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MGH Institute of Health Professions

Use of Brightspace goes far beyond expectations

The MGH Institute of Health Professions (The MGH Institute) is an innovative interprofessional graduate school of health sciences founded by Massachusetts General Hospital and located in the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston, Massachusetts. Health science academic programs include Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physician Assistant studies, Nursing, Communication Sciences & Disorders, Health Professions Education and PhD in Rehabilitation Science. The MGH Institute seeks to be preeminent in educating graduates to be exemplary leaders in healthcare for a diverse society, advancing innovative models of health professions education to improve health and healthcare, and creating and translating knowledge to improve healthcare through distinctive programs of research.


MGH Institute of Health Professions




  • Migrating from home-grown LMS to Brightspace



  • Using Brightspace for more than just distribution of course materials



  • Anywhere, anytime style of learning particularly appealing

As we narrowed down the shortlist of vendors, the most important question was whether their system could help us teach what we wanted without totally reinventing the wheel. It needed to be user-friendly for our volunteers and members. That’s where D2L and the Brightspace platform really excelled.

Richard Porter, Certification Manager, IMSA


A D2L customer since 2009, the MGH Institute has leveraged the Brightspace platform to facilitate its growth and expansion. When the school first migrated to Brightspace from its home-grown LMS — going live just 20 days after making its decision — the school had just 900 students enrolled in its programs. Today it supports over 1600 students and an expanding online presence for the MGH Institute.

“Most of our growth has occurred over the last 9-10 years. Brightspace has allowed us to support the full continuum of learning from self-directed, to blended, to online, while realizing our strategic growth goals,” says Denis Stratford, Chief Operating Officer, MGH Institute of Learning.



Every program delivered at the MGH Institute and every faculty member uses Brightspace in some capacity. “At a bare minimum, the LMS is used for distribution of course materials, which eliminates our use of paper,” explains Stratford. “However, we work with many faculty who are web-enabling their courses and using Brightspace to extend learning beyond the classroom. They are using the Brightspace Discussion tool to facilitate interprofessional conversations. Students complete tests online and submit their assignments via Brightspace. Faculty post grades and feedback via Brightspace as well. More and more are using Adobe Connect™ with Brightspace to bring guest speakers into their lectures. And some are even doing a “flipped” classroom, using Brightspace to capture and record a lecture, pushing it out to students for discussion prior to the class meeting”.

The school also has all its course syllabi stored within the Brightspace Learning Repository. This boosts the productivity of new instructors, who can quickly pull down and access a course syllabus when teaching in a program for the first time.

MGH Institute’s students enroll in the prelicensure graduate programs with a bachelor’s degree and satisfy the science prerequisites. Depending on the student’s academic or continuing professional development they take some of their courses online. That said, the work is far from independent. Through its IMPACT Practice (interprofessional education) curriculum, MGH Institute promotes collaborative interprofessional and team based learning for all prelicensure students, , facilitated by Brightspace, with students supported by health mentors, simulations, and health professionals from various local clinical partners.

In the Graduate Program in Occupational Therapy, one of the Institute’s newer academic programs, the faculty with support from the Information Technology staff, use the Brightspace competency functionality to map over 270 pre-defined competencies and course objectives mandated by the corresponding professional association. In addition, the Institute faculty have defined a standard set of core competencies for students in all entry level health professions programs which will eventually be mapped to the individual curricula. The Institute’s core competencies are modeled after competencies set forth by the Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC) and the Institute of Medicine as universal competencies for all health care professionals.


“I know of no other model in health sciences education that has gone to this extent, and within the functionality of the Brightspace environment,” says Stratford. “From a competency perspective, our students need to understand, for instance, the quality metrics as they relate to patient safety and how to work within the information systems as a clinician. Within our respective curriculums, students achieve these competencies at different stages. Each program’s core competencies will be mapped uniquely to a specific program curriculum, with interprofessional education requirements mapped across all curricula.”

The core competency-based learning initiative has also led the MGH Institute to expand its use of Brightspace. In addition to using the platform’s Competency tool, the school has recently added the ePortfolio module, which allows students to showcase artifacts of their learning related to a core competency, demonstrate their achievement and reflect on their learning. The MGH Institute has also recently implemented Insights™. While it is currently used at the instructor level to capture classroom and course data, it will eventually provide the dataset for the core competency initiative allowing the MGH Institute to perform outcome analysis.

The use of Brightspace has also allowed the MGH Institute to explore new online learning programs and revenue streams. The school offers pre-requisite courses for students entering graduate health science education programs including their own academic programs. Over the last few years it has begun marketing and offering these science pre-reqs entirely online to students in other geographies, and who are enrolling in other programs and educational institutions. “We’ve packaged these courses to be offered completely online through a newly created department of continuing professional development. We’ve added a course merchant front end to Brightspace, and plan to continue to scale this effort up using our existing Brightspace environment,” says Stratford.

The functionality of Brightspace, the vision, and the direction of the company articulated to us back in 2009 has manifested itself many times over since that time. It has gone far beyond our expectations.

Denis Stratford, Chief Operating Officer, MGH Institute of Learning


Back in 2009 when the MGH Institute first conducted its evaluation of LMS offerings, the clear choice was Brightspace, and nearly a decade later the school continues to feel confident about its decision. “The functionality of Brightspace, the vision, and the direction of the company articulated to us back in 2009 has manifested itself many times over since that time,” says Stratford. “It has gone far beyond our expectations.”

Many of MGH Institute’s students are engaged in a graduate program that offers accelerated learning schedules. So the efficiency and anywhere, anytime style of learning through Brightspace is particularly appealing. It can also help students overcome many obstacles — even those presented by Mother Nature.

Stratford shares a story: “During the winter of 2015 we had 10 snow days. Boston received record snow fall with more than 9 feet of snow in five weeks. Because of the range of resources in Brightspace we created an ‘inclement weather toolkit’ to keep students progressing. All our courses moved online on those days, so no one would be slowed down or miss school. It actually also helped to move more of the faculty online, as they discovered what Brightspace could allow them to do. They now realize that they can record any lecture and get it to their students, so no one ever has a need to miss out.”

Image Source: MGHIHP
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