A valuable idea exchange for our growing community
Last week, we were delighted to be a part of the Brightspace NL-BE User Day, an event organised by the Netherlands’ TU Delft , Radboud Universiteit (RU), Universiteit Leiden and Hogeschool van Amsterdam , with the purpose of sharing best practice and learning around the use of the Brightspace platform.
The event, attended by over 100 education practitioners and administrators from Benelux and beyond, kicked off with welcoming comments from TU Delft’s Timo Kos, Director of Education and Student Affairs, and Erna Kotkamp, Program Manager, as well as Heather Hamilton, Product Management Director, International Markets at D2L. The spirit of the day was set – it would be very much about networking, collaboration and community.
Commenting on how the community has grown so rapidly over the last three years, Timo shared an overview of the University’s journey with D2L and Brightspace. TU Delft, the first university in the Netherlands to adopt the Brightspace platform, deliberately tendered for a committed partnership with their new learning management system (LMS) vendor, not just an LMS tool. The University, a D2L client for the past three years, makes good use of Brightspace Learning Environment, including innovative uses of release conditions for personalised learning and other features.
A learning exchange
While some attendees are up and running with the Brightspace platform, others are at the implementation stage, but all attended to share learning, exchange best practice and discuss how they can make best use of the digital learning platform to further the objectives of platform administrators, instructors and students. Ultimately, sessions of this type help move the digital transformation of education forward by exploring opportunities and helping to overcome challenges.
They also highlight the importance of a close relationship between platform provider and educational institution. This is at its most successful when approached as a partnership. Throughout the day, D2L solution engineers were on-hand to answer questions and deliver demonstrations, with the goal of furthering knowledge and building capabilities across the full range of platform features.
One of the features discussed was the Brightspace ePortfolio, a digital record of students’ work and achievements that functions like a visual CV. Such a student portfolio can include a record of grades achieved and assessments passed, but also videos of the student demonstrating their skills and capabilities. This can be especially useful for students of technical subjects and Bea Edlinger and Elize van der Zwaag of RU shared successes and learnings with the group.
Sharing best practice
In a popular session, Wiebe Dijkstra, of TU Delft, shared the University’s best practices when it comes to developing and delivering Brightspace courses. Wiebe explained the process of developing fixed course structures and HTML templates, shared useful tips and tricks and showcased innovative use cases. It was great to see how these efforts have allowed a more consistent experience for the students.
Also popular was the “How to Demo Brightspace” presentation from Thys de Haan from HvA. During his session, he and project officer Joost Noordeloos presented their great work to boost adoption through the use of a flexible script and sandbox that selected instructors can use to train academics across the various faculties. An inventive approach to “train the trainer” that is engaging and easy to share with the community at large.
Together with TU Delft’s Erna Kotkamp, Bettina Schlass from D2L facilitated a workshop about the continuous delivery of software releases and adapting to work with continuous delivery cycles. Continuous delivery – as opposed to infrequent, large software upgrades – makes new features and functionality available to end-users faster; it also removes the need for disruptive upgrade cycles and provides a reliable and stable environment without the need for release-related downtimes.
For many, it’s a new way of working and it puts organisations into a state of constant change. Dealing with this can require a shift in culture as much as an alteration to operational processes and stakeholder management and communication is essential to making a successful shift. TU Delft shared its learnings in this area and its approach to supporting departments in adapting to the method.
The LMS and the external environment
The day was as much about conversation and airing of views, as it was sharing of experiences. A round table discussion on ‘Privacy and Brightspace’ provided the opportunity for attendees to discuss the impact that external factors, such as the General Data Protection Regulation, has on implementing and maintaining an LMS. The session covered the impact and implications of privacy and settings and considerations around features such as personalised analytics and chat functionalities.
The day was rounded off with a networking session, with a further chance for attendees to ask each other questions and share common ground. For educators implementing and managing a digital transformation within their organisation, days such as these provide incredibly useful learning opportunities. They also enable feedback to D2L on Brightspace in practice and this is valuable insight for the ongoing development of the platform. We now look forward to the next opportunity to network and share best practice in the not so distant future!