he State University of New York logo, which is the word SUNY inside a circle, followed at right by the words The State University of New York

SUNY Campuses Coming Together
on a Unified DLE.


  • Introduction

    What’s the difference between an LMS and a DLE?

    The Learning Management System or LMS is the hub of any Digital Learning Environment or DLE. A coordinated integration of an LMS, related tools, and architecture comprise a DLE. With the transition to D2L’s Brightspace, SUNY saw a dynamic opportunity to unify the DLE across SUNY for all students and faculty:

    • Common LMS environment;
    • Central architecture with common data structures;
    • Common course templates;
    • Common set of online tools integrated with the LMS (right now there is so much redundancy across the System); and
    • Common integration for data.

    This allows SUNY to take advantage of economies of scale, better share best practices and resources across campuses and between SUNY System Administration resources and campuses, assure strong technical, instructional design and academic supports, and provide a familiar platform for students, faculty and staff moving across campuses.

    The new LMS is D2L’s Brightspace. Why was this selected? Why do we have to transition now?

    SUNY’s current system-wide contract for a Learning Management System expires on December 21, 2022. This follows execution of a full three-year contract term and two one-year extensions with our current vendor, Blackboard. Given the size of this contract, SUNY was required to develop and broadly circulate a request for proposals (RFP) and was charged with selecting the “best value” vendor from proposals submitted.

    The RFP development and review process was intentionally consultative and collaborative, beginning in earnest in November of 2018. Nearly 70 distance learning professionals and 838 faculty from across 57 campuses participated in the initial survey and interviews which helped to define the essential functionality needed from the LMS.  This was followed by more than 40 faculty and staff from 15 different campuses who participated in the RFP review process which included review of functional requirements, evaluation of submitted responses, and day-long presentations from the most highly rated vendors.

    D2L’s Brightspace received the highest composite score across all functional, technical, security, accessibility, and pricing components, outperforming all other bidders on what was a “Best Value,” i.e., not just cost but the value-add provided, valuation.

    The transition to the new LMS intentionally includes other related features (central architecture with common data structures; common course templates; a common set of online tools) to create a new digital learning environment.

    Will all campuses transition to a new environment? 

    Consistent with the recommendations of the DLE Steering Committee, this plan does in fact, include all campuses making this transition:

    • Campuses with Blackboard hosted by ITEC or Blackboard;
    • Campuses with self-hosted Blackboard;
    • Campuses with Moodle; and
    • Campuses that have contracts with other LMS providers (including current D2L campuses).

    Recognizing that the transition means something distinct depending on the campus’s current platform, we understand that there is much work ahead to get to our desired state, including:

    • Implementation planning that is inclusive of the campus voice;
    • Working with each individual campus on timing, coordination, training, support, etc.; and
    • Support from D2L (once the contract is signed), SUNY, and the campus community.

    How can we join one of the DLE work groups or teams, and/or if we can’t join at this point, how do we communicate with the teams?

    The Advisory Team will help determine the best way to funnel information forward. All feedback, questions, suggestions should funnel through your Advisory Team liaison (see Meet the Teams)

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  • Management of the Unified DLE

    Will colleges have control over our own Brightspace instance, like we do now in Blackboard or will that be managed by SUNY?  

    Each campus will have a dedicated tenant, which would allow a campus to see only their courses and accounts and use local campus administrators to take operational actions within their tenant (while students and faculty will be able to see any courses from any campus in which they are enrolled).  Campuses will have their own URL and branding opportunities.   

    Will students see SUNY Online courses and regular online courses in the same system or two separate systems?  

    Once the transition to the Unified DLE is complete, students and faculty will see all courses they are enrolled in regardless of which SUNY school is their home campus.   

    Is there any SUNY-wide plan to combine other services/licensing at the state level?  For example: One common SUNY license for things like Autodesk, Rockwell Automation, etc. instead of paying on a per campus/per seat basis on those campuses.

    One of the goals of the unified DLE is to reduce redundant costs for things like third party tools. Each campus has been asked to complete a survey related to tools and that information is being reviewed by the Campus Implementation Work Group to identify areas where SUNY-Wide licenses may make sense.

    Are we ready to scale for the increase in hosting space having faculty create and embed video directly into the LMS rather than a specialized video hosting service? Perhaps this won’t be our issue since the hosting is done through D2L’s servers.

    Brightspace is a native Cloud solution hosted on Amazon Web Services with an elastic scaling model to predict user patterns.  With that said, we are still looking to have an integrated video hosting platform integrated with Brightspace.

    Is there any additional cost associated with the mobile app?

    No additional costs. Brightspace offers free mobile apps.

    How will accounts that are not in SIS but can log in via SSO be handled?

    We are exploring opportunities in using the current SIS process to feed data that exists within other sources so that all accounts can use Global ID and federated authentication.

    Can you explain the available support options for campuses as they move to Brightspace?

    Implementation Support includes:

    • D2L Direct Individual Campus Support from the Implementation Specialist & Project Manager
    • D2L Ongoing Multi-Campus Weekly Office Hours
    • DLE System Administrators (Continue meeting weekly with each campus until campus is transitioned over.)
    • Project Management / Tracking
    • Other Resources / Multi-Campus Engagements 
          – Campus Implementation Planning Work Group
          – Technical Implementation Work Group 
          – Training Resources Sub-Work Group 
          – Template Creation Sub-Work Group
    • Other Support (Both Implementation and Operational) 

    Operational Support includes:

    • SUNY Online Service Level Agreement (SLA)
    • SUNY Online HelpDesk (Tier 1)
    • SUNY Online Application Services (Tier 2) 
    • After Hours / Weekend Support 
    • Vendor Coordination
    • U-Wide Core Tools
    • Additional SUNY Application Services Escalation Resources 

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  • The Migration

    Some of us have invested a lot of time creating Panopto videos with captions for several summer classes: will we continue to use Panopto with Brightspace or will we be expected to re-record and re-caption new lecture videos?

    We do know that SUNY faculty use video extensively and have made optimization of tools a priority. There will be an evaluation of a wide variety of tools during this process. With that said, video content and respective captions may need to be migrated to a new solution but will not be lost. Unless there are video quality issues or updates to your course content, there should not be a need to re-record or re-caption your lectures.

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    We don’t know what features we will have access to and what add-ons will need to be purchased outside of the LE. When will we have the information about what is included?

    You can review what is included in SUNY’s Base License Brightspace Features on the Implementation Resources page. Our training opportunities will also cover much of this information. See Training.

    Do we need to transition all courses or can we pilot some courses for a semester?

    Mapping out what the transition looks like is part of the planning that is currently underway. 

    Do we know if this new Digital Learning Environment includes a portal?

    Based on the RFP response, D2L will allow for each campus to be configured using Single Sign-On (SSO) which could provide access to other campus resources that also use SSO.

    Will D2L be able to migrate our BB data into D2L?

    Yes, there is an extensive implementation service that we will be working with D2L on once the contract is approved; they have a course conversion process that was a requirement in the RFP.

    Is there a tool to sync grades from D2L to the SIS (Banner in particular)?

    Plans are developed for what tools and configurations will be considered for implementation. This includes both academic and technical considerations with discussion and feedback from a wide variety of perspectives from the Advisory Team and others. Some tools, such as syncing grades, may be available with D2L but may not be available globally or on an individual campus basis.

    During the course migration, is there a way to exclude older unused files or content, as some of our classes have been copies of copies for more than a decade?

    Plans identify ways to bring the most content over in the most complete way and there will likely be recommendations on the best and cleanest data to bring over.  Addressing the issue you describe could also be a component of post-transfer data clean-up.

    For instructors using the content collection of Blackboard, will that transfer over, or will they need to rebuild their whole course in Brightspace? 

    Any course files in Blackboard are associated with Blackboard’s Content Collect system and are a part of the exports and archives. These export packages will be the source of the imports into Brightspace and therefore will include these course files.

    What is the specific plan for migration? Will schools be able to determine what content gets migrated over and what is left behind or is everything going to be moved over? 

    The specific plan for migration will have both consistent and unique aspects to it.  When determining what content gets migrated over, that would be a targeted discussion with each campus on what makes the most sense for them.

    What is the plan for migrated organizations in Blackboard? We have a ton of organizations. Will they be converted to courses? 

    Migration of any content is a targeted discussion with each campus.  If there are organizations in Blackboard that need to be moved, then those organizations will be a part of our migration plan along with any courses. 

    Will my rubrics that I built in BB transfer over to D2L?

    Yes, rubrics will convert from BB to Brightspace.

    Can rubrics be brought over from Moodle, like was mentioned is capable for BB?

    Not at this time. 

    Is there a replacement for organizations?

    Yes. Courses can be created for non-academic use cases, such as organizations, clubs, communities, etc.

    Will Brightspace provide anything similar to Blackboard’s Communities?

    Brightspace enables clients to create any number of community spaces as desired.  This can include areas for teams, clubs, committees, faculty and more.  We also provide the ability to control enrollment into these areas or allow them to be set up for self-enrollment.

    Is there a plan for futureproofing migrations and major updates?

    Our current contract contains two 3 year extensions which, if exercised, will bring the total contract time out to 11 years. Based on our experience we will begin the RFP process much sooner to allow enough time for a phased-in migration if a different learning management solution was chosen for the Digital Learning Environment.

    Will the MS Teams Meeting App be available?

    Yes. There have been multiple requests for MS Teams integration and the DLE Admin team is currently working on the configuration of that within Brightspace, and they are setting a priority for integration based on each campus go live dates.

    What widgets and apps will be available in the new DLE?

    The process the DLE admin team has been following for tool integration within Brightspace has been to receive a request for tool integration by filling out the third party tool integration request form or via the DLE@suny.edu email. The DLE Admin team performs a specific investigation and there is a determination if any special considerations need to be made regarding the tool and its use within SUNY’s multi-tenant Brightspace environment. Integrations are being prioritized right now based on when they are needed for production courses and campus go live dates.

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  • Training

    At what point might we get a sandbox? 

    We have established a developmental environment for exploration. If you need assistance accessing the sandbox, please email DLE@suny.edu.

    In our current LMS, there is a feature called “user override” that lets you give a student more time or a separate time to take a quiz without the rest of the class knowing. Is there a comparable feature in Brightspace?

    Yes! This is called Special Access in Brightspace.

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