Bye Bye Blackboard: NP Switches to Brightspace

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SUNY New Paltz plans to step away from Blackboard, the Digital Learning Environment (DLE) that the school has been using for many years, to use a new system called D2L Brightspace. SUNY New Paltz was selected to join Cohort 1 for the migration to Brightspace. 

An email sent out to members of the campus stated that the movement has already begun and will continue through 2022. The implementation of the program is spearheaded by the Office of Instructional Technology (OIT).

The email also provided additional information about what being in the first Cohort meant for students and faculty.

“Each cohort will move through a multi-month process that involves academic and technical planning, training, testing, and piloting before all of its courses/activities are live in the production environment,” the website reads. “The shared schedule, pictured below with the main categories highlighted, is marked as ‘sample’ because it is understood that some campuses may move at a slightly different pace; this is why the estimated time for completion of each cohort is a range between 11 and 13 months.”

“Timeline activities range from initial discovery and broad training, to focused discovery sessions and configurations, access to the production environment for campus administrators, and sample course conversions. This initial work will be followed by broader course migration and access to the production site. For Cohort 1 campuses, a soft launch is envisioned for this summer.”

The goal of this movement is to have all 64 SUNY campuses on the same program so they all can operate a common learning management system (LMS); have common templates; have a central architecture with shared data structures; have a common integration for data; and to have a shared set of online tools integrated with the LMS, since there is currently redundancy across the system.

Essentially, SUNY is not moving all schools from BlackBoard, but it is trying to get all its programs to D2L Brightspace.

According to the SUNY website, these changes “allow SUNY to take advantage of economies of scale, better share best practices and resources across campuses and between SUNY System Administration resources and campuses, assure strong technical support, and provide a familiar platform for students, faculty and staff moving across campuses.”

SUNY’s System-wide contract with D2L Brightspace was approved by the New York State Office of the Attorney General on Aug. 8, 2021. It received final approval by the New York State Office of the Comptroller on Sept. 24, 2021. 

The change was first announced on the SUNY New Paltz website on Oct. 26, 2021. The goal is for the program to be in place for all schools in Cohort 1 by December 2022.

The plan is for each cohort to move through three phases to integrate the program into use. Phase one is planning IT/academic preparation: During this time, SUNY plans to organize the project scope, timelines, roles, and responsibilities. SUNY will provide “Train the Trainer” workshops for “campus Instructional Designers and identified campus faculty leads/pilot faculty that will cover instructor tools, migration strategies and administration.”

Phase two is the training and piloting of the program. In addition to resources provided by D2L Brightspace, SUNY will provide asynchronous training modules to each campus. Further, SUNY said: “Early adopter faculty will be the first to fully transition their courses to Brightspace and deliver their courses during this period. During this time, feedback will be collected, and any updates or changes will be made to the environment. Additional planning and preparation for the full production cutover (Phase three) will continue during the pilot period.”

Phase three is Production Cutover or “Go Live.” SUNY says “the full transition begins when everyone has the tools and knowledge they need to succeed. SUNY System and D2L will be with your campus throughout, answering questions and troubleshooting any issues that arise.”

The first presentation of D2L Brightspace to faculty users occurred on Oct. 28, 2021. The first presentation was given to 802 registrants from 57 campuses. These registrants included 268 faculty, 187 campus administrators, 148 instructional designers/instructional technology, professional staff in IT, 147 student service members, 29 learning leaders and 23 librarians. Another virtual meeting was held on Nov. 5, 2021 to 500 registrants.

These presentations included a tour of the program including in depth details on aspects such as grading, assessment creation, features for faculty and students to track progress and many more.

A January 2022 bulletin from SUNY stated some positive remarks about the new program, including messages like: “That is super awesome, our accessibility people are going to be really happy,” “great presentation – Looking forward to Brightspace,” and “I love that I can get captions in French or Spanish as needed!”

Students should expect to see changes to their DLE as early as fall 2022.

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About Kyra Russo 40 Articles
Kyra Russo (she/her) is a third-year journalism major from East Greenbush, New York. She spent two and a half semesters as a Copy Editor and is now the Managing Editor. Besides the newspaper, she is on the women’s soccer team at SUNY New Paltz and participates in the Rising Hawks leadership program. You can reach her by emailing russok5@newpaltz.edu.