Early Adopter Program

About the OWL Brightspace Early Adopter Program

The OWL Brightspace Early Adopter Project (EAP) is an opportunity for a limited number of instructors and students to fully explore OWL Brightspace, Western’s new Learning Management System (LMS), before it is available to the entire Western community in Fall 2024!

The Early Adopter Program launched on January 8 with approximately 4,700 students across 18 courses using OWL Brightspace for the Winter 2024 term. Instructors in the EAP have been working closely with Western Technology Services and the Centre for Teaching and Learning to train in the new LMS, migrate course content, and set up course sites. The EAP will help develop processes and resources for OWL Brightspace when it opens fully to the Western community later this year.

Why does Western have an Early Adopter Program for OWL Brightspace?

The EAP provides an opportunity for our community members to provide valuable feedback about their OWL Brightspace experience, including the identification of any areas of improvement, ahead of the full rollout.

OWL Brightspace may have different tools and workflows than Western is used to with OWL Sakai. The Early Adopter Program is an important tool for helping the project team define the migration strategy and build learning resources for the Western community. It will help the OWL Migration Plan (OMP) project team better understand the resources and support systems needed for a successful transition from the current version of OWL (Sakai) to OWL Brightspace!

About the EAP Courses

21 courses have been selected for the EAP by a voluntary application process. Each selected course has been approved through the leadership of their faculty or unit.

18 courses are academic half-courses that will run in the January 2024 term. Of those courses, 16 are undergraduate and 2 are graduate, with an estimated enrollment of 4,700 students. The remaining 2 courses include a Western Continuing Studies course and a Human Resources course, which are included in the EAP for training purposes.

EAP Courses by Faculty or Affiliate
Faculty or Affiliate Number of Courses
Arts and Humanities 2
Don Wright Faculty of Music 1
Education 2
Engineering 1
Health Sciences 2
Huron University College 1
Information and Media Studies 2
King's University College 1
Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry 2
Science 3
Social Science 2

The course modalities represented in the EAP are as follows:

  • Online asynchronous: 5 courses
  • Online synchronous: 1 course
  • Blended: 4 courses
  • In-person: 10 courses

As part of the EAP, instructors and students will be testing key tools, features, and integrations to provide feedback on their experience. These include:

  • synchronous assessments
  • question pools and banks
  • lessons
  • math notation
  • sophisticated gradebook usage
  • assignments
  • team grading
  • group work
  • forums
  • peer assessments
  • LTI tools, including Gradescope, Voicethread, Zoom, Course Readings, iClicker, Research Guides, ProctorTrack, and more

Instructors and students in the EAP will receive dedicated support from Western Technology Services and the Centre for Teaching and Learning throughout the EAP process.

How were the courses selected?

Courses were selected through a voluntary application process in August 2023. Courses were chosen from 1000-3000 level courses across a range of disicplines, class sizes, and teaching approaches. OWL was required to be an important part of course instruction and communication to be eligible. 

Courses were also required to have one or more attributes including: 

  • Multi-section course (multiple rosters within a single course)
  • Cross-listed course
  • Large synchronous assessment
  • Extensive and varied/complex use of Question Banks (e.g., multiple banks, randomized questions)
  • Extensive, complex use of Lessons (e.g., release conditions; variety of media; accordions and subpages; significant video content; interactive content such as polls, H5P, etc.)
  • Significant and required use of math notation (e.g., in content, activities, assessments) and/or calculated questions
  • Complex Gradebook (e.g., weighting, multiple columns, calculations)
  • Essay courses where students submit through the Assignments tool
  • Courses that use Western-supported LTI integrated tools, e.g., VoiceThread, iClicker, Gradescope, Course Readings
  • Team grading (e.g., multiple people grading assignments or parts of assignments)
  • Significant use of Groups and/or online groupwork and collaborative activities
  • Significant use of Forum

I am a student enrolled in an EAP course. What’s the benefit to me?

Students participating in the EAP have the exclusive opportunity to experience OWL Brightspace and provide valuable feedback on their experience through voluntary surveys. This feedback will contribute to shaping the new LMS for the Western community when it is rolled out in Fall 2024!

As part of the EAP, students will get to experience the benefits of a new, modernized LMS, including:

  • a user-friendly mobile app
  • improved accessibility features
  • enhanced consistency across courses
  • greater stability during assessments
  • new ways to receive feedback on assignments

Students will also get specialized support as they navigate OWL Brightspace. We’re here to make your experience the best it can be!

What role do instructors play in the EAP?

We want to thank our EAP instructors for being trailblazers on this exciting initiative! Instructors in the EAP have partnered with the Centre for Teaching and Learning and Western Technology Services to be the first to have a course migrated from OWL Sakai to OWL Brightspace.

This fall, they will attend LMS training and explore, design, and leverage OWL Brightspace’s capabilities to support learning outcomes and student success with tools and processes like accessibility tools, intelligent agents, and more!

Throughout the process, they work closely with instructional designers and the OMP project team to identify and address any unexpected issues that might arise throughout migration and during the instruction of their course. This valuable feedback will help the project team adjust key features and functionalities of OWL Brightspace ahead of wider community access. Instructor feedback from the EAP will also inform the development of training resources and learning opportunities for the larger Western community.

EAP instructors will be expected to share their learning back with their home faculties and units through a Community of Practice. We want to empower our faculty and unit champions to share their OWL Brightspace knowledge and demonstrate the power of the new LMS to their colleagues!