District to change eCampus host

Emmy Hardy, Copy Desk Chief

Dallas College is officially dropping Blackboard, the current Learning Management System (LMS), and host to the eCampus site. Blackboard has been used by Dallas College for two decades.

The new host to eCampus will be Brightspace. Brightspace is an LMS site powered by D2L, an online learning platform company based in Canada that has partnered with Dallas College for the transition.

The change will be a gradual one. Faculty began mandatory training last year in order to familiarize themselves with the new system. The transition will fully come into effect by the fall semester of 2023.

“The primary reason behind the change was ensuring that our learners, our students, had a more robust and intuitive system,” Pamela Luckett, chief engagement officer at Brookhaven Campus, said. “With the advent of the pandemic, and everybody really being forced to utilize [Blackboard], we really began to see some deficiencies.”

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, with more Dallas College students than ever taking online courses, various issues with Blackboard have been reported, such as lag time, hard to navigate systems and a non-mobile friendly user interface. According to Luckett, the college seeks to address these issues with the transition to Brightspace. “We really wanted something that was much more student centric. So we put together a team,” Luckett said.

The team consists of a joint group of staff and faculty representing Academic Affairs, Operations, Student Services and Workforce Development. “I wanted to make sure we had a holistic team,” Luckett said. “This has been a joint effort.”

The transition is also being led by Terry Di Paolo, vice provost of e-Learning, a part of the Academic Affairs division. Di Paolo oversees online learning and works to deliver a better learning system for students and faculty. Operations and Academic Affairs have been the main force behind the effort, with subdivisions of both focusing on more specific aspects of the transition.

Di Paolo said the process involves people and organizations from across the Dallas College system, including Faculty Council leaders, the Online Learning User Group, which is made up of faculty and administrators, the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning – a part of Academic Services – and the LMS Admin Team, which covers the technological aspect of the transition. Additionally, a core team of 15 faculty members and administrators have been handling academic implementation.

It’s not just about classes; it’s about the online experience we provide our students and community.

— Terry Di Paolo, Vice Provost of e-Learning

“Historically, eCampus has been a tool managed by technology in cooperation with academics,” Di Paolo said. “That all changed with the pandemic.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, more employees were forced to use eCampus in order to provide their services virtually. Major deficiencies in Blackboard were identified at this time.

Brightspace will include new methods of submitting assignments, including audio and video recording. In addition, Brightspace will introduce a slew of improved accessibility features, such as closed captioning and all video content and specific language settings. “We have to look at tools to make sure that it is going to be a suitable system for all of our students,” Luckett said.

Luckett said the team behind the transition is also dedicated to easing students into the new system. Students will be able to access a training module for Brightspace in April, planned to be available as soon as a student logs on to the program for the first time. According to Luckett, this preemptive measure will hopefully prevent too much confusion before the semester begins.

Instructors will also be affected by the change, with many new organization options for their courses, including more dashboards and analytics, and an automatic message sending system for students who have not turned in assignments. The goal, Luckett said, is ultimately a more streamlined system in which students may easily locate all the resources they need. “The general response from staff has been very positive,” Luckett said.

The transition to Brightspace is the next step in a wider streamlining effort by Dallas College, with overhauls to the Learning Commons, Student Services and employee accounts also taking place. “It’s a step in the right direction,” Luckett said. “The tool is intuitive. The tool is user friendly. And I think it charts a pathway for the students.”

Di Paolo held similar sentiments about the switch. “The transition to Brightspace signals a new way of thinking about our eCampus system,” Di Paolo said. “It’s not just about classes; it’s about the online experience we provide our students and community.”