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DeSales University

Accessible Education: Empowering Students With Flexible Learning

  • 6 Min Read

Understanding the challenges of balancing academic pursuits with work and family obligations, DeSales University has transformed its learning environment by embracing D2L Brightspace. Now students can engage in asynchronous study for maximum flexibility, making learning accessible while nurturing personal and professional responsibilities.


DeSales University



  • Brightspace Core
  • Creator+
  • Performance+


Jim Holton, director of instructional design and technology.


  • Enables students to seamlessly integrate study into their busy lives, promoting balance
  • Empowers instructors to create engaging online resources for enhanced learning
  • Equips educators with the tools for continuous course improvement


Targeting greater flexibility

Established in 1964, DeSales University stands as a unique institution globally, rooted in the timeless Salesian spiritual values of gentleness, humility, gratitude, hospitality and wisdom. Jim Holton, director of instructional design and technology, elaborates. “We seek to inspire students to enrich their lives by enhancing their knowledge through learning. We also firmly believe that anyone can benefit from learning, no matter what stage they are at in life.”

Alongside its diverse array of undergraduate courses, DeSales University offers an extensive selection of adult learning programs tailored to diverse interests and professional pursuits.

Synchronous in-person learning doesn’t work for everyone. For instance, adult learners with work and family commitments, undergraduates with disabilities, or even students who participate extensively in our athletics programs can’t always attend classes with fixed schedules. We are committed to removing barriers to learning and helping every student achieve a great work-life balance. One of the main ways we do this is by offering online and hybrid courses that enable students to fit their studies around their lives.

Jim Holton, director of instructional design and technology

Over time, DeSales University found that the learning management system (LMS) supporting its online resources fell short of delivering the levels of engagement the university aimed to achieve. “Our existing LMS had a lot of text-heavy content, which students often found difficult to parse—potentially leaving them feeling uninspired,” Holton says. “We knew that we could do better.”


Forging new partnerships

In a strategic move to enhance engagement in online and hybrid learning for all students, DeSales University decided to replace its existing LMS with Brightspace. Adopting a new, feature-rich platform empowered faculty members across departments to reassess their course content comprehensively and explore avenues for enriching it with innovative designs.

Replacing an LMS is a huge task, especially for an organization like DeSales that already had an extensive set of online resources. So, we wanted to work with a technology partner that could support us every step of the way. Right from the initial sales engagement through to the implementation of Brightspace, D2L provided us with excellent support and always took the time to listen to and deliver on our needs. We are very pleased with our partnership with D2L.

Jim Holton, director of instructional design and technology

Delivering continuous improvements

Now that they’ve migrated their existing content to Brightspace, DeSales University is planning to leverage the authoring tool Creator+ to ensure its content is always easily digestible, accessible and interesting.

“We’re just at the start of our journey with Creator+, but we really like that the tool provides such a rich variety of ways to break up and present complex information,” says Holton. “Similarly, we’re excited to start leveraging the Performance+ tool to see how we can measure and drive student success.”


Stepping into a more flexible future

Moving its online learning environment to Brightspace has enabled DeSales University to offer greater flexibility to hybrid, online and in-person learners. “Online learning wasn’t a large part of our traditional day-student study programs before Brightspace, but now we’ve started to offer more opportunities for asynchronous learning,” says Holton. “This has been tremendously popular with our students as it helps them fit their studies around their lives, and we plan to go even further in the years ahead.”

Making the transition to Brightspace also inspired instructors to revitalize their approach to course design.

Instructors have the opportunity to approach course design in a different way, which gives them the tools to make online lessons more inspiring, interesting and easier to engage with. We’ve only just scratched the surface with the possibilities of Brightspace, but I’m pleased to see that many of our instructors have jumped at the opportunity to try a new approach, and it has produced some amazing results.

Jim Holton, director of instructional design and technology

Holton concludes: “Embracing Brightspace has really helped us to enhance the learner experience for all our students and enables us to give them the tools they need to thrive academically and personally. We’re looking forward to deepening our relationship with D2L as we take the next steps in our Brightspace journey.”