UC Berkeley’s Educational Technology Services expects that the campus will completely phase out its current learning management system, bSpace, by the end of spring 2015. The new system, called bCourses, began implementation over the summer and remains in limited use.
Currently, bCourses hosts about 4,000 users at UC Berkeley, compared to the 50,000 users on bSpace. ETS’ target is to move roughly half of all courses to bCourses next semester.
Jennifer Stringer, a spokesperson for ETS, said that bSpace garnered concerns and dissatisfaction from faculty members and students, motivating the switch between the systems.
While the presentation of bCourses is not dramatically different from that of bSpace, the new system contains an array of different functions. bCourses offers greater integration of external tools and multimedia. The new system, for example, is fully integrated with Google for sharing and collaboration.
“We’re trying to improve the online experience for students,” Stringer said. In addition to bCourses, recent improvements include a revisioned hub for online resources and last year’s switch from CalMail to bConnected.
Siri Colom, a graduate student instructor who used bCourses for her summer urban sociology class, described how she could grade papers through bCourses and leave notes and comments for students.
Colom could also easily check on bCourses through a smartphone app. She noted she had the ability to see how many times her students viewed certain assignments.
“There’s quite a bit of surveillance, if you will,” she said.
Unlike the bSpace software, which was collaboratively written by UC Berkeley and other institutions, bCourses is powered by Instructure, a company not affiliated with the university. The campus has used bSpace since 2006.