Monday, March 10, 2014

Notes from the Second Tier

people with headsets, and a banner saying "support"
Your Help Desk Team
That's second tier support to the NLU Help Desk. 1-866-813-1177

I am an instructional designer, one of a team of currently four instructional designers and analysts in the Academic Computing department. On top of our ID duties we also provide training, open lab support, and individual consultations to faculty. And we provide second tier support to the NLU help desk in  matters that directly involve our LMS, Desire2Learn.

If you open a help desk ticket, very often the technician who takes your call can work with you to solve your problem. Other times, depending on the nature of the problem, the type of information needed from NLU technical and academic offices, the level of authority needed to resolve a problem, or the amount of assistance required by the caller, a ticket will be created and triaged to the appropriate group for second-tier support. Sometimes that is my group, sometimes "Desktop Services", sometimes the "Portal Group". Sometimes various groups in OIT and on the academic side of the house collaborate to solve a caller’s problem. Occasionally the triage process can be frustrating because you spend time giving information that you are not certain is relevant, but usually it results in the correct assignment of your ticket. If not, when we receive a mis-assigned ticket, we quickly move it forward to the correct group.

But why go through that? Why call help desk when you see that RenĂ©e is in her office, or that Nicole is right on top of the email? And you know Suzanna, she's helped you before. Oh wait, did you save the number of that nice young man who installed your new software? Or maybe don’t call OIT at all, maybe one of our wonderfully sharp and helpful administrative assistants will solve youe problem. And if not, they probably know a real person in OIT.  A face you know is better than a stranger, right?

Wrong. Your personal OIT contact might be traveling to another campus, running one of those frequent training sessions, or doing work that can’t be interrupted, so your request could go unheeded for a time. This happens fairly often, with student and instructor frustration building during the delay. If, on the other hand, you call the help desk and your ticket is escalated to the “second tier”, you will receive assistance from the first person who is available and equipped to assist you. Not only have you given yourself the best chance of a timely resolution, the ticket created in the process becomes part of a data set that is analyzed in order to identify trends or systematic problems. And you get to review how well we helped you when your problem is resolved.

But surely not every D2L problem is a help desk call, is it? Maybe not, but once you have used our D2L self-help resources, the help desk is almost always the next place to go.

What about calling the help desk for someone else? Wouldn’t that be a helpful thing to do for a busy student or instructor? Not really. It is almost always important to have the person with the problem on the phone and available to provide information.

So, to recap.
An instructor has a problem in D2L? The instructor calls the help desk 1-866-813-1177 or uses D2L help for instructors, and/or checks out the training schedule, just-in-time support, and more online.
A student has a problem in D2L? The student calls the help desk 1-866-813-1177, uses D2L help for students, and/or checks out the support available on the NLU Website.

And that’s all there is to it.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Online Gradebook Training

As you may know, National Louis University is requesting all faculty members to utilize the D2L Gradebook tool. This includes faculty teaching online courses, blended courses, and face-to-face courses. We understand that this tool may be new to many of NLU’s faculty, but the D2L Gradebook is a wonderful tool to use and not one to be afraid of! However, we know that it can seem daunting to new users. To help with this, we have recently created two new versions of Gradebook training, which we have been offering via live training sessions over the past few months.  And now, we are excited to announce that Gradebook training is now available as an online, self-paced option!

What is it?
OIT has developed two brand new, online training tutorials on the topic of the D2L Gradebook. The two training tutorials will cover a “Basic” and an “Advanced” approach to the gradebook.

The Basic Gradebook Training tutorial will give a general overview of the D2L gradebook, and its features. You will learn how to navigate the gradebook tool, plan your gradebook, set up your gradebook based on your preferences, and enter student grades.  Please Note: This tutorial will cover basic features of the gradebook. If you are already familiar with the gradebook, we recommend viewing the Advanced Gradebook Training.

The Advanced Gradebook Training tutorial will provide a more in depth look at the D2L Gradebook and its features. In this training you will first receive a brief review of the Basic Gradebook Training. In addition to a basic review, you will also learn more advanced tasks such as, how to associate other D2L tools with the gradebook, creating custom grade schemes, and grading with different D2L tools. Please Note: This training will cover advanced features of the gradebook. If you are not yet familiar with the gradebook, we recommend you begin by viewing the Basic Gradebook Training.

Who is it for?
These online training tutorials are for those faculty members who are unable to attend the scheduled face-to-face training sessions; or for those faculty members who would like a refresher on the gradebook tools and functionality.

Basic Gradebook Training: This session is designed for faculty whose grade book needs are simple and straightforward. It will equip faculty to move from an excel spreadsheet or paper grade book to the D2L grade book. This session will benefit faculty who are teaching face to face courses and faculty who have smaller, less complex grade books

Advanced Gradebook Training: This session is designed for faculty with more complex grade book needs. It explores more advanced features of the D2L gradebook. The Advanced Gradebook session would be ideal for faculty members who have fully online courses or a more complex grade book, and are looking for more options and flexibility.

To view the Basic Gradebook Training please click the following link:

To view the Advanced Gradebook Training please click the following link:

You may also locate the two versions of online gradebook training, in addition to other training tutorials, any time by visiting the faculty resources webpage at:

Monday, December 30, 2013

Inserting a YouTube Video

When designing courses and lesson plans, there is often a lot of written material for students to read through. Replacing some of this text with videos, or using videos to supplement the already presented information, is a great way to keep students engaged throughout the course, and increase their understanding of the material.
YouTube is a rich source for videos on all topics. You can find numerous videos that are appropriate for educational purposes. In addition, YouTube is already integrated with D2L. D2L makes it easy for you to insert educational videos into your course content.

How to Insert a YouTube Video:
  1. The first step to inserting a YouTube video is to decide where in your course you would like the video to appear. Select the appropriate course content page. 
  2. Locate the editable “Content editor” and take note of the tool bar. 

1.  On the tool bar, locate the icon that resembles a “play, pause, and fast forward, button.” This icon represents a tool called “Insert Stuff”. The Insert Stuff tool allows you to insert media into your course content.

Tip:  Hovering your mouse over the icon will show you the name of the tool.  

        2.  After clicking the Insert Stuff icon, you will be presented with a new window. Notice the options on the left hand side. Here you can choose to upload videos from your computer, from a URL, embed your videos, and insert videos from YouTube. Click on YouTube.


s    3. Begin your search for your YouTube video. Type in keywords that match the topic you are looking for, in the search box.

    4.  Click the search button. In the area below the search box you will notice the results for your search. Scroll through the videos and find one you that you wish to put inside your course. When you have found the video you wish to insert, click on it. You will notice the video you have selected will become highlighted.
      Tip: You can watch the video you have selected after clicking the "next" button at the bottom of the window.

    5. Click Next
    6. The video you have selected will appear for you to review. You can play the video here, by clicking the “Play” button located in the middle of your video. When you are satisfied with your video choice, click “insert” at the bottom left of the window.

Tip: Click the "back" button to select a different video.

7. You should now see your video inside the “content editor” on your course content page. When you are satisfied with your page, click “Save and Close.”

     Your YouTube video is now visible to your students inside your course content.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Content Blocking

Many instructors choose to incorporate videos and other multimedia into their course content. Including this format of course content is highly encouraged, as It keeps students engaged and more active with the material. However, sometimes this content can be blocked by your internet browser. This can become an issue for both students and instructors if they do not know how to set their browser options to allow them to view the media.

Google Chrome:
If you are using Google Chrome and the content you are trying to view is blocked, you may see a message similar to the one in the image below.  This message will appear in the top right corner of your internet browser window. If you do not see this message but think that some content is being blocked, you can click the gray “Shield icon” in the top right corner to produce the message below.

Click the “Load unsafe script” link, and click done. The previously blocked content should now display.

Mozilla Firefox:
If you are using Mozilla Firefox and the content you are trying to view is blocked, the alert you receive may resemble the image below. This message will appear in the top left corner of your internet browser window.

To enable the content to display you should click down arrow next to the “keep blocking” option. This will produce a drop down menu with other options. To display your content, you will choose “Disable Protection on This Page.”  You will now be able to see the previously blocked content.

Internet Explorer:

If you are using Internet Explorer and the content you are trying to view is blocked, you will receive a prompt at the bottom center of your screen. View the image below to see an example.

Click the “Show Content” button to display your missing content.

Helpful Tips:
In some cases, students might   not be familiar with preventing content blocking, or may not even be aware that there is content being blocked. For example, in the image below – a YouTube video has been inserted below the text. However, because of the content blocking you can’t even tell there should be a video there.

To fix this issue, include some text about where else they can find the video. An example might be “Watch the YouTube video below. If you cannot see the video you can access it here:” (insert the URL of your video.)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Google Chrome and D2L

Using the Google Chrome Browser:
D2L is compatible with various browsers. These include Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Safari. Google Chrome has become increasingly popular lately, and is used by a large number of our D2L users. However, as these browsers release updates, we notice a slight change in D2L’s functionality. The newest Google Chrome update, in particular, has caused some minor issues with the way D2L displays content.

The Issue:
You may notice when you try to access content in your D2L course, the page seems to be “missing” its content, or only allows you to view the entire page’s content in one very small window at the top of your screen. See the following image for an example of what this could look like.

As you can see, the bottom portion of the page seems to be missing. This can cause issues if students and faculty are unable to view their content. In addition, you may see this issue in D2L tools other than the content page, such as the email and discussion tools.
When using these tools, you can read the text but you are forced to do so by scrolling in the allotted tiny box, making it very difficult to read.

The Fix:
Until Chrome releases another update to address this problem, please take note of the ways you can work around this issue.
·         You can resolve this issue on any content page containing a menu on the left side of the screen by placing your cursor on the side-scroll bar, and dragging your cursor to the right or left to resize the content being displayed.
    In some instances, pages do not have side scroll bars. This is the case in the D2L discussion tool when using the reading view. In these cases you will place your cursor on the edge of the internet browser window, and drag right or left to resize the whole window. Once resized small enough, your content will snap into place. At that point, you can resize it to a normal size with everything displaying as it should.
·         In addition to placing your cursor on the edge of the window and manually resizing it, you can also use the minimize/maximize buttons on the top of your internet browser window. See the image below 

Video Resource:

For more information and a step by step video on how to resolve this issue, click the following link:

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Using Dropbox:
A Dropbox is used for the electronic submission of assignments, and is a very useful tool to use in both your online and face-to-face classes. Even though you may have students turn work in during your face-to-face class, you might want to consider the dropbox, as students are becoming more accustomed to the option of electronic submission.  

Advantages of using a Dropbox:
·       Students can submit work at any time other than just during the class period. Students can submit all their work before the next class session so you have time to review.
·      Submissions are marked with a date stamp, providing evidence of the exact day and time the assignment was turned in. Once configured, D2L offers a convenient grading tool incorporated into the dropbox so that students receive immediate feedback once you complete grading. For online classes, the Dropbox tool eliminates the necessity to have students flood your email inbox with assignments.

                                             Helpful Tips:

·    Use Rubrics: Grading a Dropbox with a rubric allows you to grade your students’ submissions by simply selecting radio buttons for each predetermined criteria. If you have configured your grade book, and associated a grade item with the Dropbox, the student’s grade will automatically update to reflect the score given on the rubric.
·         Grade two ways: You can grade student submissions, by either downloading all the student files to your computer or grading directly in D2L without downloading a thing! Consider downloading all student submissions, if you are grading papers and want to provide feedback directly on the document using the track changes tool in Word. You can then post the edited assignment back to the Dropbox folder; for students to view. Or, maybe you just want to provide a short sentence or two as your feedback, and downloading all submissions is too time consuming. No worries!  You can read submissions right in the D2L dropbox window and enter feedback without even leaving the page.
Allow Special Access: You may have cases where students need to turn in an assignment early because they will miss the assignment deadline, or students who require additional time due to an emergency or accessibility requirement. In these cases, you can allow students special access to the Dropbox, so that they can submit their work, regardless  of the designated start and end time of the assignment.

·         Be sure to review the dropbox tutorial on the Faculty Resources page of the NLU website ( Should you have any questions about this tool, don’t hesitate to send us an email at

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Using Discussions

Discussions allow students to collaborate with one another and you! It is a great way to get your students participating in class discussion. You can create discussion topics and require students to respond to them. You can also have students read and respond to their fellow classmates’ responses.  In addition to allowing students an outlet for class participation, according to a 2007 study, discussions can help online students to feel less alone, and like they are part of a learning community where the learners support one another. (Vesely, Bloom, Sherlock, 2007)   Vesley, Bloom, and Sherlock also found that “Having sufficient time for discussion and interaction was an important factor for building a community in online courses.” (Vesley et al., 2007)

What are some examples of different types of discussion prompts?

There are many different ways to utilize the discussion board tool. Listed below are some examples of various types of prompts you can use.
  • Icebreaker Discussion:  Have students reply to an introductory discussion topic during the first week of class. This response can include things like: introducing themselves to the class, explain why they are taking the course, what they hope to get out of the course, something interesting about themselves, etc.
  •  General Questions: It is a good idea to have a discussion topic that can be used for any questions students might have throughout the term.  Giving students a designated place to post their questions can also allow other students, who know the answer to reply as well.  
  • Specific Topics: Requiring students to make a discussion post that is related to the topic at hand, can help them to learn the content better. It will give them an opportunity to discuss their knowledge of the topic, and be exposed to new thoughts and ideas about the topic, when reading other students’ posts.

Helpful Tips:
·         Know the difference between Discussion Forums and Discussion Topics
  • A Forum can be thought of as a “folder” or “category”.  A Discussion Forum is used to organize your individual topics. For example, you might have a forum titled “Chapter 1”, in which all discussion topics that are related to chapter 1 would be located.
  • A Topic is the actual prompt that students will respond to. You might ask students to reflect on a video, answer application questions from a chapter, or discuss how their own experiences can be related to a certain topic. You might have two or three prompts you want students to respond to, that all relate to the same category. All of those topics would be placed together in the same forum. 
  • Require students to respond to 1 or 2 other student postings: This will give students an opportunity to further discuss the topic, and be exposed to new ideas they may not have considered before.\
    • In the 2007 study that was mentioned previously, it was found that 11% of students and 21% of instructors from the study perceived that building a community online was easier than in a face to face course for various reasons. Including “Online courses provide an environment in which students can be themselves, can learn by reading other student’s postings, and an environment in which 1-2 students do not dominate discussions as can occur in some face-to-face courses.” (Vesley et al., 2007)
  • Participate in the discussions yourself: It is important to make sure you give feedback and direct student discussion. You should read the students’ postings and try to respond to every student, at least once throughout the term. (You do not need to respond to every student during every topic.) You should offer guidance to help students stay on track with the topic, and thought provoking questions that will help students to dive deeper into their discussion with one another.  

    • “Students contend that instructor presence is a key factor in online learning and online community. In online classes, instructors can generate a sense of “presence” through their actions in the online environment. Students in this study indicate a need to be heard by their instructors through consistent feedback, responses to postings and responsiveness to concerns. One of the key means by which instructors establish presence in the online classroom is via their ongoing interactions” (Vesley et al., 2007).
  • When it comes time to grade your students’ discussion postings, there is an easy way to see all posts made by one student. This will help you determine if they have really contributed to an ongoing discussion, and determine if they have met the requirement of responding to 1 or 2 other student posts.

o   After you have navigated to the Enter Grades area, and are ready to begin grading your discussion posts, you will want to select the dropdown menu next to the discussion post you are grading, and select Grade All.  

o   Scroll to the bottom of the page to see all of your enrolled students. Choose the “speech bubble” icon, listed under Submission, next to the student you wish to view all posts from.  

o   A pop-up window will appear, showing you all of that student’s posts located in the topic you are grading. (Note: You will ONLY see posts that are in the topic you have selected to grade) 

Vesley, P., Bloom L., & Sherlock J., (2007). Key Elements of Building Online Community: Comparing Faculty and Student Perceptions. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, Vol. 3, No.3 Retrieved from