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Where capability meets almost endless creativity

  • 5 Min Read

A review of D2L Brightspace™, which sportscotland and eight sports’ governing bodies currently use

It’s always a pleasure to embark on a feedback-gathering exercise on a learning management system (LMS) deployment that we have previously advised on at Learning Light. One such opportunity was to speak with several users of Brightspace who began a partnership with sportscotland in early 2020. Now, they are transforming how sports’ governing bodies across Scotland deliver learning.

An overview of the background

In 2019, Learning Light undertook semi-structured interviews on behalf of sportscotland to understand the needs of its various departments, Scottish sports’ governing bodies, and the Scottish Institute of Sport for a learning platform. This exercise scoped sportscotland’s requirements for the subsequent public sector procurement process, in which D2L was successful.

Implementation of Brightspace commenced in early 2020. By the summer of 2021, Learning Light was invited to undertake another round of semi-structured interviews to assess the project’s progress.

What did we find?

I had to smile at one of the quotes provided by an interviewee who remarked, “Brightspace is a game changer.” On the evidence uncovered in our research, this is true. Brightspace has significantly impacted the delivery of learning in the Scottish sporting system—a true game-changer on several levels.

There is no doubt that the pandemic accelerated the uptake of e-learning. The deployment of Brightspace across Scotland’s sports’ governing bodies was five times faster than planned, which has created challenges to the rollout and approaches to using technology in learning by the governing bodies. Hence the title of this piece: “Where capability meets almost endless creativity”.

The capability we refer to is, of course, Brightspace. The creativity we refer to is the different approaches the sports’ governing bodies have adopted to deliver learning using the Brightspace learning platform. These results are truly fascinating because the eight users we interviewed developed different learning modalities to meet their specific needs and visions for the future of learning.

The Scottish sports community has undoubtedly benefited from digital learning during the pandemic, as it was, for a time, the only way to deliver learning. The digital learning delivered through Brightspace has proven so successful that the transformation is now considered permanent. The demands for more digital learning utilising the capabilities of Brightspace are growing.

We asked the interviewees about their vision for learning going forward. In short, there is no going back. E-learning is now embedded. There are plans in place to develop more e-learning courses as part of a wider blended learning approach, as one interviewee explained:

“The visibility and transparency of the learning and the ability to share resources are super, and blended learning is now the priority. While the change has been forced by the pandemic, the learning outcome has been positive. There is a big demand from our participants for more online learning.”

We discovered Brightspace being used in the following ways:

  • Digital blended learning, both synchronous and asynchronous, moves from classroom to online course delivery via tutor-led virtual classroom sessions.
  • Sophisticated self-directed e-learning with task-based digital learning built around discussion threads.
  • Traditional blended learning delivery using e-learning and tutor-led group coaching, utilising the Brightspace Pulse App during live practice sessions.
  • Assessed learning with learner-created content and uploads, used against marking rubrics created in Brightspace.
  • Collaborative learning development using the Brightspace sandbox for an iterative and collaborative development process.
  • Learning and knowledge capture for securing and sharing best practice utilising the capabilities of Brightspace.
  • E-learning platform development, often with assistance from sportscotland, utilising Brightspace templates for rapid deployment.
  • SCORM e-learning modules were created with e-learning authoring tools and imported into Brightspace.
  • Self-made video-based digital learning (created in rivers and on pitches and greens).
  • Courses are built around curated online resources.

This diversity of development and delivery models is quite fascinating. Credit must go to sportscotland for encouraging this level of creativity across the governing bodies and creating a cell of learning design and development expertise to support all this activity. This is certainly not the standard way to roll out a digital learning project.

D2L also must be credited for providing support and advice on using Brightspace. Seeing how Brightspace can be used in many ways is truly impressive. There were challenges and issues to be overcome at the outset. The capability of Brightspace was such that taking the first step was a challenge— “not knowing what you don’t know”, as one interviewee put it. Finding the right guidance on how to achieve a particular learning interaction could prove difficult, as there was so much advice to choose from. Getting to grips with terminologies was another niggling issue.

However, the overall feedback from interviewees was that it was quite easy to create content in Brightspace:

“It’s straightforward to create content in D2L Brightspace .”

“The templates are very good. They are easy to understand, and it’s great how we built content in Brightspace quickly and easily.”

“Dragging content in from Google Drive is good.”

So, the impact on the Scottish sports’ governing bodies was (and continues to be) real and measurable, with many hours of e-learning curated and created quite quickly by them and by a small team in sportscotland.

What was the learners’ reaction?

The Brightspace accessibility features for learners were particularly appreciated, as one interviewee put it:

“Simple sign-in and simple submitting of work speaks of Brightspace’s simplicity. Our learners are positive and enjoy using Brightspace.”

Course completion surveys back this up:

“All nine courses went well and achieved a 100% completion.”

“We did a survey of non-completes and all had a genuine life-based reason for non-completion. If we exclude these, we have 100% completion.”

Learners do not feel they have missed out:

“Learners like to go back and watch the recordings repeatedly; the learning transfer is considered superior as it’s more in-depth and the chunked process works well.” This feedback came from an interviewee creating e-learning in situ in a river.

The reach of e-learning across Scotland has replaced face-to-face training events with online (synchronous and asynchronous) learning, particularly for level 1 coaching courses, reducing travel requirements significantly. One governing body reports that by using e-learning, it has addressed a shortage of coaches with a 10-fold increase in the capacity to deliver courses. due to using e-learning.

Where is the future of learning?

In many ways, the journey for sportscotland and the sports’ governing bodies has just begun. More governing bodies are using Brightspace now. The ideas and creativity of the governing bodies in using D2L Brightspace and its capabilities have not diminished.

Asking the interviewees where their priorities lay is equally as interesting as asking what they have achieved to date.

For example, one interviewee suggested, “If we can somehow mix Brightspace reporting tools and learner feedback, we can embark upon a cycle of continuous improvement.”

More simple ideas also abound, such as using videos around specific pieces of sports equipment and building training regimes around their usage. For one, sports learners are now being asked to upload audio and video materials. E-portfolios are on the menu for others.

Why this project has been a success

The secret sauces of this project are the collaboration and sharing of ideas across the sports’ governing bodies as to how to get the very best out of Brightspace alongside the innovative and express yourself approach taken by sportscotland. Also, to help the sports’ governing bodies get going, sportscotland has developed an e-learning agency model to support the development of e-learning at the commencement of the project. Alongside the capabilities of the Brightspace LMS and a considerable amount of help and support from the D2L Brightspace team, it has produced an innovative and expressive e-learning presentation.

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