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Brightspace Excellence Awards highlight innovation in online learning

Innovative educators and educational programs are recognized for taking this online learning to new heights

This year’s Brightspace Excellence Awards, announced at FUSION 2016 by global learning technology provider D2L, recognized the promise of online learning and its ability to connect more and more people to high-quality educational programs.

Faculty dedicated to helping students learn online created robust online environments and high-quality tools to help students succeed in their online learning endeavors.

This year’s crop of winners demonstrated progress and innovation in student and teacher engagement, student retention, and teaching and learning efficiencies that resulted in cost savings.

“This year’s Brightspace Excellence Award winners stand out for their ability to creatively use technology to address some of the most critical challenges facing education today,” said John Baker, President and CEO, D2L. “Students require affordable tuition costs, an engaging learning experience and the most advanced tools to garner the benefits of their education experience. Our award winners have made progress in each of these areas and we couldn’t be more pleased with how they have harnessed and unleashed the power of Brightspace.”

2016 Brightspace Awards for Excellence Winners

The Awards for Excellence celebrate inspiration and innovation in the delivery of a teaching and learning experience that is both unique and collaborative.

University of Akron: Jodi Henderson-Ross, Faculty Designer; Teresa Potter, Senior Instructional Designer

University of Colorado Boulder: Courtney Fell, Instructional Technologist/Designer; Doris Cheung, Learning Experience Designer, Academic Technology Design Team, Office of Information Technology; Aisha Jackson, IT Program Manager, Teaching and Learning Applications, Office of Information Technology; Rebecca Kallemeyn, IT Program Manager, New Student and Family Programs

Gwinnett County Public Schools: Alvin Wilbanks, CEO/Superintendent, Dr. Robert McClure, Chairman of Gwinnett County Board of Education

The University of Akron launched the GenEd Core Pilot Program in Fall 2015 to help increase access to higher education. The program used Brightspace to deliver blended learning courses designed with experiential learning elements that allowed them to be offered with significant cost savings. The Brightspace platform enabled students to personally craft their experiences to adapt to their learning needs, while quizzes and other formative assessments made sure students were on track for success. The design of a “master course” using Brightspace to coordinate and streamline student assessment across multiple sections and faculty members, resulted in new efficiencies that further contributed to cost savings.

To help address its strategic goals of increasing student retention and improving the graduation rate, the University of Colorado Boulder re-envisioned the on-campus student orientation as the online New Student Welcome Experience. Using Brightspace, the team created a robust online environment to accommodate the school’s largest incoming class of 6,208 students. The personalized and streamlined experience enables students to utilize checklists, content, quizzes and widgets through Brightspace to customize their orientation program. To increase motivation and completion rates of optional material, a reward system lets students unlock coupons and drawing entries for campus experiences as they complete modules and pass quizzes.

Gwinnett County Public Schools launched Brightspace in the 2014-15 school year to transform the instruction of its more than 172,000 students through the use of blended learning both in and out of the classroom. To ensure successful adoption of Brightspace across its 132 schools, the district partnered with D2L to develop and implement strategies to increase teacher capacity and adoption of effective practices, providing peer coaching, models of instruction, and effective tools to enhance instructional practices. The success of these efforts are evident: in January 2016, weekly engagement of Brightspace rose to 80-85 percent of teachers and 75-80 percent of students, a significant increase over 2015. Teachers, students and parents report that they see great advantage to digital learning.

Brightspace Excellence Integrations and Extensibility Award Winner

The Excellence in Integrations and Extensibility Award recognizes those who have used Brightspace Valence, the extensibility technology that includes all APIs, client libraries and integration tools, to create a solution that has made an impact on productivity and demonstrates the power of bringing learning technologies together.

Smith School of Business at Queen’s University: Troy St. John, Associate Director,IT – Learning Technology and Application Development; Shane Mitchell, Web/Application Developer; Travis Smith, Web/Application Developer; Kimberly Sullivan, Web/Application Developer; Alex Arthurs, Web/Application Developer

The Application Development Team at the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University used the D2L Valence API to create a suite of tools and applications that work with the Brightspace platform. Tools including a bulk photo upload, auto assignment cover page creator and customized name card printer eased administrative tasks for staff and students, increased efficiencies and saved significant time and labor. Peer Review and Team Review tools enabled students to easily complete and evaluate both self-assessments and team assessments, inspiring teamwork and learning integration. Overall, the tools increased engagement of Brightspace among students and faculty and helped faculty keep their focus on teaching and creating unique learning experiences.

Brightspace Excellence Accessibility Award Winner

The Excellence Award for Accessibility honors those who have demonstrated a superior effort to make online learning accessible to all students, enabling them to reach their full academic potential.

Rochester Institute of Technology: Sandra Connelly, Instructor

In recent years, the General Biology course at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) has experienced increased numbers of academically supported students and students with severe academic challenges. To address these learning needs, a fully online general education biology course was implemented through Brightspace to heighten student engagement, improve student time-on-task ratios, and decrease the time burden on instructors. The instructor embedded approximately 200 video shorts to include captioning, sign language interpretation and other contextual learning options for students. Since moving the course to fully online, students are spending on average 60 percent more time engaged in the materials, and as a result the average class grades have shown a consistent increase of more than 10 percent.

D2L currently serves learners in 50 countries, and the company’s track record of innovation has been widely recognized. In March, Fast Company Ranked D2L #6 on the Most Innovative Companies of 2016 list in the Data Science Category, amongst Google, IBM, Spotify, Costco, and Blue Cross Blue Shield. eLearning Magazine recently rated D2L as #1 in Adaptive Learning, and Brightspace was recently named the #1 LMS in Higher Ed by Ovum Research.


Laura Ascione

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