Driving educational innovation with technology
As one of the leading community colleges in Illinois, Parkland College delivers a wide range of higher education courses to more than 9,500 students every year. The college’s award-winning campus features the second largest planetarium in its home state, specialist labs for industrial technology, a radio station, a television station, a college record label, and much more.
As well as providing state-of-the-art facilities, Parkland College is committed to delivering an excellent student experience by empowering faculty to harness the latest technology to enhance teaching and learner support.
As soon as digital technology became a learning resource, our teachers started innovating. Many built their own websites, for example. But naturally, these sites were designed for the faculty’s needs, not for our students.Lori Wendt, Instructional Technology Specialist
To make its digital resources more student-centric, Parkland College decided to adopt a learning management system (LMS), but the initial solution had several drawbacks.
“Our first foray into using an LMS had many successes,” says Lori Wendt. “However, the relationship with our LMS vendor wasn’t ideal—they didn’t always listen to our requests for additional features and enhancements. What’s more, we had adopted multiple solutions and integrated other tools too. This created a complex web of digital learning resources that held back adoption of the LMS.”
To find out what students really wanted from digital learning, Parkland College commissioned a campus survey. Many students expressed a desire for a more consistent LMS user experience. Additionally, they wanted an effortless way to track their academic progress without having to email individual teachers for grade updates.
Delivering a consistent learning experience
To create a unified user experience and increase faculty adoption of digital learning tools, Parkland College replaced its existing LMS solution with D2L Brightspace—providing a comprehensive central resource for faculty and students.
“We love the rich functionality of Brightspace,” continues Lori Wendt. “There’s so much packed into one solution and our faculty are constantly exploring new ways to apply new tools to their teaching. Most of all, we really appreciate that D2L is genuinely committed to helping us get the most out of the platform. They’re always quick to respond to our requests for new functionality.”
When D2L launched Discover, courses could be assigned based on role. Course permissions allow students and faculty to view courses that are relevant to them. Parkland College already had a set up with widgets for students to self-enroll, but were quick to adopt Discover.
“Discover is a game-changer for us” explains Lori Wendt. “It’s been helpful to Parkland for creating a self-enrollment student orientation. The course introduces them to Brightspace, the tools available and gives them a leg up in their courses.”
Discover is also being utilized for their faculty DIY training. In combination with their knowledge base, Parkland has their faculty training to support learning on Brightspace. A bonus, is providing faculty the student perspective while they work through their own training.
Building a partnership based on continuous development
As a higher education innovator, Parkland College is always looking for new ways to improve its digital learning resources and strong relationships with technology partners play a huge role in supporting this effort. They’ve partnered with Technical Account Manager (TAM) and Learning Administration Manager (LAM) teams at D2L to bring their goals and visions into operation.
To drive the development of new online resources and support our goals for improvements, we signed up for the D2L Learning Administration Manager Program, we meet to discuss ongoing projects and new ways of optimizing D2L solutions for our needs. We’re pleased with the support and the D2L team really go above and beyond to understand our organization and help us. This has been the most phenomenal partnership.Lori Wendt, Instructional Technology Specialist
Working closely with their Learning Administration Manager, Parkland College unlocked operational efficiencies with Brightspace. Lori Wendt explains: “We were delighted when our Learning Administration Manager helped us streamline the process of archiving and bulk export of old courses—This helps keep the system clean and efficient to offload old courses no longer active. The process for archiving and bulk export was down from months to just seven days. As a result, our admin team can spend more time helping faculty improve their courses and addressing student issues.”
It’s a LAM’s focus to learn the goals and mission of their customers, learn the process operations at a detailed level, and create a lasting partnership to support and innovate with the school’s objectives as the focus. An example of this was Parkland’s LAM stepping in during a time of an emergency leave. They are in the process of training a new administrator, but at the time there was no one able to step in immediately. The LAM was able to support the supervisor, Amanda Avery, Learning Technologies and Collections Librarian, to support the continuity of service to faculty and students.
Helping students succeed
Since deploying Brightspace as its LMS, Parkland College can deliver a more consistent, transparent, and user-friendly learning experience for students. Faculty adoption has also increased significantly, opening up new opportunities for digital learning enhancements. Since returning to in-person learning, Parkland College found that faculty continue to adopt Brightspace in their everyday learning practices because of how easy it is to provide and interact with students in a way that complements what’s happening in the classroom.
“Our students are really pleased with the D2L platform,” says Lori Wendt. “They’re especially happy that they can log on and track their progress when they want to. This helps to improve student engagement and reduce attrition, as it enables them to play a more active role in their own academic development.”
In the future, Parkland College plans to work with D2L to get greater insight into student behavior to enhance coaching and support programs. Lori Wendt concludes: “We’re excited about the future, and we look forward to working with D2L to ensure we’re always offering the very best student experience.”