The fall 2021 semester begins today, Sep. 2, but unlike previous years, most students will not log on to NYU Classes to download their syllabi and view their assignments. Instead, they will use Brightspace, which the university has adopted as its primary learning management system. The majority of classes have been relocated on the platform already, and NYU expects to complete a full transition by December 2021.
Brightspace is a cloud learning platform where faculty and students can manage course materials, collaborate with classmates, take tests and track their course standings.
NYU’s Information Technology department said that the university moved to Brightspace for several reasons — most notably its accessibility in comparison to NYU Classes. Based on an open-source software called Sakai, NYU Classes has been the university’s learning platform for the past eight years.
“We periodically review all our software for investment or replacement, and in the 2019 review, Sakai had clearly fallen behind in features and ease of use compared to its competitors,” a representative for NYU IT told WSN. “Brightspace is cloud-based, rather than running on servers NYU manages ourselves. All NYU software is becoming cloud-based, and the Brightspace move is also part of that larger trend.”
According to the Faculty of Arts and Science Office of Educational Technology, Brightspace also allows faculty to make use of new features including audio and video feedback, journal assignments, rating and upvoting posts and easy re-use of materials from previous courses.
NYU IT initially planned to transition to Brightspace by January 2021. However, following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the department decided to extend the timeline as students and faculty adapted to online learning. The switch continued into the summer 2021 semester, with faculty members gradually shifting their classes onto the platform.
While most — if not all — classes in the fall will be on Brightspace, NYU Classes remains accessible until the end of 2021, albeit with limited active courses. NYU IT also plans to automatically migrate archived courses from 2019 through 2021 from NYU Classes onto Brightspace.
Erin Morrison, a clinical professor in Liberal Studies, volunteered to test Brightspace during the spring in her three class sections consisting of 75 total students. She said that the platform allows faculty to tailor a dashboard for each course, unlike the identical class format that NYU Classes offers.
“With instruction, it’s much more flexible in terms of how I want to make the site deliver material to my students,” Morrison said. “Every single class that you have will probably have a different layout when you get into the content menu — it’s much more personalized.”
One of Gallatin senior Hannah Young’s spring classes was also part of the pilot program. She said that the platform looks better and operates smoother than NYU Classes, and feels more intuitive to most students she’s spoken to.
“Brightspace looks more modern, and the speed [of changing between tabs] was better,” Young said. “With NYU Classes, I would get confused sometimes because a lot of the tabs are similar, while Brightspace is more marked out. And most [students] who are going to be at NYU for another year or two liked it.”
To prepare for the transition, NYU IT provided faculty and students with training about the platform’s tools and layout. Many professors, including Morrison, also plan to review how to use Brightspace during the first week of class.
“For students who have taken courses on NYU Classes, it’s going to be a little bit of a change,” Morrison said. “[But] it’ll be a better experience for both me and the students once we’ve gotten into it.”
Contact Rachel Cohen at [email protected]