Best Practices for Using UB Learns

Recommendations for using UB Learns Powered by Brightspace from the LMS Advisory Committee.

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The learning management system (UB Learns powered by Brightspace) is a very powerful tool that helps promote student learning and success and helps instructors efficiently manage the administrative aspects of teaching. The following best practices address aspects related to instructor usage of UB Learns and augment course design best practices.


Ensuring Access for Temporary or Adjunct Instructors

Academic units may repeatedly appoint individuals as temporary instructors for non-consecutive semesters. 

Departmental and unit administrators can use two approaches to give returning temporary instructors access to UB systems when they are not actively teaching:

  1. Early Access:  Submit an appointment ePTF by July 1 for the fall semester or by December 1 for the spring semester.  Instructors will gain access approximately four weeks before the start of the semester.
  2. Term Appointment: Appoint adjunct instructors as term employees instead of temporary employees.  They will retain access to UB systems for four consecutive semesters unless a termination is submitted.

Please see the Administrative Services Gateway for more information.


Using UB Learns for All Courses

The learning management system is an effective communication tool for all courses, whether delivered in person, hybrid or completely online. 

  • Instructors can enhance student success by using UB Learns to communicate essential course elements, including the course syllabus, course requirements, materials, resources and other relevant information.
  • Using the UB Learns grade book helps students better understand their grades in a course and what they need to do to succeed.

For these reasons, it is recommended that instructors use UB Learns to provide students access to the course syllabus and the course grade book, updated regularly with student scores on assignments, quizzes and other assessments.

Using UB Learns as the Only Learning Management System

To promote student success, it is important that instructors use only the centrally supported learning management system (UB Learns powered by Brightspace). In addition to potentially causing student confusion and inhibiting student success, other issues related to using a non-approved application learning management system are:

  • The application may not be fully accessible and may present barriers to students with disabilities; the centrally provided LMS has been fully vetted and approved regarding accessibility.
  • The application may present data security and privacy concerns; the centrally provided LMS has undergone a full review for data security and privacy.
  • The application may not have the capability to host a syllabus or provide a grade book to students, both key functionalities that promote student success and are available in UB Learns.
  • The application may not meet data storage requirements; the centrally provided LMS retains student grade data for one year. This ensures that student grade data is available for resolving incomplete grades or to defend grade challenges. 


Mid-Semester Evaluations of Teaching

Mid-semester student evaluations of teaching have been identified as a best practice to promote student learning and success within the academic term.

  • They allow instructors to identify barriers to student learning and enact changes to help the students currently enrolled in the course. 
  • Research suggests that when students see changes made to support them in a course, they are more likely to complete end-of-semester course evaluations. This promotes higher response rates for end-of-semester course evaluations, making the results more valid and reliable evidence of teaching effectiveness.

Please note that some academic units/departments require mid-semester course evaluations through the university wide SmartEvals tool.

For those not using Smart Evals, it is recommended that the survey tool in UB Learns be used to deploy a mid-semester student evaluation of teaching. The responses can be made anonymous and are immediately available to the instructor. Instructions on adding a mid-semester evaluation survey to your course and a ZIP file containing the survey are found below the chart. Surveys can also be embedded in content modules, where a due date can be applied. 

The questions included in the mid-semester evaluation of teaching are:

Question Response Options
Overall, how do you rate this course?
Very Poor Poor Fair Good Excellent
What is your overall rating of the teacher’s effectiveness?


Below Average


Above Average

One of the Best

This course is well organized.

Strongly Disagree


Neither agree nor disagree.


Strongly Agree

If you could change something about this course, what would it be?
Open text response
What can your instructor do to help you learn better in the course?
Open text response
What have you done to ensure you are successful in the course?
Open text response
What could you do differently to ensure you continue to besuccessful or to change your strategy to ensure you are successful in the second half of the course?  Open text response
Feel free to include any other comments or suggestions.
Open text response

Test Proctoring

Student Privacy and Security During Online Proctoring

With the increased use of online testing and proctoring tools, student concerns about privacy protections have increased. While it is important that instructors see the testing environments of students to ensure that the test is being taken with integrity, it is not necessary for students to see the testing environments of other students. To avoid student complaints:

  • Include clear language in the course syllabus about the online proctoring requirements so that students know what to expect.
  • If using Zoom for online proctoring, use Zoom Focus Mode to prevent students from seeing each other during the exam.

UB Learns Users

Authorizing Users to be Added to UB Learns Courses

There are certain administrative users who help instructors in UB Learns and are coded in HUB with a specified course role. These administrative users are automatically added to the UB Learns course with an administrative role.

Staff members, such as advisors and those in student success roles, seeking access to a UB Learns course to monitor student progress should contact the instructor to request access, or the instructor can contact UB Learns support to add the user. 


Accessibility of Course Content and Materials

At UB, we are committed to ensuring that all students can access all course materials, including those that are posted in a UB Learns course. 

  • Ally is a tool in UB Learns that can help instructors identify course documents that have accessibility issues. Learn more about using Ally.
  • While Ally will identify issues, the instructor will need to remediate the original document and re-upload to the course site. 
  • For guidance about remediating existing documents or creating new accessible documents, visit the Accessibility at UB website.
  • Issues with accessibility can be avoided by using the Brightspace Editor, a text editor found throughout UB Learns. This functionality allows instructors to add information and content that is automatically formatted for accessibility.