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Goodbye, Moodle, Hello Brightspace!

By Arlenis Marmolejos


SUNY Purchase will be switching from Moodle to Brightspace, an academic platform by Desire2Learn. The decision was made by the SUNY administration (Photo via Portland Community College)


Purchase is required to switch its current learning management system from Moodle to Brightspace starting this fall, a move that will cost the college an additional $50,000.


The State University of New York (SUNY) administration decided to unify all 64 of its campuses by migrating their existing academic platforms to Desire2Learn (D2L) Brightspace, as the new digital learning environment.


“We don’t have a choice,” said Aviva Taubenfeld, the director of the School of Humanities and an associate professor of literature and writing. “SUNY is requiring this of us. We’re going to make the best of it. We will find a way to optimize it!”


While being part of a large SUNY-wide initiative mandates participation, Gregory Taylor, the associate provost for academic affairs, shared how input from representatives of many campuses was considered upon selection.


The President of the SUNY University Faculty Senate (UFS) and Director of the campus Teaching, Learning, and Technology Center (TLTC), Keith Landa, described this migration as one of the campus’ “biggest culture shifts.”


As Brightspace aims to “best facilitate transfers while collaborating within a single unified Learning Management System (LMS), we have costs going forward that we haven’t had in the past,” said Landa.


Since Moodle’s launch in 2008, it has operated as an open-source software that required no licensing cost for Purchase. However, there is “no company to call when something doesn’t work right,” said Bill Junor, the director of Campus Technology Services.


Junor explained how running SUNY’s new platform will necessitate participation costs of $18,000 for tier-1 support calls, work orders, or live chats to the SUNY Online Help Desk along with the Brightspace license cost of roughly $22,000 and an added $10,000 for mandatory SUNY online application fees. The “modernity and quality of Brightspace is a big improvement over Moodle,” but an estimated annual total of Brightspace is $50,000 versus the $0 for Moodle.


“Whether it’s Moodle or Brightspace, both are important tools for instruction therefore, we need to budget appropriately for them,” said Landa.


As a member of the SUNY Board of Trustees, Landa addressed governance concerns in noting that faculty will own their intellectual property. “Posting materials into a learning management system does not mean SUNY will poach your materials,” Landa said.


Marie Sciangula, the campus lead for the migration and the assistant director of the TLTC, and Kim Detterbeck, the academic lead and coordinator of library instruction, have combined efforts in the implementation and preparation for the transition.


All instructors have been enrolled in the SUNY DLE Brightspace Fundamentals Asynchronous Modules training course at SUNY’s tenant of Brightspace in order to explore and “work at their own pace to learn basic design principles to get acquainted” with the system, said Sciangula and Detterbeck in a joint email.


They continued by providing guidance for faculty in considering their migration options with moving course materials from Moodle to Brightspace.


“A change of this caliber will be a learning experience for all of us, but it is also an opportunity for faculty to revisit course design and course content to ensure that all course materials are accessible,” Sciangula and Detterbeck wrote.


Despite students not being as informed of the migration as faculty, the project migration team sent out a campus-wide email last week providing students with Brightspace Resources and SUNY training Video Tutorials about how to Navigate Brightspace as a Learner. Until then, students will have access to their Fall 2023 courses on Brightspace in late August.


“This transition away from Moodle has involved, and will continue to involve, a tremendous amount of tireless work from Purchase faculty and staff,” said Taylor. “I’m hopeful that Brightspace will prove to be a popular and highly useful LMS for students and faculty alike.”

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