Monday, January 30, 2017

What's New in D2L?

What's new in D2L?

What's New in D2L for February 2017?

In the exciting world of Brightspace Continuous Delivery, there is something new every month! Here is a major improvement in group discussion functionality that has been implemented on our D2L site this month. This addresses a frequent pain point for NLU instructors who use group Discussions in D2L.

The Pain

In the past, small group discussions were always created in the groups tool with one Discussion topic per group. The instructor would go into each separate topic to read what students wrote. The real pain came when the instructor graded the group discussions. With no way to tie multiple Discussion topics to a single grade item, and home-grown work-arounds for multiple group-restricted topics were awkward at best.

The Cure -- Group Filtered Discussions!

As of D2L 10.6.9, any class that has set up groups in D2L gains an option to group-filter a new Discussion topic. In a group-filtered Discussion topic, students can only see only the threads created by members of their group, and can only respond to those threads. The instructor, however, can see -- and grade -- all the threads from all the groups in a single discussion topic. Only one grade item is needed!

The Steps

  1. Have your groups set up in the Groups tool. (Here is a video refresher on Groups.
  2. In Discussions, create a new Topic in a new or existing Forum.
  3. In the Properties tab, choose "Group or section topic" as the topic type. (Note that this choice is only available when first creating the topic; the Topic type cannot be changed after the topic has been created.)
    There is a 'Topic Type' heading, with a choice for an open topic, everyone can access' or 'Group or section topic'.

The Video

The video clip below illustrates the new type of group discussion.


Will my old group discussions still work?
Yes, existing group discussions will be unchanged by this new feature. You can use them exactly as you have always done.
Can I edit an existing Discussion Topic to make it a group-filtered topic?
No, the Discussion topic type cannot be changed once the topic has been created. You need to create a new topic and set the type to "Group".
What's wrong? I'm creating a new Discussion topic and I don't see a group choice for the type of Discussion.
Are there groups in your course? The group topic choice only appears when creating a new topic if there are groups in the course.
I'd like to switch my small group discussions to the new filtered kind, but I'm a little nervous. Can I get some help?
Yes! Come to an open lab. Here's the schedule.

-- Your D2L Team

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

“How Learning Works”: Unpacking Motivation in the Learning Proces

Written by: Dr. Diane Salmon and Anthony Boen

Principle: Students’ goals generate, direct, and sustain what they do to learn.

How do students develop their goals in the context of learning? How can you help students adopt positive learning goals?

Research on how students learn indicates that learners’ values, expectancies, and perceptions of support in the learning environment interact to impact the goals they set and hence, their motivation in a particular learning context. Motivation lies not in the learner, but in the dynamic interplay between what learners value, their sense of efficacy, and the support they feel as they engage in particular learning activities. Motivation is highly contextual and can be shaped by instructors.

One powerful pedagogical tool that instructors can use to influence learner goals and hence, their motivation, is formative assessment. The formative assessment system within a course can be intentionally designed to help learners develop positive expectancies for success, adopt learning goals, improve their self-regulated learning, and internalize value for course content. The following are important design characteristics in an effective formative assessment system within a course

1.       Well-defined expectations for assessed performances
2.       A clear rationale for assessments that clarifies the real world value of required learning
3.       Authentic assessment activities that embody a rationale for the learning goals
4.       Rubrics and exemplars that unpack complex performances for novices
5.       Alignment of multiple sequential formative assessments that shape learner performances for success in the summative assessment
6.       Feedback that shapes how students interpret their performances to focus on growth, effort, elaborative explanations, and self-regulation
7.       Formative assessment activities that direct students to think about the effectiveness of their own learning strategies (metacognition) and include self-assessment

Take a moment now to think about how you can you use technology to achieve some of these design characteristics the formative assessment system within your course.

It’s no secret that modern instructors have a wealth of formative assessment tools available to them. Hundreds of assessment platforms available on the market today allow instructors to craft formative assessments specifically molded to unique learners, experiences, and requirements. But nothing is without its price. With incredible flexibility comes incredible complication as users struggle to learn a seemingly never ending list of new and evolving technologies. Now more than ever it is important that instructors work together to implement formative assessment using standardized yet flexible tools.

One of the most obvious assessment tools available in D2L is the Quiz tool. When most students and instructors think of the “Quiz” tool they immediately think of summative assessment. However experienced instructional designers will know that the tool can be molded to fit many different needs. It’s all about how the assessment is set up and framed within the context of the entire class. Rather than calling the assessment a “Module 2 Quiz,” (which often carries a summative assessment connotation), the instructor may call the assessment something like “Module 2 Key Points.” The instructor can also set the assessment up to automatically release feedback based on student responses, and allow multiple submissions to encourage improvement and further learning. Some instructors of blended courses here at NLU use the Quiz tool to create short, low-stakes formative assessments students take before coming to class. The instructor can then review the quiz statistics stored in D2L as an opening activity in the f2f class session.

Incorporating these suggestions in the use of the D2L quiz tool would achieve which of the design characteristics of formative assessment discussed above? How have you used the quiz tool to shape student goals and enhance their engagement in the learning process?

Not all feedback needs to come from the instructor. One often overlooked formative assessment tool available in D2L is the discussion board. Many instructors often do not take advantage of the collaboration made possible by the discussion board.  Many discussion assignments seem to only require students to restate something they learned from some reading or a prior activity. Student interaction rarely adds value to these assignments. Often the thread authors do not even bother checking on responses they have received because the content is in the past and they have already earned full points for the activity. On the other hand some instructors have been able to leverage the tool effectively as a formative assessment tool. One instructional strategy might be to require students to make posts in the same topic over multiple weeks. For example, have students post multiple revisions of an assignment to one topic. Between submissions peers can critique the revisions and make suggestions for improvement. Posting in the same topic each week not only encourages students to return to their topics (and review feedback from others), but when finished the author can look in one place to see how the document evolved over time with the feedback from peers.

What motivational design characteristics of formative assessment can the instructor achieve by requiring students to post to the same topic over multiple weeks? How might this practice shape students values, expectancies and perceptions of the support in the learning environment? Can you describe your own experiences with discussion as a formative assessment practice that enhances motivation in the learning environment?

Friday, October 28, 2016

Join Our Upcoming Discussions on How Learning Works!

The Office of Teaching and Learning in collaboration with Learning and Information Technology Services is offering a monthly professional development series on
How Learning Works
Through this series participants will complete common readings and engage in webinar discussions to connect key learning principles with effective teaching practices and useful learning technologies. The common reading is a book entitled How Learning Works 7 Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching by Ambrose, Bridges, Lovett, DiPietro, and Norman (availabledigitally through the library).

The perspective provided and associated discussions will help us consider learning as a trajectory of increasingly sophisticated performances – and how that might look within specific instructional domains. It will also prompt us to consider significant ways in which learners vary in their learning progress and the types of interventions we might use to facilitate their progress. Each chapter focuses on a principle of learning illustrated by higher education scenarios, explains the research base behind the principle, and provides several evidence-based strategies for teaching in ways that are consistent with the learning principle. Participants can drop in to the monthly chapter discussions, share related experiences, and examine new learning technologies that can apply.  The book group/webinar will also be supported by a D2L course where participants can continue posting online and share resources.

Schedule of Upcoming Events

Chapter 3: Students’ motivation determines, directs, and sustains what they do to learn.
November 15, 2016 12am to 1pm
Chapter 4: For mastery, students must acquire component skills practice integrating them, and know when to apply what they have learned.
December 20. 2016 12am to 1pm
Chapter 5: Goal-directed practice coupled with targeted feedback enhances the quality of students’ learning.
January 17, 2016 12am to 1pm

Chapter 6: Students’ current level of development interacts with the social, emotional, and intellectual climate of the course to impact learning.
February 21, 2016 12am to 1pm

Chapter 7: To become self-directed learners, students must learn to monitor and adjust their approaches to learning.
March 21, 2016 12am to 1pm 

RSVP for specific sessions to:

Questions: Contact Diane Salmon or Anthony Boen

We look forward to your participation!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

TurnItIn - Make a Date!

TurnItIn -- Make a Date!

TurnItIn – Let's Make a Date!

TurnItIn, a powerful 3rd-party tool for plagiarism prevention, integrates seamlessly with your D2L Dropbox Assignment Submission folders. There is a tab in the Submission folder that consolidates the TurnItIn-specific settings for the folder. There is also software that collects some of your standard dropbox settings -- title, description, dates -- and uses them to populate the corresponding fields on the TurnItIn side. This correspondence, however, is not 1:1, particularly where dates are concerned. Improvements in date management for the TurnItIn integration was the focus of a Summer 2016 "Continuous Delivery" update. In this blog, we will consider what the update means for Dropbox Assignment settings and review some date basics.

Date Disambiguation

There are three date management fields in the D2L Assignment Dropbox: "Start", "Due", and "End". These can be set in the "Restrictions" tab of the Submission fielder, or (efficiently) with bulk edit in the list of all Submission Folders. The "Start" and "End" dates control student access to to the Dropbox Assignment Submission Folder. The D2L "Due" date does not affect access, but it is important in communicating expectations to students. There is no technical requirement for the use of dates in D2L Submission folders, and an instructor may choose to populate 0, 1, 2, or 3 of these date fields.

For a TurnItIn-enabled Submission folder, dates in the D2L "Start" and "End" date fields are supplied to TurnItIn. The D2L "Due" date is not used by TurnItIn. Somewhat confusingly, in TurnItIn itself the "End" date from D2L is called the Due date.

While D2L does not require dates for Submission folders, TurnItIn does require dates for the beginning and end. This summer, as part of release 10.6.3, D2L rolled out a new process for populating these TurnItIn date fields for Submission Folders in which the "Start" and/or "End" date is blank. The results are summarized in the list below.

TurnItIn Dates, as Supplied by D2L

Note: in the list below "Today" refers to the date that TurnItIn is enabled for the Dropbox folder in a particular course offering.

  • No dates are provided in D2L. Here are TurnItIn's dates:
    • StartDate: Today.
    • EndDate: 6 months from Today.
    • All dates editable within More Options in TurnItIn as well as in D2L.
  • Start Date only is provided in D2L. Here are TurnItIn's dates:
    • StartDate: Same as D2L.
    • EndDate: 6 months from D2L StartDate.
    • Dates are not editable in TurnItIn More Options (but are editable in D2L).
  • End Date only is set in D2L. TurnItIn Dates are:
    • StartDate: Today
    • EndDate: D2L's End Date + 1 day
    • The StartDate in TurnItIn is editable in TurnItIn "More Options". (All dates are editable in D2L.)
  • Both dates are set in D2L. TurnItIn dates are:
    • StartDate: D2L Start Date
    • EndDate: D2L End Date + 1 day
    • Dates are not editable in TurnItIn "More Options" but are editable in D2L.

TurnItIn Date FAQ

What happens if I add or change a Dropbox Assignment "Start" or "End" date in D2L after TurnItIn is already set up?
After editing the dates, click into the TurnItIn tab and then click "More Options in TurnItIn". This pushes the new information to TurnItIn, changing the corresponding date fields on the TurnItIn site.
Do TurnItIn dates block students from submitting work to the D2L Dropbox Assignment?
No, access to the Dropbox Assignment in D2L is not affected by TurnItIn dates. TurnItIn dates control whether or not student submissions are checked for originality in TurnItIn.
What about Special Access? I don't see that in the TurnItIn settings.
There is no mechanism to transmit special access dates to TurnItIn. But if you set special access in a D2L Dropbox Assignment folder, and also check to "allow late submissions" in the TurnItIn settings, then when your students submit their work it will be checked for originality, whether it is a regular submission or a "special" one.
Do you have a video that I can watch to learn more about setting up TurnItIn?
TurnItIn Integration® - Create a Submission Folder and Enable TurnItIn

Friday, June 17, 2016

Have You Heard About Panopto?

Panopto is a cloud-based video platform built specifically for video-based training, teaching, and presenting. The platform is designed to be an all-in-one solution which includes all of the basic tools and services needed to create and securely share video-based learning materials and activities. In many ways Panopto can be thought of as our university’s private YouTube site.

Once activated in any D2L course, the Panopto platform can be used to create, edit, and share videos. This is done through two main components including the Panopto recorder and the Panopto website. The recorder and website work together to simplify the video capture and upload process. Users also have the ability to bypass the recorder and upload their videos straight to the website.

The Panopto Recorder is a lightweight application which enables users to capture and upload video with only a few clicks. The recorder can capture video and audio from any webcam or microphone connected to the computer, as well as the computer’s screen and audio. Once recorded, the video can be immediately uploaded to the Panopto website (which is integrated nicely into D2L).

Once the video is on the website, users have access to a number of video editing and sharing options. Users simply click an “Edit” link on the video to open the Panopto video editor which is great for performing very simple video edits. The best feature of Panopto’s editor is that it is non-destructive meaning that the original video is not destroyed during the editing process. Once happy with the video, the user can choose how to share the video. Users can choose to share their video only with certain people, they can choose to share the video only with his/her class, or they can make the video public.

Learn more about Panopto in education by visiting Panopto’s website:

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

User Progress Tool for Students

If you are taking a class with online components in D2L then you can use the User Progress tool to keep track of your progress. The User Progress tool helps you check your progress in a course through tracking course-specific assignments and feedback, and through measuring 9 progress indicators including grades, objectives, content, discussions, Dropbox folders, quizzes, checklists, surveys, and login history.

Some of the handy uses for the User Progress tool include:
  • Track Discussion Participation – Use the Discussions tab see how many discussion posts you have authored or read each week. Also find links to each of the posts.
  • Check Your Grades – Use the Grades tab to view you most up-to-date grade calculation and instructor feedback.
  • Review Your Quiz Submissions – Use the Quizzes tab to review your quiz scores, attempts, and instructor feedback.
  • View a Summary of Your Course – Use the Summary tab to get a quick idea about your progress in a course. Check to see how much work you’ve done, and how much more is left to go!
To access the User Progress tool, begin by logging in to your D2L course. In the light blue navigation bar near the top of D2L select Other Tools, then User Progress.

Learn more about the User Progress tool by watching the User Progress Learner Overview video.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What's new in D2L?

As you may remember, the NLU Online Campus was upgraded to Brightspace's "Continuous Delivery" system over the winter break. This means that we can deliver improvements, bug fixes, and new features on a planned, monthly basis without downtime! Since these improvements may go unnoticed by users who have no reason to be aware of them, from time to time your LITS staff will use this space to tell you about changes that are likely to be of interest to members of NLU's online community.

D2L Tool Improvement: Discussion Rubric Grading

Here's a spotlight on a February improvement that actually inspired a thank-you letter from an NLU faculty member: Discussion Rubric grading. (There are two potential locations for a Discussion rubric: the Discussion Topic itself, and the Grade item. This improvement is specifically for rubrics that are associated with the Discussion topic, rather than our more usual process of associating a Discussion rubric with the Grade item.
The exciting new improvement is that, for the first time, a user's posts in the Discussion grading interface and the rubric used for grading the Topic are visible in the same window.
How do Discussion rubrics work for students? When students the discussion topic, the rubric can be previewed right there. After you grade with the Discussion rubric, the rubric feedback is available to students through the Discussions area of "User Progress" (not, at this time, in Grades).

Bug Fixes

Each Continuous Delivery wave comes with information about fixed and known issues. There are two fixed issues in the March 2016 release that will be of special interest to NLU faculty.
  • Quiz statistics are so helpful, but have you ever had a timeout error when attempting to view them? No more! PRB0050932, which was responsible for this issue, was resolved in the March 2016 release. [Thanks to our own Anthony Boen for his efforts in documenting this bug for squashing.]
  • Toggling Draft/Published in the Table of Contents is a real convenience, but starting with our December upgrade, the result of such a change did not immediately appear for the user making the change. PRB0050866, which caused this problem, was also resolved in the March 2016 release.