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Southern New Hampshire University

Using an LMS to support faculty and students


Southern New Hampshire University



  • D2L Brightspace

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Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) puts the student at the center of their education experience. But it really comes down to the work achieved by dedicated instructors and advisors and how they leverage data drawn from Brightspace to manage and monitor student success. SNHU is at the forefront of online learning and they provide insight and advice to institutions considering offering online education opportunities to their students.

Other facts

  • 450+ advisors
  • 12,000 students in online graduate program
  • Need a system for managing students and faculty

How SNHU leverages their LMS to support faculty and the student experience

At Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), advisors are a large component of what makes the student experience so exceptional. But advisors are only a part of the total SNHU story. Faculty provides support to advisors and students using information drawn from the Brightspace LMS in order to monitor and adjust processes and student interactions, which in turn can improve student and faculty behavior. Much of what makes SNHU an agile educational institution is its ability to adjust to each student’s needs quickly. Faculty and advisors are constantly making improvements to courses, curriculum, and content based upon the overall trends and needs among their student population. Priscilla Hobbs-Penn is an Associate Dean at SNHU, and oversees the faculty in General Education and Interdisciplinary Studies. She works with the data analytics team to review academic data in their LMS to ensure that everything is running smoothly, and any issues that can be addressed, are handled with speed and accuracy.

Brightspace can help us make more informed decisions with regards to how we can support the student experience.

Priscilla Hobbs-Penn

Curriculum designed, and redesigned

Having access to student data enables SNHU to design a curriculum that meets students’ needs, with a personal approach. Examining outcomes data, curriculum designers can ensure that students are meeting the outcomes that are required for the program, in the course, right down to the student level of interaction. For example, if a program reveals students are struggling with assignments, action can be taken to make sure that students are provided with the highest possibility for success. Questions and concerns can be addressed with regards to the course material, the manner with which it is being taught, or how students are engaging with content, assignments, lessons, and more.

“Students aren’t simply their data,” says Priscilla. “Data reveals a narrative about how the learning experience is progressing.” By monitoring student behavior right down to the rubric elements, Priscilla and her team can see how final projects map back up to the original intention, which can inform ways to improve the structure of a course, or provide more resources to instructors.

Scrutiny is given to the manner with which instructors are interacting with students, engaging in online discussions, how many posts an instructor has commented upon, etc. This information is mapped against educational KPIs, which in turn alerts faculty. With this data, Priscilla can reach out with resources to enable instructors to achieve their best results, such as time management resources, instructional advice, and pedagogical training material.

Brightspace has afforded us the agility to focus on a particular assignment or resource and make changes to the course in a faster way than we were previously able to do.

Priscilla Hobbs-Penn

Analytics drives better student experience

Jason (JT) Eborn works as SNHU’s Academic Specialist in Data Analysis. In his impression, SNHU’s academic advisors have access to the tools and data they require to help students in a more personal and meaningful way. “Faculty and advisors work proactively, so the student doesn’t always have to reach out,” he explains. Returning or adult learners may not always be forthcoming with requests for help or for academic advice, but the LMS allows the SNHU academic team to red-flag certain behaviors, ensuring that contact with students is swift and effective. With many different sets of eyes on the student’s history and course data, they can collaborate to determine who might be the best person to reach out to a student who may be struggling. This means that students receive the kind of individualized care and attention that might be not be possible at another institution, increasing their chances of completing programs and achieving life-long, student success.

Collaboration between faculty and students is made easier with Brightspace.

Jason Eborn

Student response to the SNHU system

SNHU students come a variety of backgrounds and each have had a different experience at other educational institutions. One of the common concerns that Priscilla hears from students is with the level of support and engagement each student receives from faculty and advisors. In traditional brick-and-mortar colleges, it can often be difficult to maintain a high level of personalized attention. At SNHU, students are provided with a guaranteed system of support, which they love. Priscilla explains that “students have said they have never felt more supported in an institution than at SNHU.” This is in part to the ease of communication and collaboration through the LMS.

The need for an LMS on mobile devices

“One of the key benefits of using Brightspace is the mobile accessibility feature,” explains Priscilla. “Many instructors are working on mobile devices. It’s a huge advantage for them to have the same experience on a browser or on mobile.” Because collaboration and communication are the cornerstones of the SNHU academic experience, having a tool that enables visibility into data, resources, and notes on student behavior allows the team to react quickly, from anywhere and at any time.

Brightspace creates a more aesthetic space and the mobile aspect is a major part of this.

Priscilla Hobbs-Penn


SNHU supports a philosophy of continuous adaptation, enhancement, and learning when it comes to their curriculum and student outreach. As they grow in enrolment, they are scaling operations to be able to continue to deliver this high level of individualized support. D2L is very much a partner in this process and we look forward to building the tools necessary to maintain valuable interactions between students, faculty, advisors, and analytics to drive SNHU’s institutional goals for the coming decades.

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