Brightspace is the new and improved way that students interact with their professors. Graphic from D2L.com

Following its introduction to the University of Rhode Island in February 2020, Brightspace, the new learning management system (LMS), has now overtaken Sakai as the main platform for students to access their classwork.

Its previous presence in only 65 URI courses has been gradually increasing since last semester and now Brightspace is being used in every course. 

The transition among students and staff has been mixed, with most students missing the familiarity of Sakai, a platform many upperclassmen have become accustomed to. 

Michelle Rogers-Estable has been directly leading the switch since she joined the URI community as Director of IT Teaching & Learning Services (TLS). She and her team have been working to provide students with “personalized learning opportunities,” which includes the smooth transition to Brightspace. 

“In ITS we have been working heavily on providing the support, training and guidance they all need to feel more comfortable and confident about teaching and learning at distance in the 2020-21 academic year,” she said. 

According to Rogers-Estable, the switch to Brightspace from Sakai was done after a re-evaluation process that occurs every 4 to 5 years. Ultimately, it was decided by a committee of faculty and staff that Brightspace was a better fit for URI’s LMS needs.

Prior preparations for the switch over to Brightspace included extensive meetings, evaluations and consultations with a design committee, according to Dr. Rogers-Estable. However, meetings on improvements to the learning platform are ongoing. 

Junior Leila Cox is slowly discovering her likes and dislikes between Sakai and Brightspace. 

“The main thing I like about Brightspace is that it’s synced with the Pulse app,” she said. “I’m able to get notifications when my teachers update my grades, put in an assignment or send a message.” 

According to the Pulse App’s homepage on the Apple store, “Brightspace Pulse is a mobile app for students that can help you stay connected and on track with your Brightspace courses.”

Overall, Cox thinks Brightspace may be a “little bit more organized” than Sakai. However, switching over to a new system has some negative effects as well. 

According to Cox, the most frustrating part is that it has become an entirely new stressor during a school year in which there are already many changes.

“I’ve just been so used to using Sakai that it kind of sucks right now,” she said. “I have to navigate an entirely new platform.” 

Communicating with professors has also been a challenge for Cox in these first few days of using Brightspace, particularly when it comes to messaging them using the new functions.

“I think it will just take practice and time,” she said. 

 For other students, like sophomore Mackenzie Carson, the transition has actually been a bit easier. 

“Originally I was really upset when I heard that we had a move to Brightspace because I thought I was going to have a really challenging time figuring out the website and really how to use it,” Carson said. “I think it actually offers us more than Sakai did. When you really look at Brightspace in comparison to Sakai, Brightspace is really more organized and I feel as if we can interact with our classmates more.”

 She emphasized the less-modern style set up of Sakai highlighted its simplicity in comparison to Brightspace. 

One of Carson’s professors took the liberty of providing her with a five minute video on how to navigate all the ‘ins and outs’ of Brightspace. After watching it, she realized Brightspace is better than Sakai in the long run. 

When considering a possible switch to a different LMS in the future, Rogers-Estable said new age innovations in technology would allow some vast progress in tools we frequently use. 

“It is possible that in the future a new and exciting LMS with more advanced features will make its debut,” she said. “At that time, with URI being the innovative and cutting edge institution that is, we would of course look into it.