSULB’s Academic Technology Services support team has only needed to hire one extra person, since the platform’s automated tools make support requests easier to handle. The organization also leverages support from D2L to provide 24-hour coverage for questions from students and faculty members.

Finally, the D2L solution is enabling CSULB to continue to push forward with its key initiatives: its Beach 2030 Vision and Graduation Initiative 2025, which aims to increase graduation rates, eliminate equity gaps in degree completion and meet California’s workforce needs. As referenced in this CSULB news article, these key initiatives have led to graduation success rate of 89% for CSULB’s student athletes—the highest score among CSU schools, and the second-highest among all public institutions in the state.[1]

CSULB is a top California State University when it comes to graduation rates. “We increased our four-year graduation rate for first-time students from 16 percent to 34 percent last year, and thanks to our new digital learning capabilities we’re on track to continue that positive trend this year,” concludes Marvin Mayo. “The close collaboration among our senior leadership, faculty, and students has been a major factor in the success we’ve seen, and we look forward to our continued partnership with D2L to enhance Brightspace even further.”

[1]Cal State Long Beach Rates Best For Graduation Rates Angela Ratzlaff

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