By Amanda Darling – Instructional Designer
Brightspace excels with self-guided online courses, but it can also be used to support in-person learning. This article explores how Brightspace can enhance a traditional classroom experience.
As an in-person college instructor for years before becoming an instructional designer at D2L, I’m a strong believer in the value of supplementing in-person courses with online content and tools.
Firstly, posting additional content online makes it easier for learners to catch up independently if they miss a session as well as reducing the time and effort for the instructor to help learners catch up on missed work. When I taught, I posted the entire course online, apart for quizzes, in the first week. Many of my learners expressed appreciation for this as it helped them plan their semester. I did not experience any drop in attendance as a result of doing this. Naturally, some courses aren’t suited to having all material released at the beginning. Some alternative suggestions are to keep each conclusion page hidden until after the corresponding session, or to post each session two weeks in advance. Material can be released either manually or with release conditions tied to dates.
Secondly, Brightspace’s Calendar is a great tool. I posted our lecture time and location, my office hours, test dates and due dates for all assignments. For neurodiverse learners or those with accessibility requirements, having suggestions not just when assignments are due but also when learners should begin writing an assignment or preparing for an assessment are helpful. Breaking big tasks into chunks using the Calendar can also help learners excel; for example:
- March 10: begin research
- March 15: begin essay outline
- March 20: draft essay
- March 25: edit essay
- March 28: submit essay in dropbox by 11:59pm
Brightspace quizzes can also be auto graded, which can be a time-saver for busy instructors. With question order and answer option order randomized, it becomes much harder to cheat on these assessments. Third-party tools like Turnitin and Respondus lockdown browser integrate with Brightspace as well.
Thirdly, Brightspace can help discussion-heavy courses be more accessible. Learners whose first language is English, who think quickly in the moment, and/or who are extroverted do well in face-to-face discussions. However, other learners have just as much to contribute in their own way. By including a Brightspace Discussion forum and encouraging learners to continue a discussion started in class, all learners will have the opportunity to participate and share their thoughts. This also promotes a culture of “learning outside the classroom”. Instructors can further foster this concept by implementing Activity Feed, an optional widget on the homepage, in their course. Activity Feed allows learners and the instructor to post content for all to see, so articles, memes, videos, or other content related to the course could be shared.
Fourthly, Brightspace allows instructors to discreetly help those who need more support. Remedial content can be shared with specific learners using release conditions. If the content of a course is sensitive, or if an instructor has a question that learners might prefer to answer privately, Brightspace surveys provide the opportunity for instructors to get learner feedback or to diagnose their knowledge on a subject in real time.
Lastly, Brightspace can help with keeping track of learners’ classroom presence. Attendance for in-person classes can be taken with the Attendance tool. Brightspace facilitates creative ways to take attendance if it is graded; for example, if attendance is graded and all learners bring a device to class, an instructor can post a “word of the day” during the session and have a quiz for learners to answer immediately, proving their attendance. This could be tied to the grade book to automate the participation grade.
In terms of what content could be posted online and in what format, there are many options. For example, a module created for every week could contain the following content:
- introduction page with agenda and suggested pre-readings
- content page or pages with class notes, links to articles, videos, and other resources
- diagnostic or formative assessments and/or instructions for summative assessments
- conclusion page with key takeaways, additional resources, and discussion board
Modules could alternatively be grouped either thematically or by larger units.
While this may seem like a lot of work up-front, the benefits of integrating Brightspace tools into an in-person classroom experience are many. Instructors have the option of copying courses as well, so content created for one session can easily be reused many times.