In 2016, the University of Huddersfield decided to review their current VLE provider, after they discovered alternative VLE solutions that would potentially meet their needs better. They wanted to move away from something that felt like a content repository, to an active online learning environment where staff and students could engage with content more easily, and they decided to go out to tender.
Given the cost and time factor of implementing a new VLE at the university, they considered longevity as a key requirement, as they wanted to have the new VLE provider in place for at least the next 10–15 years. “We were looking for a company that we could work in partnership with, someone who would help to drive the project forward and listen to what we had to say and not just accept that what they thought was best – we wanted to build a two-way relationship instead,” said Dr Sue Folley, academic development advisor.
In addition they also considered functionality and usability, as they wanted a system that would be easy for both staff and students to use, and mobile responsiveness was also of vital importance. As Dr Daniel Belton, university teaching fellow, explained: “Lots of students use their mobile phones as part of their learning experience. The feedback on our previous VLE was that it was not easy to access on mobiles or tablets, and so it was really important for us to ensure that our new provider would be easy to access in this way.”
The tender process
Three VLE providers took part in the universiy’s tender process, and staff conducted a series of usability tests for academic staff and students in order to establish how easy each platform was to use. They also used a scoring system to check against their 2,000 requirements, and as a result D2L’s Brightspace system came out on top for functionality and in all but one usability test.
Small scale implementation
The university started working with D2L in August 2017, and they launched a small-scale implementation for four courses. As part of this, they wanted to test functionality and usability, and also make any changes in advance of rolling it out across the whole university.
Bringing Brightspace to life
The full roll-out of the Brightspace platform took place in September 2018, and Daniel Belton was really impressed with the responsiveness and support that D2L has provided. He said: “We’ve had lots of support from the Brightspace team, and it’s been good to have their expertise on hand.”
As part of the Brightspace platform roll-out, the university was keen to ensure that staff used the VLE more effectively. Furthermore, as their 1,000 academic staff will also use it in different ways, they also wanted to ensure that their usage was pedagogy-led, and they decided to invite academics to apply to take part in three retreats organised by the university and supported by the D2L customer success manager.
The University of Huddersfield has not done any formal evaluation of the implementation of Brightspace by D2L as yet, but Sue Folley and Daniel Belton both agree that the initial response from staff seems to be largely positive.
What’s next for the University of Huddersfield and the Brightspace platform? Daniel Belton is keen to run more retreats for staff as they have been so well received, and Sue Folley wants to encourage people to move past using just the basic content, and explore what else the Brightspace platform offers. In addition, the university is also in contact with other universities who are starting to use the Brightspace platform in order to share their experience and knowledge.
Learn more about how Brightspace can help your institute here: D2L.com