In the end, Brightspace was selected, chosen for its great product fit, strong support for bilingualism, and D2L’s Canadian roots. “The fact that D2L was a Canadian company put our minds at ease,” admits Marcheterre. “However, the relationship also felt very open and genuine – D2L seemed to truly get what we wanted to do.” The fact that D2L also had a native francophone as part of the uOttawa account team also inspired confidence.
A rapid implementation and a hard cutover puts TLSS and D2L to the test
Originally in its implementation plan, TLSS called for a lengthy, one year transition period where the old Blackboard Learn and new Brightspace LMS would run in parallel. This would allow professors time to move content over to the new platform and users (Blackboard had a near 80% adoption among faculty and students) to migrate at a more leisurely pace to Brightspace. In the end, however, the opportunity to realize substantial savings directed TLSS to move to a plan that would require a hard cutover to the new system. This rapid migration from Blackboard Learn to Brightspace was accompanied by a major face-to-face and online training program in groups and one-on-one, in order to best meet the instructors’ different needs. The transition also called for TLSS and D2L to archive content from 54,959 courses available within Blackboard Learn and to create a brand new portal for professors, where they could request the creation of their courses on Brightspace, and to migrate the content of their old courses. “We had no option for them to stay on the old system or even to have content on the old system,” explains Marcheterre. “Literally one day you’d be on Blackboard and the next on Brightspace.”
Given the aggressive nature of the migration, the TLSS team opted to introduce their users to the core functionality of the Brightspace platform. “We focused on content areas of the platform first; features such as assignments, gradebook and discussion forums, those areas that professors are going to need right out of the gate,” says Marcheterre. “We wanted to keep it simple, allow them to learn how to use the platform slowly with not too many options.” While TLSS did early training of profs, anticipating they would call on them to mentor others, the team was pleasantly surprised that many users were able to get onto Brightspace and run through the basics with little to no training. Marcheterre credits some of this to the new Brightspace Daylight user interface. “It is clean, modern, responsive and tablet-friendly. It is what people expect today. We think it helped with adoption.”
D2L’s team inspired confidence
D2L’s services team
played an instrumental role in facilitating uOttawa’s 109-day migration to Brightspace. “The services team was pretty awesome. They were able to batch migrate content in the back end and wrote a script to convert Blackboard content to Brightspace content behind the scenes. This meant they could target courses with issues without having to get the prof involved to pre-empt any concerns that might arise. They were always available, always ready to help. They gave us a lot of confidence,” says Marcheterre.
Insights and more hybrid learning on the horizon
With the migration complete, TLSS will now start delving into more complex Brightspace features, such as Brightspace Insights
™ for analytics. Short-term priorities are still being discussed, but Marcheterre knows that uOttawa is also keen to assess data on engagement. The university, while still very much reliant on face-to-face in-class learning, is also stepping into the world of “technology-assisted” learning. Of the university’s 15,000 courses per year, uOttawa now offers 302 online courses, 45 audio-conference courses, and 113 video-conferencing courses. The university adopted large-scale hybrid learning in 2013 to improve learning outcomes and productivity. In 2016, 159 hybrid learning courses had been designed and 360 teachers had been trained in the development and teaching of hybrid courses, with 6,000 students participating in hybrid learning between 2015-2016.