LMS implementation: towards an educational and strategic application

Post by Thys de Haan and Joost Noordeloos of the Hogeschool van Amsterdam

The Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences/Hogeschool van Amsterdam (AUAS/HvA) is a higher education institution. With a focus on applied sciences, over 46,000 students study across seven faculties facilitated by a tutoring and administration staff of over 3,000. At AUAS/HvA, Thys de Haan is a Blended Learning Specialist and Joost Noordeloos is an LMS implementation project officer.

At the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences/Hogeschool van Amsterdam (AUAS/HvA) we strive to put learners in charge of their own study path, delivering personal education that helps develop students’ professional identities. To help us do this, we invest in technology and innovative learning models that enable flexible, adaptable learning and support students for the achievement of desired learning outcomes.

As part of our continuing learning evolution, we started implementing Brightspace at the university in September 2018. At that time, around ten per cent of students and tutors began using the learning management system (LMS); by September of this year the entire organisation will be using it.

When we embarked on our implementation journey, we knew that two things were important. Firstly, we had to view this as an organisational change and that would mean creating enthusiasm for the learning platform and sharing a vision of the future that tutors, administrators and students could get behind. Without acceptance of the vision and buy-in to the strategy, the implementation would struggle.

Secondly, we ruled out approaching this as a technical implementation. That would not generate the buzz, the buy-in, necessary for the programme to fly. Not only that, it wouldn’t position the platform in the right way. This isn’t a technical implementation, it’s a shift in the way that learning takes place. It had to be an educational, not a technical, implementation of a system.

With these two critical factors in mind, we created a training programme that focuses on how Brightspace can be used to meet educational needs, from both the tutors’ and the students’ perspective.

Faculty sessions: a collaboration

It works by cascade – we in the central project office created a portfolio of materials including instruction manuals and training documents, and a presentation that incorporates an interactive platform demonstration. Each faculty has its own implementation project and, having attended a session co-presented by the central team and a faculty lead, they use the materials in the way they want to rollout the implementation in their part of the organisation.

Having a faculty co-presenter sets the tone that the implementation isn’t being ‘forced on’ the faculties; rather it is a collaboration. It also establishes faculty ownership of the Brightspace platform rollout in their area. The ‘product’ of the training materials and demonstration is transferable – after the initial session the faculty takes the presentation and materials, makes them their own, and uses them to deliver their own training sessions.

The educational perspective

The main body of the presentation is the Brightspace platform demonstration, but this isn’t ‘click-by-click’ training or a set of ‘how to’ instructions; its purpose isn’t to instruct on platform functionality. Rather, an educational perspective is taken – both that of the teacher and the student. This creates the right conditions for a transformation of learning through the platform; for an understanding of what the LMS can do for teaching and learning.

For the dynamic demonstration, a faculty presenter takes the teacher’s perspective and Joost takes the student’s. It starts with a set of educational wishes from each stakeholder and demonstrates how the platform can be used to achieve desired outcomes. So, for the teacher, it may be: “I want to give a good first impression of my course”; “I want students to be prepared for each class”; “I want to offer activities and take a blended approach to student learning”; “I want online assignment submission”.

We walk through how all these actions are achieved in Brightspace and the features used in each case – for example, announcements and quick links to help students find their way in the course; discussion forums and release conditions. Always, it starts with the didactical needs and demonstrates functionality only in terms of achieving end goals. This works well with lecturers because it is relatable and it frames the technology in the way that they think – the need, followed by the solution.

A cascade approach

The approach has been very successful. Session attendees say they look forward to using Brightspace and that they find the demonstration inspiring, refreshing and energetic. Faculties have actively cascaded the training and have taken advantage of its flexibility to focus on areas they want to explore. While they’ve each taken their own approach – there’ve been ‘lunch and learn’ sessions; sessions that are more question-led – for all, the emphasis is always the teacher and student perspective.

Coming from a content, as opposed to a learning, management system, tutors have been intrigued by the interactivity Brightspace offers. While these implementation sessions have been about getting to know the platform and how it can be used, for future sessions we intend to explore learning analytics, but we’ll take the same teacher/student perspective there too.

We’re excited about the future of learning at HvA and the opportunities opened up by Brightspace. If you’d like to learn more about our implementation, get in touch – details below.

The Authors

Thys de Haan
Thys de Haan works as a Blended Learning Specialist for the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. He is part of the Brightspace implementation team – his focus is on training and the educational application of the system. Before being a part of this project, Thys had over ten years of experience in teaching Applied Psychology. His other expertise is in organisational psychology, sport and performance psychology, and communication training. Contact:
LinkedIn, t.g.de.haan@hva.nl.

Joost Noordeloos

Joost Noordeloos is currently working in the central Brightspace implementation project of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences as a training coordinator. His background in education and Blended Learning, combined with knowledge of multiple Learning Management Systems, means that he can translate educational needs into flexible training programmes. Contact: LinkedIn, j.noordeloos@hva.nl.

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