Truman switches from Blackboard

Juniors Emma Whittenburg and Megan Perkins work in the library. Desire2Learn Brightspace will be implemented as Truman’s new Learning Management System. Photo by Emily Collins

Truman State University has begun the process of changing to a new Learning Management System. 

The current LMS, Blackboard, will be phased out, and a new platform, Desire2Learn Brightspace, will be used instead, said Chief Information Officer Donna Liss. 

Blackboard is phasing out its current version, so the system would need to be upgraded. Liss said this was the reason she thought it was a good time to review systems options since the University would have to be changing versions anyway.

“That was the main message that we conveyed to the campus,” Liss said. “We can’t keep doing what we’re doing because even the Blackboard version of the system that we looked at was going to change. It’s not the same as what we have now.”

Liss said it might have been somewhat easier to upgrade Blackboard instead of switching systems completely, but they wanted to choose the system that best met their current and future needs. 

Three vendors submitted competitive proposals to be the next LMS, Liss said. They were Blackboard Ultra, Instructure Canvas and Desire2Learn Brightspace. 

“When it came down to it, and we looked at everything in terms of function, the technical environment and pricing, then we believe that Desire2Learn provides the best overall solution for the campus going into the future,” Liss said.

Two pre-existing committees, the Blackboard committee and the Information Technology Advisory committee, were combined to create the committee that oversaw the LMS evaluation, said Janet Romine, dean of libraries and museums and committee member. Each committee has representation from each school and from the library, so faculty from all disciplines were involved in the process. 

Romine said the committee members were tasked with creating a rubric to evaluate the systems. The faculty were able to give suggestions for functionality standards. Liss said the process began in January or February 2022. 

“What we really focused on was functionality — does the functionality of each system do what it needs to do and [we] evaluate that,” Romine said. 

On the technical side, Liss said she wanted to make sure the University would have access to all of the data on demand when needed, and this was a consideration as well.

Budgeting was a factor, Liss said, but this was not the main driver for the final selection.

“All factors were looked at, but kind of budgeting was the least, I guess, the least of our concerns simply because the other things were more important,” Liss said.

All of the vendors would have been acceptable options according to the committee’s findings, Romine said. 

Romine said overall, being on the committee was a good experience and that she recognized it was a system that would be used widely across campus, so they should do their due diligence. 

Liss said they also did a campus-wide call where faculty and students could review demos for the systems and complete a survey, but they did not get many student responses from this process.

The Desire2Learn Brightspace platform has been around for a long time, Liss said. They are still working on an implementation plan that will work for everyone, and there will be training available, she said.

The implementation will likely take about a year, but there could be some small “pilot” classes on the platform next semester. It could be possible some classes would be on Blackboard and some would be on Desire2Learn, Liss said.

“It is possible, but we’re trying to minimize this,” Liss said.  “We know that’s difficult when everybody sort of thinks, ‘Oh students are adaptable, they can use whatever tool we give them’ but you know there’s a point at which too many tools becomes an overload issue.”

Liss said most faculty have been pretty open to making the change, but she was not sure students knew what the change in systems would look like or what Desire2Learn Brightspace was. 

“We know that not everyone’s going to be completely happy about making this change,” Liss said. “Somebody’s going to say ‘Why couldn’t we have just left it alone or picked a different system or some other alternative’ because everybody is going to have to change, and change can be disruptive. But in the end, we believe that this new system is going to provide many features and options that our faculty and students will really come to appreciate.”