Adapting To A New Way Of Learning
Purdue University is a public research university located in West Lafayette, Indiana and is consistently ranked as one of the best public universities in the U.S. Founded in 1869, its main campus in West Lafayette offers over 200 undergraduate programs and more than 70 masters and doctoral programs to almost 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
Even with the best-laid plans, new technology implementations will have challenges to overcome. Unfortunately for the team at Purdue, their rollout of Brightspace coincided with the start of a global pandemic. In order to protect students and staff, Purdue had to quickly pivot to a virtual learning environment.
Purdue introduced Brightspace to students and staff through a soft launch in the spring of 2020, followed by a university-wide rollout for the fall semester. The combination of a new learning management system (LMS) and the move to remote education meant students and faculty were dealing with a perfect storm of learning challenges. University administrators and instructional staff knew they needed to address these challenges to help both students and faculty succeed. The solution was right at their fingertips within Brightspace.
Taking Learning Back To Basics
The complex and interconnected set of challenges that Purdue students and staff were facing needed a solution that not only could be quickly developed and deployed — but also could be dynamically adapted based on feedback.
The solution was Purdue University’s Learning Online 101 course. The self-paced course was built in Brightspace so students could engage with the content in the same space they would be doing their coursework. Learning Online 101 included videos, guides and links to additional Purdue University resources students might need during their studies.
“These materials were designed to help students find answers to common questions about virtual learning, including navigation of Brightspace courses and use of standard Purdue-supported educational technologies, and to help prepare students more holistically for learning by connecting students with the range of support services and learning resources available at Purdue,” said Senior Instructional Designer Alexus Maschinot.
Addressing Online Learning And Campus Community Needs
The goal of Learning Online 101 was to give students the skills and confidence to set them up for long-term educational success. It was critical to Purdue’s administrators that their students would be able to learn and engage in a virtual and dynamic environment.
At the completion of the course, Purdue wanted their students to feel more confident, understand how to navigate Brightspace and develop connections with their peers and instructors. Learning Online 101 was structured around four learning modules: Mindset and Readiness, Foundations for Academic Success, Navigating Brightspace and Connecting in Your Online Classroom.
Using feedback from the soft launch, Learning Online 101’s Mindset and Readiness module focused on addressing student mental health and wellness. The module guided students through multiple options to prepare for online learning. The second module, Foundations for Academic Success, addressed the academic challenges of online learning with resources on studying and note-taking practices, organization and time management and exam preparation tips. Helping students master Brightspace was the goal of the Navigating Brightspace module. The module included resources for students to help them successfully navigate, engage, and succeed in their online courses delivered through Brightspace. Finally, the Connecting in Your Online Classroom module helped students learn how to bridge the social gaps between their physical and online learning environments.
Built In Brightspace
Learning Online 101’s primary goal was to familiarize students with navigating the Brightspace platform. To help achieve this goal, the Purdue team utilized Brightspace templates to create a professional and consistent experience throughout all four modules.
Using Brightspace templates also provided the ability to include alternative text and the built-in accessibility tool to ensure that Learning Online 101 was accessible by all students regardless of any accessibility issues.
Purdue also used the Awards tool to give students who completed the course a badge to recognize their achievements. The badge also served as proof of completion that students could share with instructors of other courses across the university.
Online And Ready To Learn
All Purdue University undergraduate students on the West Lafayette campus have been automatically enrolled in Learning Online 101 since its launch in the spring of 2021. The course is popular with more than their undergraduate community: Purdue graduate students, teaching faculty, and staff use Learning Online 101 as a foundation for developing their courses in Brightspace.
To date, over 57,000 learners have been enrolled in the course, with more than 3,000 students giving the course high marks in a post-course evaluation survey. 95.5% of respondents said they felt the content was helpful across all four of the course modules. Additionally, over 70% of the respondents agreed that the Learning Online 101 objectives were achieved by completing the course. Instructors across the university added that Learning Online 101 allowed them to focus on teaching course content instead of using class time to review how to use Brightspace.
“Positive feedback indicated this course provided a good overview and introduction to learning online, helped them feel more confident starting college and reduced their anxiety,” Maschinot said.
Learning Online 101 has also received several awards, including Purdue’s Bravo Award and the Award for Exceptional Teaching and Instructional Support, and was a nominee for the 2021 Learning Technologies Team Award from the eLearning Consortium of Colorado, Northwest Managers of Education Technology, and the NW eLearning Community.
Today, Purdue continues to improve its online learning services and supports for students and instructors. Using the learnings from the Learning Online 101 course and taking feedback from students, Purdue has created Learning at Purdue. Launched in the spring of 2022, Learning at Purdue enables students to practice navigating Brightspace features, including how to submit assignments and quizzes, the ins and outs of discussion boards and the Awards tool.