Aug. 28 blackboard and D2L comparison graphic

The days of staring at software that Purdue adopted in 2012 will be over as the university transitions from using Blackboard Learn to the company Desire2Learn’s product, Brightspace.

Alan Friedman, University Senate representative to the learning management selection committee, said there is "a necessary effort to find a replacement for our current aging LMS," in a University Senate meeting in April 2019.

The version of Blackboard Learn Purdue uses is an outdated technology, according to Andrew Hirsch, physics professor and head of the West Lafayette academic LMS committee.

"Here's the problem: the company that runs Blackboard is no longer going to support the version of Blackboard that we have," Hirsch said.

The new technology will have better ways of communication through email and text, a modern interface, more collaborative tools and mobile compatibility, according to Jenna Rickus, associate vice provost for teaching and learning.

Roll-out is planned for fall 2020, so this change will have no impact on the current academic year.

Jay Akridge, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, and Gerry McCartney, diversity and executive vice president for Purdue Online, requested a comprehensive review of the University’s needs for a replacement in spring 2018. This involved a structured process comprised of listening sessions, surveys and vendor presentations.

Hirsch's committee evaluated Canvas, D2L’s Brightspace and Blackboard Ultra, Blackboard’s new product. According to Hirsch, the team spent hundreds of hours on fieldwork and deliberation.

“I think we arrived at the conclusion that Blackboard Ultra was not ready for prime time and (both) of the other two had clear advantages over the present,” Hirsch said. “Neither D2L nor Canvas was a slam dunk ... they each did one thing better than the other.”

But at a higher vantage point, Brightspace emerged as the best contender, according to Rickus, who is also the executive steering committee head of the LMS review process.

“Brightspace came back really standing out across all areas: academic, technical ... and cost,” Rickus said. “So across all three areas, (it) stood out and became really the clear winner.”

Representatives from West Lafayette, branch campuses and Purdue Global created an academic report which informed Akridge and McCartney’s decision made over this past summer. The information was considered in tandem with technology and financial input.

The switch will lead to an estimated $2.3 million in savings for the University in the next five years, according to Purdue News.

“The cost savings here are realized through a lower-priced contract with Brightspace for all campuses, compared to the three contracts — two with Blackboard and one with Brightspace — we are currently operating under,” Akridge said in an email.

Rickus said that Purdue Global’s use of Brightspace did not sway the decision.

“(Purdue Global) shared its information, but tried not to be over-influential,” Rickus said. “We were really happy there was really nice consensus across all of the campuses because we allowed for the possibility that different campuses might have very different needs.”

Faculty may have opportunities to pilot courses as early as spring 2020, and demos for students are planned. Rickus and her team are currently working on an implementation plan which will be announced in the coming months.

Rickus believes the change should be embraced.

“Sometimes when you get a new system that has some new features and capabilities, it’s an opportunity for some continuous improvement,” Rickus said. “Maybe it’ll help me study or organize studying a little bit differently or for an instructor, an opportunity to introduce some new ways to communicate with my students or some new ways to deliver material and assignments.

“We’re not approaching it just as a simple software change. We’re really approaching it (as) an opportunity to even improve the way we’re teaching and the way we’re learning and the way we’re studying.”

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