A new workflow empowers faculty with the ability to change bureaucracy to meet their needs.
About three years ago, the University of Arizona set out to create a real-time integration for course site creation, instructor enrollments, student enrollments and final semester grades. It wanted to allow the university’s colleges, departments and faculty to take ownership of their courses while still allowing the Registrar and Bursar’s Office to conduct business the way they wanted to. Through a newly re-designed workflow, faculty would be able to log into a website, view their information, then drag, drop and rearrange information into the way they want to teach, versus the way the department or university structured the information for the purposes of managing the student record. At the end of the semester, the faculty could then log into PeopleSoft and click a single button to import grades from Brightspace, the university’s chosen learning management system (LMS).
“We wanted faculty to be able to solve problems as soon as they realized them. We didn’t want them to have to wait overnight. For instance, it is not uncommon for our distance office to throw in an extra section of students when there is rising demand. This might mean we have to quickly split out a section after the term has begun, changing who is responsible for teaching that section based on the adjunct’s schedule and classes,” explains Mark. “We wanted to make it easy for instructors to go into the system, remove a section, or add two new sections, so enrollments could happen in real time as much as possible and students could gain the right access to the right faculty member with the right syllabus.”
Turning to the Brightspace Developer Platform, university staff developed a method for instructors to create courses through Brightspace on demand and roll them out to its 43,000 learners.
A data sync process was first created to map out semesters, departments, course templates, course offerings and sections in the system. If a new semester or department appears in PeopleSoft, it would be automatically created in the course management system and in Brightspace. A new mobile responsive website was also created utilizing drag-and-drop functionality, with an alternative navigation process for those faculty requiring a screen reader. This easy to use website makes it easy for nearly 4,000 tenured faculty and adjuncts to build course sites and arrange their sections every semester with no training.
Finally, a single click solution was created to pull Final Adjusted grades out of Brightspace and submit them to PeopleSoft at the end of a semester. This allows faculty to turn in their semester grades quickly, and allows students to see their grades as soon as they are posted by faculty.
The solution is powered by Amazon Web Services.
Cascading roles simplify system access
One of the key enablers of this system was the notion of cascading roles within Brightspace, which provides a user enrolled in any organizational unit with access to all course templates, course offerings, and groups and sections under that department. “This allowed us to give instructional designers and support staff in a department one click access to all past, present and future course sites related to that department,” explains Mark. “If the request was college wide then we go through their 20 departments in a similar fashion.”
Through the Brightspace learning tool interoperability (LTI) specification, instructors were also given access to all of the University of Arizona’s technology integrations. Says Mark, “this access has really helped us create solutions that are part of the entire learning ecosystem of our university.” Mark has also been able to play with roles and permissions to grant other users across campus with granular level permissions to perform tasks that previously fell to his team. For instance, the university’s library team can add a Panopto link to a course site to provide students with access to streaming video assets and place files into the Panopto platform without being able to edit content or see grades.