UVM to start trial period with new learning management system next semester


Kodi Brown

An SGA senator following a demonstration of the new learning management system Brightspace, during SGA’s weekly meeting in the Livak Ballroom Sept. 20. Brightspace will be partially implemented in spring 2023, with a full implementation in the fall of next year.

UVM will begin to transition to the learning management system Brightspace in the spring 2023 semester, said Wendy Verrei-Berenback, assistant director at the Center for Teaching and Learning and co-leader of the Brightspace implementation team, in a Sept. 20 SGA meeting.

The spring 2023 semester will offer 20 to 30 courses through Brightspace instead of Blackboard, Verrei-Berenback said. These pilot courses will be representative samples from all of the colleges. 

“Look forward to it,” Verrei-Berenback said. “Look forward to a cleaner, more intuitive interface, and if you end up participating in a pilot, we are really interested in your feedback.” 

Blackboard failed to renew its contract with UVM in the fall of 2021, according to an Oct. 26, 2021 Cynic article. Brightspace was chosen as its successor on account of its user interface features, its technical infrastructure and its ability to integrate with other systems, such as Microsoft Teams, according to a blog post by UVM.

The goal of the pilot courses in the spring 2023 semester is to assess Brightspace’s performance in real classes. Students will be notified of which learning management system will be used in the spring in each course’s description in the course catalog, Verrei-Berenback said.

The switch to Brightspace will likely be accompanied by a learning curve for users, Verrei-Berenback said. It will be fully implemented by the start of the fall 2023 semester.

“I don’t want to sugarcoat this,” Verrei-Berenback said. “It’s going to be a change more for faculty than students, because I think the student interface is very intuitive.”

The Brightspace interface contains tools that are easy to use and centered around supporting students, Verrei-Berenback said. 

Darrell Abney, learning management system transition specialist, led an interactive demonstration for SGA senators of some  Brightspace features during the SGA meeting. In the demo, Abney included a calendar that displays when assignments are due and a feature allowing the user to upload video notes—live videos with captions—to discussion forums. 

The simplistic design of Brightspace is a key feature that will make organization easier for students, said senior Maddie Henson, SGA President and member of the Brightspace implementation team.

“I think it obviously needs a little bit of tweaking, but I think it could be a lot better than Blackboard,” she said. “It looks a lot more organized [and] cleaner. I appreciate some of the features, like the calendar feature, which is a little bit different than the Blackboard one. I think that’ll make assignments more efficient.”

There are ongoing conversations between SGA and the Brightspace implementation team about near-future opportunities for students to take part in a live demonstration, Henson said.   

Sophomore Ayden Carpenter, an SGA senator, said he likes that Brightspace is being workshopped long before implementation.

“I think having more people play around with it and break it is always what you want, and that’s what they’re doing with the classes,” Carpenter said. “The presentation we had was a very lightly-filled classroom and I think having actual students go through it for a semester […] will be more impactful than just having someone play around with it and try to poke holes.”

More information about UVM’s transition to Brightspace can be found on UVM’s Brightspace webpage.