Release conditions and course item dates provide the online teacher with tools to structure and customize the course experience for students. Here are just a few examples from courses I have taught or supported.
- Course dates sequence the material and activities, and provide a loose synchronicity.
- A large online class breaks into small groups for problem-solving or a reading discussion.
- Students must receive feedback for their outlines before submitting their papers.
- Signing up for an interest group opens specialized resources and activities.
- An online student must agree to a liability waiver before accessing instructions for an at-home lab.
- A student with an accommodation letter gets customized timing on a quiz through "Special Access".
How-to in D2L
How NOT-to in D2L
Circular logic, when applied to release conditions, can efficiently keep students away from needed course resources. Think about it. Suppose you made students walk through two gates to get to your on-ground class. The first one only admits students named George. The second only admits students who are not named George. Your classroom would be empty of students; not good. Similarly, if students can only access a discussion if they are in the orange group and also have done the blue group project (which is not available to students in the orange group), there will be no posts on your discussion board. Don't put your students in an impossible situation by imposing impossible conditions, or by layering up conditions that, when taken together, create an impossible situation.
True redundancy in release conditions wastes time every time the system has to check whether all conditions are satisfied. If a student must achieve a certain score on "Reading Quiz 1" before accessing "Dropbox Folder 1", and must have submitted a paper to Dropbox Folder 1 before accessing "Discussion Topic 1", putting a release condition for "submitted to Dropbox Folder 1" on the discussion topic would be sufficient to ensure that students had completed both the quiz and the dropbox submission. In another example, if you have a Content module hidden, there is no need to also hide each page of the module.
Not Actually Redundant
There are, however, times when you need to hide or release the same thing in two different places. Say you have a discussion topic that you do not want students to see or post in until after Week 3 in your course. The discussion is part of your Week 3 module. You've effectively hidden the entire Week 3 module through date release. That's enough, right? Actually, it isn't. You've taken care of the content link, but students can still get at your Week 3 discussion topic by using the "Class Tools" menu and going directly to your Discussion board. You will need to apply your release condition to the discussion forum or topic as well as to the content link. It's like locking both the front and back doors of a house; it takes extra effort but it's not actually redundant.
Don't keep secrets
Letting students in on your use of selective release is just good sense. Knowing that you will be releasing a Content module each Monday, if that is your plan, will allow students to make their own plans. If students must sign up for an interest group in order to access an important discussion topic make sure that they are aware that there is a consequence to not signing up. Students who know what to expect will have a smoother path through the course, and your chance of having them do what you expect will be greater.