USC switching to D2L

The University will transition from Blackboard in Summer 2024.


Starting Summer 2024, USC will stop using Blackboard to house course content and switch over to a new learning management system called Brightspace. 

Blackboard plans to discontinue its current product by December 2023 in favor of the new Blackboard Learn Ultra, prompting the University’s switch away, said Sandeep Gupta, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and the co-chair of the LMS Assessment Committee. The committee is part of the LMS Replacement Initiative USC kickstarted in 2021 to find the ideal replacement. 

“[Blackboard] was going to be completely redesigned as a new product under the same company,”  Gupta said. “We felt that we then had to, essentially, compare [Blackboard’s] completely redesigned products with other products [to] provide the best one for our students.”

The LMS Assessment Committee was tasked with sampling various products and testing them based on user design, accessibility standards and customer support offerings. Three vendors presented their LMS: Blackboard for Blackboard Learn Ultra, Instructure for Canvas and D2L for Brightspace.

The LMS Assessment Committee comprises 49 USC community members, including faculty, students, deans, technologists, instructional designers and University administrators. The committee is only one of several groups working to ensure a smooth transition away from Blackboard, including the LMS Program Leadership, the Core Strategy Team, LMS Champions and several advisory councils.   

As part of the evaluation process, each company demonstrated their product. Representatives were asked to create an example classroom and perform a wide variety of tasks using their LMS, ranging from creating and posting an assignment to checking one’s grades. The committee then tested the products themselves and scored each task, as well as placed tasks into larger categories and awarded them points. Brightspace ranked number one in communication, customer support, course creation, exams, grading and accessibility. 

The LMS Replacement Initiative also held office hours, where faculty and students tested out vendors’ systems and asked questions about them.

Gupta said that while the full implementation will occur next summer, the University will run pilot programs in the spring, with some classes using Brightspace in lieu of Blackboard.

“The time to find out that something is wrong and needs to be fixed is not when it’s actually being used,” Gupta said. “It’s before.”

Allison Warren, a sophomore majoring in computational neuroscience, said she believes the change is a positive thing. She is already using Brightspace for her “Introduction to Data Science” class, and said the alternate platform has a more organized user interface and design than Blackboard. 

“Honestly, I was never really a big fan of Blackboard, just because I didn’t like the way the website was structured,” Warren said. “I didn’t like how it was so hard to find random stuff, so I don’t think I’ll miss it that much.”

Some worry about the learning curve of switching to a new platform. Ana Regina Murguia, a junior majoring in business administration, said she’s weary of having to learn to navigate a whole new system. 

“It’s kinda nerve-wracking,” Murguia said. “Every time you get something new, it’s a little difficult to learn at first.” 

Many students have never heard of Brightspace before and wonder why something more familiar, like Canvas, was not chosen. Victor Ye, a junior majoring in communication, said he enjoys using Blackboard but is still excited to see what “extra advancements in technology” Brightspace has to offer. 

“Blackboard is pretty self-explanatory and easy to use,” Ye said. “There’s an interface that showcases all the basic information that I need about my classes and the content.” 

The Center for Excellence in Teaching will continue providing support to teachers during and after the transition period, and the Committee on Information Services will continue listening to and addressing any concerns about the new LMS. 

The LMS Champions will test Brightspace further in the meantime and will conduct a usability study, Gupta said. 

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