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Review: University of Southern Denmark to replace Blackboard with itslearning

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SDU building

Frederikke Malling

Are you getting tired of Blackboard? The mobile app isn’t working? Or are you just tired of the fact that the platform doesn’t offer enough options? Well, now you’ve really got something to look forward to.

By the beginning of 2021, you’ll be introduced to itslearning. That’s where you’ll go for teaching, lesson plans, exams and much more. To explore the details we’ve teamed up with Louise Toftgaard Fibiger, IT Project Manager for the Faculty of Humanities, who will be advising the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) during the transition from Blackboard to itslearning.

Replacing Blackboard

Starting this spring semester, SDU will be using the platform itslearning. It’s already being tested in several courses and it looks extremely promising. Students will be informed of the transition to the new platform before the start of the spring semester 2021, so there’s nothing to worry about.

itslearning is clear and structured so it’s easy to navigate. Users get regular updates about assignments, tasks, messages, etc. on their homepage. The platform functions similarly to Blackboard, which we are used to, and Facebook, with which many of us are familiar.

“itslearning is a definite improvement over Blackboard. Whether you’ve been fond of Blackboard or been annoyed by its flaws and shortcomings, you can look forward to itslearning, which is an obvious step-up in many ways.”

Frederikke Malling, SDU student magazine RUST

Something to look forward to

Among other features, itslearning has a mobile app with which you can check your courses, lectures and locations. I know you’re wondering if the app is like Blackboard’s – barely useable, but no – the itslearning app works and quickly notifies you of room changes, direct messages and more. You can personalize notifications so you’ll no longer miss anything.

Besides an obviously improved mobile app, itslearning offers many of the same functions that Facebook does. You can create groups with other students in which you can collaborate on online documents like Word, Excel and PowerPoint. itslearning makes it a breeze for students to work together across subjects.

In addition, the platform includes a messaging system like Facebook’s, where you can connect with instructors and fellow students.

Why is Blackboard being replaced?

Fibiger explains some of the reasons why SDU decided to replace Blackboard, “With itslearning, we are getting a more up-to-date and user-friendly eLearning system. For example, students will get a quick and clear overview of their courses and activities throughout the semester and what they need to learn before, during and after every class.”

We at RUST have had the pleasure of using itslearning since the beginning of September, and it’s clear that we prefer it to Blackboard. As Fibiger explains, itslearning provides a quick overview of courses – not to mention all the other practicalities of teaching and learning.

itslearning is very similar to what we’re used to with social media and Google Drive, so in our opinion it’s a good combination of Blackboard, Facebook and Google Drive, with which we are already familiar. itslearning online documents take longer to open than Google Drive files, but hopefully this will improve before next semester.

What can itslearning do?

You can look forward to this late Christmas gift from SDU in the spring semester, when the remaining students will start using the new system. Look forward to a flawless app, improved ability to collaborate in groups on projects with shared documents, as well as the ability to carry out discussions and send messages.

According to Fibiger the platform includes numerous options for academic, as well as informal activities. She reports, “Both the messaging system and groups feature are good alternatives to Facebook pages and groups, and you can be sure that every student is here.”

itslearning has a function that we did not have with Blackboard: a way in which learning material and tasks can be structured so that they can be checked off when completed (when texts have been read, assignments have been answered, etc.) This feature can provide an overview of your preparations but can also stress you out, as tasks stay there until you check them off.

We’re happy that the platform setup is currently being tested by a handful of SDU educators to ensure that it’s ready for the start of the spring semester. Fibiger reveals what she thinks is the best thing about the move to itslearning:

“A central part of itslearning is its app, which offers the key functionalities of the web version of the platform. Students have all the information about their studies in the palm of their hands and get notifications and messages instantly. This in itself is a great advantage over Blackboard.”

Louise Toftgaard Fibiger, SDU

Some courses have already started testing itslearning

Even though most students have to wait a bit, participants in a few chosen subjects have gotten the chance to test the platform. Fibiger explains what they expect from the pilot period, “The point is to determine the optimal way of using itslearning at SDU – for students, educators and the organization. For example, how courses should be set up, and with what information – so that the user interface is as clear as possible.”

The test period will also be used to fine-tune the platform setup and to work out any kinks to ensure that it’s ready for the spring semester. According to Fibiger, the pilot will be carried out in five departments, and the rest of SDU will start using itslearning in January 2021, which you can really look forward to!



Author: Frederikke Malling
This article was originally published in Danish in the University of Southern Denmark’s student magazine RUST

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