By Jaleel Moody | October 24, 2022
Photo Credit: Blackboard
If you’ve ever felt frustrated trying to navigate Blackboard or swore you could burn down your computer because you couldn’t find where to submit your assignment five minutes before it was due, you’re in luck. Come next fall, Blackboard will no longer be the Learning Management System (LMS) for UAlbany; it’s being replaced by the newest LMS on the block, Brightspace.
Brightspace has been gaining increasing popularity, replacing Blackboard in multiple universities across the country. Starting in summer 2023, it will be used across SUNY schools.
“The Blackboard application we currently use is being retired by the vendor as of December 2023, so the University needed a new solution,” Director of Communications Jordan Carleo-Evangelist said.
The retirement of the application is due to the merger of Blackboard with the company Anthology, resulting in a shutdown of Blackboard servers. This was the main decision for the switch, not complaints on the software. Despite this, many students and faculty have had long standing complaints about the program.
“I personally hated Blackboard,” political science professor Phil Nicholas said. “It wasn’t one specific thing, just the interface wasn’t user friendly. I know some of my fellow teachers figured it out, but it shouldn’t be this complicated in the first place.”
“There’s been times when I would spend five minutes just trying to find an assignment on Blackboard only for the readings to be on another section,” UAlbany junior Jake Kroop said. “The issue might be with the teachers, but in that case, the system should be made easier for them to use.”
Although Information Technology Services (ITS) said complaints haven’t influenced the decision-making process, the department did take student and faculty input into account. Over 1,200 students and faculty were surveyed on which features they most enjoyed on Blackboard ensuring that no beloved features such as discussion boards and direct posting of grades, were lost during the transition.
Brightspace will have all the same capabilities as Blackboard, including an updated user interface which was one of the biggest draws the university found in their surveys.
In addition to a more modern look, Brightspace will be on the cloud instead of hosted on UAlbany servers. This will increase the program’s security and ease of management.
Along with numerous surveys, the university ran focus groups with over 150 faculty members participating. The third group is focusing on training and support needs for adopters of Brightspace.
Between 20 and 30 professors and over 100 students are expected to take part in pilot programs next semester. The faculty team heading the transition are also seeking input from anyone with prior experience with Brightspace.
Despite the level of student engagement, some students are apathetic about the transition.
“A lot of my classes don’t even use Blackboard, so I doubt I’ll notice a real difference,” UAlbany sophomore Jasmine Aliyu said.
This was the most common response, with most students saying that if Brightspace is functional and non-complicated, it will suffice. However, the issue of how easy it will be for new staff to pick up the software was a larger concern for some teachers.
Journalism professor Changsup Park said he is concerned that the university might not put in the necessary resources to make sure that faculty and students are familiar with the software by the time of Brightspace’s debut.
The switch comes at a cost. Brightspace costs $126,000 annually, $19,000 more than the $106,000 they were spending on Blackboard. Carleo-Evangelist said that the additional cost is in the implemented end-user support, which is supposedly more inclusive and robust then what was offered with Blackboard.
The basic cost, according to Carleo-Evangelist, is less than what was being spent on Blackboard, and that these additions would have been unavoidable due to the Blackboard application retiring.
UAlbany is interested in making sure all students and faculty are fully prepared for this transition in providing links for the Brightspace Migration FAQ.