Why change our LMS?

Students smiling and talking while working together around a table.

Due to the upcoming expiration of our contract with Blackboard, UB has the exciting opportunity to seek out an LMS for the campus that will best support the needs of our faculty and students.

The SUNY contract with Blackboard for Blackboard Learn is expected to expire in December, 2022. While UB has its own contract with Blackboard, the pricing model and approval of Blackboard as a vendor is contingent upon the SUNY contract. SUNY has gone through an RFP process and selected Brightspace as the new LMS vendor for SUNY. Through UB’s own internal review of Blackboard Ultra, Brightspace and Canvas, the functionality of Brightspace and Canvas were found to be greater and a better fit for UB’s instructional needs as compared to Blackboard. Further, the equivalence of Brightspace and Canvas combined with the ease of procurement of Brightspace that results from the SUNY contract have led the sponsors to the selection of Brightspace.

While this transition will not be simple, it does present us with opportunities to improve course design and delivery for nearly 4,000 courses per term in a three-semester time frame. In addition, it will provide an opportunity for all instructors to fully learn the functionality of the new system and it will provide a 21st century online environment through which instruction can be fully implemented or as a supplement to in-person instruction. Finally, adoption of the Course Merchant module will allow us, for the first time, to address and improve the management and delivery of non-credit continuing education programs for external participants.

Positive campus impacts

Brightspace offers a number of features that will help further UB’s teaching excellence standards, including:
  • Course-level tools and features that address existing challenges and issues identified by SUNY faculty
  • Ease of use for content creation and building courses
  • Multiple and easy to access channels for faculty-student interaction
  • Strong and proactive mechanisms for Universal Design and accessibility compliance (Brightspace aligns with WCAG 2.1 AAA)
  • Functionality to support non-credit continuing education and training
  • Strong data analytics tools

User benefits

Student success

  • Provides an easy-to-use student progress dashboard for instructors
  • Clean and simple user interface
  • Instructors and students can record video comments within the interface – these are automatically captioned and can be converted to other languages by the viewer
  • The mobile app allows students to engage with course content, submit assignments, and receive/participate in course communications directly on their smartphones
  • Since this is the platform that will be used across the SUNY system, students transferring across SUNY institutions will already be oriented to a single system
  • Content created within the interface is formatted automatically for screen readers


  • Allows for drag and drop method of uploading files
  • Provides for greater capacity to create and share course templates
  • Stronger integration of rubrics with assignments and grade book
  • Student Learning Outcomes can be aligned with activities and assessments
  • Test and Quiz questions can be easily updated to assessments including every instance where the updated questions appear
  • More options for release rules (known as “adaptive release” in Blackboard)
  • Grading options include in-person, online and “collected on paper” submissions
  • Ability to use html page templates to improve course layout and presentation

Academic units

  • We now have the capacity to run continuing education offerings for external participants through the LMS
  • Better interface for tagging and tracking learning outcomes