California State University Long Beach (CSULB), known as The Beach, is a diverse, student-centered, globally-engaged public university committed to providing highly-valued undergraduate and graduate educational opportunities through superior teaching, research, creative activity and service for the people of California and the world.
Surrounded by the best Southern California has to offer, CSULB is an ideal place to live, learn, and discover. Rated number five public university in the West by U.S. News and World Report, CSULB teaches students from more than 95 different countries.
CSULB changes lives by expanding educational opportunities, championing creativity, and preparing leaders for a changing world. The university’s academic purpose centers around graduating students with highly-valued degrees.
Image Source: CSULB
A mission to improve graduation rates
Graduation Initiative 2025 is the California State University’s ambitious initiative to increase graduation rates for all CSU students while eliminating opportunity and achievement gaps. On the CSULB campus, Graduation 2025 falls under the Highly Valued Degree initiative (HVDI). HVDI’s taskforce of stakeholders, drawn from across campus, was created to help boost graduation rates and maintain quality of education at CSULB while meeting State and Chancellor’s Office expectations. The HVDI task force is responsible for encouraging collaboration across campus. “It is a very unique model in academia as it brings together associate deans from every college and other leaders across campus to share ideas and build strategies,” says Dr. Shawna Dark, Associate VP of Academic Technologies.
Brightspace at the heart of teaching and learning on campus
CSULB’s learning management system — Brightspace — plays a pivotal role in the execution of CSULB’s Graduation Initiative 2025 as it touches every student and every department. CSULB brands Brightspace as BeachBoard reflecting its integration into campus learning culture.
“We are an exceptionally diverse organization, but we are united by the same mission,” says Shawna. “We want to support the needs of this diverse community. We needed a platform that could cut across geographic, department and role boundaries, bring together diverse opinions, support everyone’s needs and drive our key initiatives forward.”
CSULB had been a user of Brightspace since 2010, but the system was sorely underutilized. Like other higher education institutions, there were CSULB faculty who viewed the LMS as a glorified electronic syllabus. Jonathan Huer, Director of Academic Technology was tasked with ensuring the university’s LMS platform positioned CSULB for success and prepared the campus for the future, whatever that might be.
“The LMS is a really important component of teaching, education and access to resources on campus. If you talk to students, it is the one system above all that they check into and utilize daily,” says Jonathan. “We needed to make sure our platform and implementation supported the very diverse needs of our campus.”
“We didn’t want to switch systems, but we did have the opportunity. Our contract was up with D2L and after looking our options, we realized there was a lot more we could be doing with Brightspace we hadn’t explored yet.” admits Jonathan.
“D2L is more than an LMS vendor. The company shares a common value with CSULB — a commitment to quality education. So the decision to stay with Brightspace was a comfortable decision from a partnership perspective.”
Dr. Shawna Dark, Associate VP of Academic Technologies
A full commitment to Brightspace and all it can offer
In the end, CSULB felt its campus and the Graduation Initiative 2025 would be best served by remaining with Brightspace and fully committing to the platform and all it could offer. Says Jonathan, “We have 123,000 instances of courses in Brightspace today. We decided to commit to utilizing what we had available to us in the Brightspace platform. We weren’t using analytics. We weren’t using ePortfolios. In addition, D2L felt like the right education partner for CSULB.”
“D2L is more than an LMS vendor. The company shares a common value with CSULB — a commitment to quality education. So the decision to stay with Brightspace was a comfortable decision from a partnership perspective,” says Shawna.
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New Daylight user experience eliminates barriers in learning
What truly made CSULB’s decision to stick with D2L critical is the new Brightspace Daylight user experience, a modern and clean responsive interface purposefully designed for anywhere, anytime mobile access.
“The new Daylight interface is huge. It’s the layer that students care about,” says Jonathan. “It looks the way students expect a mobile website to look. Nobody wants to believe that students select an institution of higher learning based on their LMS, but today, with so many students learning online, the LMS helps to form an impression of an institution. We live in a world of digitally mediated tools. It was really important to us that the look and feel of the LMS interface be as good as Long Beach is.”
“Having an LMS that is available to all, on all devices, that is accessible, and works across all devices and at various times of the day and night is essential. We have a student body where many individuals are also working. They have to try to squeeze things in related to their schooling while riding the bus or in-between shifts. That is the reality of student life today,” says Shawna.
“We live in a world where we have to fluidly move between physical and digital worlds. My goal is to help students and faculty work wherever and however they want. We have faculty who are off site for months at a time doing research in remote locations around the world. They still want to teach their classes. Our LMS should reduce barriers to learning. It has to live and breathe what we stand for as an institution. Regardless of where they are, our students should have the opportunity to learn and our faculty should be able to teach from anywhere,” says Jonathan.
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A focus on continued and increased engagement with Brightspace
CSULB’s primary goal with Daylight is to get its students and faculty accessing the Brightspace LMS in a more fluid way.
“We are not a top down campus. We operate in a climate of shared governance where faculty are very participative and active in campus decision-making, and our technology organization supports teaching and learning,” says Jonathan. “We’re not going to dictate to our faculty that they use the Brightspace LMS. That said, Shawna is looking at strategies at engaging faculty to leverage the LMS in solving their most pressing problems. We have a three-year plan. First get folks using the Daylight mobile solution. Increased use of Brightspace will bring more data into the system, which will then provide faculty and departments with the information and analytics they are looking for. It’s not a straight line forward. Rather our progression with Brightspace is like concentric circles that keep getting bigger as we progress and get everyone engaged.”