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How did a new LMS drive pedagogical transformation at the University of Southern Denmark?

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Written by Leslie Ahern

Sara Kvist, Specialist Consultant in Educational Development and eLearning at the University of Southern Denmark, describes the implementation of itslearning and how it provided a chance to transform their pedagogical practices.

The University of Southern Denmark (SDU) is comprised of six campuses across Denmark and has over 40,000 platform users. After a year-long selection process – which included consultations with eLearning experts, educators and students; as well as a tender process – SDU signed a contract with itslearning in May 2020. Their goal in switching learning management systems was to ensure educational development and consistency. Sara emphasizes, “It was also important that our new LMS supported student-driven learning, because that’s an underlying principle of teaching and learning at SDU.”

itslearning was chosen especially for its user-friendliness, functionality and student-centric capabilities.”
Sara Kvist, Southern Denmark University

100% online implementation

Before Sara joined the Faculty of Engineering at SDU, she was a teacher for ten years. “The fact that we were going to change our LMS gave us a unique chance to transform our pedagogical practices as well. The decision to switch learning platforms led to numerous strategic discussions with our educators. The whole process coincided with lockdowns due to the coronavirus, so there were no physical meetups or workshops. The entire implementation was done online.”

About a month after signing the contract, SDU started the implementation by piloting itslearning in about a dozen programmes in three different faculties. Best practices and lessons learned were shared across departments and faculties and on February 1st, 2021, all of SDU started using itslearning.

Important to get buy-in

Sara informs, “Ownership is a big part of the implementation process.” To get people onboard with the idea of a new LMS, the e-learning network at SDU (consisting of representatives from the five faculties as well as SDU IT, SDU library and the SDU Centre for Teaching and Learning) continually touched base with department heads and end users to find out what was working, what challenges they had, and to offer support. They held online webinars and workshops and distributed written and video guides on how to use itslearning. They even created tailor-made illustrated manuals and reports when faculties requested them.

To get students onboard with the new LMS, relevant representatives from the e-learning network held webinars, and SDU communication carried out a social media campaign. “When the SDU Instagram account allows students to take over posting, they often post about itslearning. This shows what a large part of student life itslearning has become.” Below you can see posts from Victoria, who checks itslearning on her laptop during breakfast and on her mobile phone, from anywhere she likes, during the day.

Screenshots of Victoria's laptop and mobile

itslearning and Active Learning in Higher Education

“4 out of 5 faculties at SDU now have ‘model courses’ which both represent and contain information about how teachers can ensure quality when they set up their courses. These courses are inspired by the way we (the e-learning and educational consultants) see teachers use itslearning, and we have thus gathered these best practice examples into model courses.

Each semester, our curriculum designers create itslearning course templates which are filled with instructions and one topic. The topic in the course template is a basic framework that teachers can choose to follow as is, or build upon. This gives innovative teachers the opportunity to be as creative as they want.”

SDU uses the itslearning Planner and calendar. When teachers add dates to a course in a plan, it appears in the students’ calendars automatically. Teachers agree that it’s very intuitive and makes their lives easier.”
Sara Kvist, Southern Denmark University

“At the Faculty of Engineering, we emphasize group work. itslearning has some really great features to support that – they are super-practical as we have group projects almost every semester. It makes things a lot easier for teachers, as they can receive assignments, provide feedback, communicate with students and grade their work all in one place rather than, for instance, via e-mail or physically on paper.

When it comes to primary features for students, itslearning is set up in a user-friendly way. It has a student-centered layout which gives easy access to core information, materials, etc. Students report that the system is intuitive and provides a nice overview of course materials through the Planner and the calendar.”

From implementation to optimization

Throughout the implementation process, SDU was in regular contact with itslearning, and their collaboration continues today. “We have met almost monthly with itslearning product team members to discuss how it’s going and let them know if we need anything. Our dialogue works really well: we share concrete SDU user cases from specific teachers and we can see that there is actual progress and that their needs are met. Teachers appreciate that their concerns are being heard and addressed. It’s incredibly valuable.

Evaluations we’ve carried out with platform users show that we have established a solid foundation in the way SDU uses itslearning, and we look forward to building on that and making even better use of the fact that itslearning allows for greater and more diverse student input and interaction than our former LMS.”

For more information about itslearning at SDU, watch this webinar.

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