03 November 2011

Performing Repetitive Tasks

There is not an easy way to do a batch enrollment of the same user in multiple classes. Here is one way to do this efficiently:
  • From the D2L homepage, Ctrl+click on each of the course offerings where you want to enroll the same user (this opens each in a new browser tab)
  • Get the mouse pointer in position (over the Classlist link) and click on that link, followed immediately by typing Ctrl+Tab to get to the next browser tab, where the mouse pointer is ready to click on that Classlist link (repeat for each browser tab)
  • Repeat the above step for each part of the enrollment process (Add participants, add an existing user, type search string, click Search button, click in check box next to result, choose role, choose section, click Enroll Selected Users)
This same process can be used for any time you want to do the same thing across multiple courses or even multiple things in the same course. For example, you might want to make the same changes to the default submission view in all of the quizzes in a course offering. Things to watch out for:
  • Not all links in D2L are HTML links. This will not work with JavaScript links. However, any of the navbar links are HTML, so you could open several browser tabs to the Quizzes page in your course offering if you wanted to make the same change to multiple quizzes (or discussion board topics, or dropbox folders, etc.).
  • Even if they are all HTML links, not all links will be the same place on different browser tabs. One obvious example for the enrollment task is if the Classlist link is not on the same place of each course offering’s navbar.

05 October 2011

Who Has Visited a Content Topic?

The Reports page in the Content area shows a table with how many students have accessed each content topic and you can click on the number to see who those students were.

29 September 2011

Respondus LockDown Browser and external links and files

Respondus has posted a blog entry on how to use external links and files in a quiz that  requires the use of their LockDown Browser:

Respondus LockDown Browser: Using External Links and Files

14 September 2011

Ted videos

Videos from Ted.com can be posted inside your course offering in one of two ways: as a quicklink or embedded.

  • To link a Ted.com video as a quicklink, copy the URL of the Ted.com page that has the video. In Desire2Learn, add a quicklink and select the URL category. Paste the link copied from Ted.com into the "Url" field on the Link Details section of the Insert a Quicklink dialog box. Click Insert (if necessary) and then Save.
  • To embed a Ted.com video, click in the "Embed this video" field and copy the code there. In Desire2Learn, click on the Insert Stuff button on the Advanced formatting toolbar of a text box. Then click the Enter Embed Code button on the Select Media dialog box. Paste the embed code in the "Embed Code" box and click Next. Click Insert and then Save.

02 September 2011

Character limit for various text fields

The various identifying fields inside Desire2Learn have limits on the number of characters (including spaces) allowed:

ContentModule and TopicTitle150
DiscussionsForum and TopicTitle250
[Properties and Submission Views and Reports]
QuizzesQuestion Library 
[Sections and Random Sections]
QuizzesQuestion Library
[Questions and Information]
QuizzesQuestion Library
[Question Images]
GradesGrade Item and CategoryName127
EmailCompose New MessageSubject256
AttendanceRegister and SessionName128
ChecklistChecklist and ItemName128
GroupsCategory and GroupName128
GroupsGroup Code50

24 August 2011

Export vs. Copy Content

One of the challenges in selectively copying content from one course offering to another is the requirement to choose the appropriate Course File in addition to the specific Content items in your copy. You may find it more efficient to export the content from your source course offering and then import the content into the destination course offering. It requires you do store the export file on your local computer and therefore does not take place entirely on the server (as the copy function does). However, the export tool can automatically include all related Course Files. Note that the Course Files copied are those that are content topics, so any files that are quicklinked within a content topic are not included. [VIDEO DEMO]

22 August 2011


There is an Attendance tool that you can use to track attendance information and share with your students.

19 August 2011


Students within a Desire2Learn course offering can be divided into groups, which give instructors an additional set of tools. The Groups page can be accessed via the Groups navbar link or by selecting the Edit Course link and then choosing Groups. Students access their groups via the navbar link.

05 August 2011

Grouping Classes Together

Employee Self-Service (ESS) includes four different ways to group classes together in the same course offering in Desire2Learn:

  1. Cross-listed classes are grouped automatically. When an instructor selects either of the cross-listed classes, the other(s) are also selected. Cross-listed classes cannot be grouped with other classes, so you cannot group your Law and Society (BUS345/SOCSC360) with your Business Law (BUS340). You can group one set of cross-listed classes with another set of cross-listed classes by selecting the same XList number for each class.
  2. Science lab/lecture classes are grouped automatically. The instructor who is assigned to the lecture (graded component) is the only one who can request a D2L course offering, and it will include all lab sections within the course offering. ESS only shows the lecture section, and this can be grouped with other classes in a multi or special group.
  3. Classes that share the same session, subject, catalog number, and mode can be grouped into a Multi course offering. To do this, change the section under the "Grouping" column to "Multi#" for each class that you want to include in the same course offering. It is important that all of the classes share the same number at the end. This way you can have more than one multi course offering. [VIDEO DEMO]
  4. If you want to group classes that do not have the same session, subject, catalog number, and mode (and want to "break" the rules allowed for a multi), use the SpGrp option under "Grouping." Like multi classes, the number at the end must be the sale for all of the classes you want to group into a special grouping. When you select this option, an additional icon appears under the column "Spcl Notes" to add any notes you want your coordinator to see. A special grouping class must be approved by your LMS coordinator before the course offering is created. Coordinators do not know about special grouping requests automatically, so you are encouraged to let your coordinator know about your request.
Whichever option applies to your course offering, students will be grouped automatically into sections based on their enrollment. So each of your lab sections will be a section within your course offering, each class in a multiple-enrollment course offering, etc. You can use release conditions based on section enrollment to limit access to course material based on enrollment. One likely example is your syllabus, which might be different for your classes in a multiple enrollment class. How to do that is explained in another blog entry.

01 June 2011

Audio Recordings

Users can record and attach audio files in Dropbox (students and instructors), Discussions (students and instructors), and News (instructors). A Record Audio button appears next to the Add a File button in the Attachments section of the page.
The user must have a sound card and a microphone connected to the computer, so students will not be able to use this from most on-campus computers. The user is prompted to allow Flash to access the system's microphone. Since Flash is required, iOS devices cannot use it. :-(

It records in WAV format, and the limit is 1 minute. The recording is not embedded but is attached to the news item. For discussions, multiple recordings can be added to a single message. For those dropbox folders limited to a single file per submission, the audio recording counts as that file so for those dropbox folders students should be warned not to use the audio recording.

Weighted Grade Categories and Distributed Points

In the weighted grading system, categories now have the option to distribute weights by points across all items in the category. This means that Desire2Learn calculates and adjusts the weights for each item within the category according to the items' points. [VIDEO DEMO]

Grade one question at a time

Quizzes can be graded one question at a time. To do this, click on the grade icon for the quiz, then the Questions tab. Turn on the option for Blind Marking and then click on the question name.
On the page to provide numerical and text feedback are buttons marked "Save" and "Save and Continue." Clicking the Save and Continue button records your grade and advances the page to the next submission.

Note that if the option to set attempts as graded immediately upon completion has been turned on for this quiz, the attempts must be marked as ungraded and then graded again to push feedback for questions graded one a time to the grades page. This can be done by viewing all attempts (click on either the Users or Attempts tab) and clicking the select/unselect icon, the Update button, the select/unselect icon again, and the Update button again.

24 May 2011

Recycling course offerings

Desire2Learn does not have a recycle tool like Blackboard does, so if you are done with a development course offering and want to start over from scratch, you can clear out the material using each tool's delete function. Here are some things to keep in mind:
  • Not all course files may be deleted when you delete topics and modules on the Manage Content page, so check the Manage Files page to see if anything is there after you delete content topics and modules
  • Grade items cannot be deleted if they are associated, so clear the discussion, dropbox, and quizzes areas before you clear grades
  • Before you can remove discussion topics or forums, dropbox folders, or quizzes, click the Delete button on those pages first - you have to enable the ability to delete before deleting anything on those pages
  • To see the bulk delete option for news items, click on the Show All link at the bottom of the News widget first

18 May 2011

Correct a bad quiz question

If you realize that a quiz question has the wrong answer selected as correct, you can retroactively grade all students who chose the correct answer (that was marked as incorrect by Desire2Learn). In the silent video example, the instructor gives everyone who chose answer 3 to a question ("The Civil War") a point for that answer. [VIDEO DEMO]

16 May 2011

Grading attendance

I found an interesting article on a method to grade attendance in Desire2Learn posted by a colleague at St. Cloud Technical College in Minnesota:


Note that this method does not use the Attendance tool in Desire2Learn.

04 May 2011

Solving the self-contact issue

There is an issue with Turnitin's originality report that prevents instructors from self-contacting. This happens when a source is identified as another student submission to the same instructor. This occurs only when using Turnitin via a dropbox with plagiarism detection enabled.

To get additional information on the original submission, the paper ID number is needed. The paper ID number can be found by clicking on the info button in the lower-left corner of the Turnitin window:
Then contact the Turnitin help desk. There are three ways to do this:
  1. Create a ticket online at http://turnitin.com/help/helpdesk.asp
  2. Email at TiiSupport@turnitin.com
  3. Phone at 866-816-5046 ext. 241
    Mon. - Fri. 6am-11pm Pacific, and Sat. - Sun. 2pm-11pm PDT

Printing a quiz

To print all questions and answers, with correct ones indicated, and including feedback for a single quiz, print an attempt. You can preview the quiz to generate an attempt if students have not taken it yet. Make sure to check the box to allow the preview attempt to be graded.

You can then search for the attempt on the grade quiz page and print it. Each question's feedback can be displayed prior to printing the quiz attempt.

30 March 2011

Instructors know anonymous discussion authors

A discussion forum or topic can be set up to allow authors to post messages anonymously. Other students cannot see the author of anonymous messages but instructors can. Next to the date and time of the post is a blue info icon. Click on that to see the author's name. The first and last name appear but not the username.

Anonymous messages cannot be assessed.

21 March 2011

Local storage for purged course offerings

After three calendar years, official course offerings are purged (permanently deleted) from the Los Rios Desire2Learn server. Official course offerings connected to the summer 2008 term will be purged prior to the beginning of the summer 2011 term, official course offerings from fall 2008 will be purged prior to fall 2011, and so on. While a single-file snapshot of a course offering that includes student data cannot be created, there are ways to store data locally. Local storage includes course components, discussion entries, discussion statistics, grades, quiz attempts, dropbox submissions, and content access statistics. [VIDEO DEMO]

Note that this policy does not affect development course offerings or course offerings used for clubs and organizations.

11 March 2011

Manage Dates

Adjusting the availability dates for items in a course offering after copying its material over into a different course offering for a new term is easy with the Manage Dates tool. This tool is available on the Edit Course page. [VIDEO DEMO]

Note that this tool does not change the dates for Submission Views for quizzes; those must still be adjusted manually.

22 February 2011

Student access to classlist

On the classlist students are only able to see people enrolled in the same section, which is why a student taking a lab / lecture class cannot see classmates enrolled in other labs. There are a couple of workarounds for instructors who want students to be able to contact each other online:
  • Create a separate document (content topic – new file is the best way) that has all students and their email addresses listed. It will not have the automatic connection to D2L’s send email tool but it will facilitate communication.
  • Another option is to create a discussion topic for students to introduce themselves. All students enrolled in a course offering can see all messages on a topic, and from there they can email each other using D2L’s send email tool.

Parallel Organization in Manage Files and Manage Content

A good reason to give the files in the Manage Files area an organization parallel to what you have in the Manage Content area, where folders in Manage Files match the modules in Manage Content, is it makes selective copying of content and course files much easier. I found it effective to create the folders before creating any content topics. That way when I click the Choose Destination button on the New Topic page I will have a place to stick the new or uploaded file that matches the module structure already in place.

25 January 2011

Question Metadata and Efficient Quiz Creation

For the most efficient use of quiz questions if you want to make sure that students are asked certain types of questions (those that measure the achievement of a particular learning outcome, those that are classified by level of difficulty, etc.), group them into separate sections in the Question Library that have the appropriate metadata as part of the name. For example, instead of one section for all 160 multiple choice questions for chapter 1, create a section containing the 20 multiple choice questions associated with outcome 1.1, another 20 for those associated with outcome 1.2, etc. Doing so will make it easy to create random sections in a quiz where there are three questions that focus on outcome 1.1, four on outcome 1.2, etc.

22 January 2011

Names for Content Topics

For the content in my online class, I typically have a module per week or lecture subject. The first content topic within that module is an overview of the subject, with a list of associated assignments and other resources I have available within that module. I like to give that topic the title "Overview," but this can cause a problem when I want to link to that topic from some other place or use it as part of a release condition. In a full-term class I might have a dozen or more topics named "Overview" and therefore might pick the wrong one. To help me with this I include the name of the module in the name of the overview content topic (e.g., "Reconstruction Overview"), but still call it "Overview" in the Short Title field.

21 January 2011

Simultaneously edit content items

On the Manage Content page, the multi-edit icon can be used to make changes to several topics and/or modules simultaneously. [VIDEO DEMO]

13 January 2011

Recover Dropbox Files for Dropped Students

If a student submitted files to a dropbox folder and then dropped the course, the date and time of the student's submissions appear on the dropbox User Progress page (user progress for dropped students is accessible from the Reports page of the Classlist). However, any files submitted are not accessible unless the student is enrolled in a course offering. So you have to re-enroll a dropped student's user account to access any dropbox files submitted while that student was enrolled in the class.