06 December 2013

Use Fill in the Blanks for students to type a list

Here is a sample question that an instructor wants to ask: List the three macronutrients. The correct answers are carbohydrates, protein, and lipids or fats. To have this question automatically graded, use Fill in the Blanks.
  1. Change the question text as follows: List the three macronutrients in alphabetical order and make it worth 3 points.
  2. Give the question three Texts and three Blanks in alternating order:
    • Text #1: Contains the question text and ends with an empty paragraph (type the Enter key)
    • Blank #2: One Answer (cho), size 10, weight 33.33%
    • Text #2: Contains only a empty paragraph (type the Enter key)
    • Blank #2: Two Answers (fats and lipids), size 10, each answer has weight 33.33%
    • Text #3: Contains only a empty paragraph (type the Enter key)
    • Blank #3: One Answer (protein), size 10, weight 33.33% 
More than one Answer can be associated with a Blank, and whatever a student types in that Blank will be checked against each of the Answers associated with that Blank. All four words could be listed as Answers for each Blank, but then a student could get full credit for typing the same word in all three Blanks; hence the requirement they be written in alphabetical order.
When creating a complex FIB question like this, adding additional Text and Blank entries will be at the bottom of the question so they have to be added in sequence. A new FIB question has the sequence Text-Blank-Text, so to create the structure in this sample the correct steps are to add a Blank, then a Text, then a Blank.
Without those empty-paragraph text boxes, the blanks will run together in a single line and the order in which students should write the answer might not be obvious. The blank paragraphs are there to force the answer boxes to appear in a single column on the page.

04 December 2013

Inadvertent emails

In a multiple-enrollment course offering it is possible to email students in other sections inadvertently. This was discovered in the Dropbox tool, where attempting to email all users without submissions (while looking only at one section) also included students who had not submitted files to that same Dropbox folder in the other section.

Thanks to Constance Carter for sharing this with me.

16 October 2013

Move Videos from the V Drive to Los Rios Google Apps

Videos on the CRC streaming media server do not automatically display within Desire2Learn. The videos are still there but there are currently issues over how mixed-content pages appear in the browser. “Mixed content” means some content is delivered via an encrypted connection (all of the D2L pages are encrypted) and some content is not delivered via an encrypted connection (none of the pages on the district’s streaming media server are encrypted). This is a problem because a bad guy could sniff the data submitted via an unencrypted form (like an account number or password). The browser manufacturers have therefore added a way to alert users that a page has mixed content.

Users can allow mixed content to appear. The problem that changed recently is that Chrome and Firefox stick a tiny shield in the navigation bar that a user would have to click on to allow the mixed content. Internet Explorer shows a popup warning and is therefore easier to see. Safari does not have this issue.

Of course it is a bad habit for users to allow mixed content, so the best solution is to use a streaming media server that delivers content via an encrypted connection. Fortunately we have one in Los Rios Gmail and Google Apps. For instructors who have been using the CRC streaming media server, the best practice is to upload your videos to your Los Rios Google Drive and re-share them via the embed code you can copy there and paste into a Desire2Learn content topic.

I have made a video showing how to do this:

18 September 2013

Create a Single News Feed for Multiple Course Offerings

Desire2Learn does not have a way to create a single News item and share that with all of an instructor's course offerings. Instructors therefore have to create an item in each course offering or create it once and then copy it into each course offering. A workaround is to use a custom widget with a Twitter feed. The widget would have to be added to each course offering but it would allow an instructor to post something once (in Twitter) and have that appear many places (inside the Twitter widget on each course offering's homepage). The challenge will be for us to fit important information into fewer than 140 characters. ;-)

16 September 2013

Use Los Rios Google Apps to Create an Image Gallery and Share via Desire2Learn

This is cross-posted on Greg's Google Blog

The Google Drive application can be used to create an online image gallery with thumbnails that link to higher-quality images.

Customize the Student Resources link group

The Student Resources link group can be customized. The navbar must be editable, which means the default navbar has already been copied and applied.

11 September 2013

Release Final Grades and Show Current Grade

The final grade item cannot be seen by students until it has been "released":

Confirm your calculation options to make sure that students are seeing the correct information. Click the Settings link and then the Calculation Options tab:
At the bottom of the page, decide whether to drop ungraded items (this turns your "final" grade into a "current" grade instead). Also decide whether to keep the final grade updated. If you decide to drop ungraded items, you can rename the final grade item by clicking on its name (while in Manage Grades view) and typing a new name (e.g., "Current Grade" or "Grade as of Today").
If the “drop ungraded items” button is checked, then the points possible for the Final Grade is a sum of all the grade items for which that student has received a score. Here is an example with the drop ungraded items turned OFF: 
Exam 1 (100 points possible):
Exam 2 (100 points possible):
Final Exam (300 points possible):
- (not yet taken)
Final Grade:
 Here is the same grade book with drop ungraded items turned ON 
Exam 1 (100 points possible):
Exam 2 (100 points possible):
Final Exam (300 points possible):
- (not yet taken)
Final Grade:
 Spot the difference? In the second example, because the student has not yet taken the final exam, the Final Grade should instead be thought of as the “Current Grade” and perhaps renamed appropriately.
  • Click the Enter Grades icon for the final grade item. You can find this on the action menu for the item.
    • Click the Release All button. You can find this on the action menu for the Final Grades heading at the top of the page.

    10 September 2013

    Insert Stuff, YouTube, and Mixed Content on a Web Page

    The Insert Stuff tool allows you to embed publicly accessible YouTube videos easily. However, there is a trick to avoiding the browser's warning against mixed content.

    05 September 2013

    "Grade All" Means Two Things

    Did you ever wonder what would happen if you tried to double infinity? Desire2Learn does this with multiple meanings for the term "Grade All." When looking at the Grade Item page, the action menu includes an option to Grade All that applies the same score to everyone in the class.
    Note:If you apply the same score to everyone in the class, this score also applies to withdrawn students' grades.

    The same term is an option when looking at the action menu for a grade item on the Enter Grades page, but selecting this takes you to the Grade Item page for that item.
    The "Grade All" link means different things depending on where you click on it.

    30 August 2013

    User Progress

    Desire2Learn automatically records a variety of data on activity associated with its various tools. In general, this data can be accessed from three areas:

    1. The tool itself (e.g., View Reports for the Content tool)
    2. Each student's View Progress link from the Classlist
    3. The View User Progress link on the Edit Course page

    27 August 2013

    Use Los Rios Google Apps to View PowerPoint

    This is cross-posted on Greg's Google Blog

    Though Desire2Learn includes an inline file viewer that displays PowerPoint presentations within the browser, there are still situations where students will need or want to download the presentation file to a local computer. For those who are off campus and do not have access to Microsoft Office, one option is to use Los Rios Gmail and Google Apps. A PowerPoint file can be uploaded to Drive and Docs, and Google will convert it to the Google Presentation format. It can then be viewed within the browser and downloaded as a PDF file for printing.

    21 August 2013

    Remove Quiz Results from the Grades Tool

    The results of quizzes in Desire2Learn do not have to be posted as grades. Those scores can still be viewed on the Quizzes page, be shared with students, and used as criteria for Release Conditions. In case you decide not to count those results as part of the grade after attempts have been submitted, here are the steps to remove those results from grades after the quiz has been taken by students:
    1. On the Properties tab for the quiz, choose the "None" option for Grade Item and then click the Save button.

      Note that the Auto Export to Grades option can no longer be changed.
    2. On the Manage Grades page, click on the "Delete" link on the More Actions button. This takes you to the Delete Grade Items and Categories page; from here you can select the grade item that was formerly associated with the quiz and then click the Delete button. Desire2Learn will prompt you to warn that removing the grade item will also remove its associated scores. This does not remove the quiz attempts; they can still be viewed via the quizzes tool.

    20 August 2013

    Make a Course Offering Active

    Are your students complaining they cannot see your course offering on Desire2Learn? It may be that your course offering is not active. By default, all new course offerings are inactive. This means that enrolled instructor users can see them but enrolled student users cannot.

    You can easily tell if your course is inactive. On your D2L homepage the word "inactive" appears in italic type following the name of the course. you will see a gray icon next to the course link, this means your course is inactive.

    To change this status, take the following steps:

    1. Click on the name of the course offering to enter it.
    2. Click on the Edit Course link to go to the Course Administration page.
    3. Click on the link for Course Offering Information.
    4. On the Course Offering Information page, there is a check box to make the course active. Click in this box and then click the Save button at the bottom of the page. Your course offering will be visible immediately to any students whose user accounts are enrolled in your Desire2Learn course offering.

    08 August 2013

    "Grade All" Applies to Withdrawn Users

    When using "grade all," the grade override also affects any withdrawn students for the course offering, even though the confirmation dialog only counts currently enrolled students. A withdrawn student who does not have a score for that grade item does not have the "grade all" score applied. This is a problem especially for course offerings that use the option for grading attendance mentioned in another blog entry

    31 May 2013

    Using the Role Select for My Courses

    Some users are enrolled in course offerings in different roles. For example, at CRC all of the faculty are enrolled as Member in a course offering used to conduct elections for the academic senate. Those who also use D2L for teaching will therefore also be enrolled as Instructor in other course offerings. Another example is the Prior Term role, which instructors are encouraged to use so that they can de-clutter their homepages.

    In the My Courses widget, only course offerings for one role display at a time. If you have different roles in different course offerings, you can select another role by clicking on the Role select menu and choosing another role. The system remembers your role from the most recent course offering you visited. It is easy to forget that you last visited a course offering in which you are enrolled as Prior Term, for example, and then return to your homepage and wonder where your current-term (Instructor) course offerings are.
    If you only have one role that you are using (this applies to most students), then the Role select menu does not appear.

    28 May 2013

    Class Progress Overview

    I found a video on a new tool in Desire2Learn: the Class Progress tool. It is linked from the Edit Course page, and this video from Ralph Mayer at Midlands Technical College does an excellent job covering the tool:

    Managing My Courses

    Once a user's enrollment exceeds 50 courses with the same role, Desire2Learn no longer can safely display all of them on a single page and the "Last 10 accessed courses" box appears. You can search for a course by name and term code. This is the four-digit code that identifies a term and is part of the course offering code. Here is the syntax:

    1. First digit is always a 1
    2. Second third digits are the last two digits of the calendar year
    3. Fourth digit is 3 for spring, 6 for summer, and 9 for fall.
    For example, the term code for summer 2013 is 1136. Note that the term code is not included in the course offering code for a developmental course offering. Those include the string _dev_, so you could type that to find all of your development course offerings.

    You can also move any of your course offerings to another tab in your My Courses widget by changing your role within each course offering. Desire2Learn creates a new tab in this widget for each role. This is helpful also if you  no longer want to see course offerings from previous terms (think of it as "de-cluttering" the widget). There is a role called "Prior Term" that has the same privileges as the Instructor role. [VIDEO DEMO]

    08 May 2013

    Edit the Course Homepage and Create a Custom Widget

    The default homepage for course offerings can be edited. Widgets can be removed and added, and custom widgets can be created.

    05 May 2013

    Grades and Feedback

    Enter Grades

    Entering grades can be done a couple of different ways depending on whether the item has an "association" or not. Associated items are those that are connected to a quiz, discussion topic, or dropbox folder. For these items, the grade and feedback should come from the associated tool itself. If a grade item does not have an association, the grade and feedback must be entered manually on the Grade Item page.

    In this example, there are three grade items titled "Document Analysis," and each is associated with a dropbox folder. When the students' submissions are evaluated in the associated dropbox folder, the score is automatically pushed to the appropriate grade item. If the score is changed in the dropbox folder, the score on the Grades page is also changed. The data does not flow the other way. If the score is changed on the Grades page, the score for the associated dropbox folder is not changed.

    The same example has a couple of items that do not have an association. Both are titled "Midterm Exam." When grades are ready to be posted for these items, the action menu for each includes a link to the Enter Grades page for that item.

    Individual Activity for Associated Items

    For associated grade items, there is also a way to view an individual student's submissions (for a dropbox folder), attempts (for a quiz), or posts (for a discussion topic) from the grades page and without having to go to that tool. A link to the individual student's activity is on the Enter Grades page, whether that is the page for an individual item (accessed via the action menu and the Enter Grades link on the Manage Grades page) or the Enter Grades page, which shows all students and grade items in a grid.

    02 May 2013

    Edit the Navbar

    The navbar for a course offering is how the instructor shows which tools will be used in a course offering. The default set of course tools may not be the same tools in use, and instructors are encouraged to make changes as appropriate. Links can be added to course tools, course resources, and external web sites.

    Create Custom Link Groups

    The default course offering navbar includes a link group called "Student Resources." It is possible for instructors to create their own custom link groups.

    01 May 2013

    Quiz Converter without Respondus

    Rich Path at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has created a tool to convert test banks that are in any word processing program (Word, iWork, etc.) into a Desire2Learn question import file. The file can be imported directly into a quiz or the question library. This basically does what Respondus does for free.


    It is Windows and Macintosh compatible. Here is some sample syntax for four different question types (true/false, multiple choice, long answer, and ordering). Notice that the questions are numbered sequentially and there is a blank line between each question.
    1. I am a college student.

    2. What color is the sun?
    A. Red
    B. Blue
    C. Green
    *D. Yellow

    3. Describe the process you used to select a college major.

    order 4. From shortest to longest, order by length:
    For a more detailed reference view the D2L Question Tool Documentation.

    30 April 2013

    Dropbox Draft Feedback

    Feedback for dropbox submissions can be saved in draft status. This makes it possible for instructors to publish feedback simultaneously for an entire class. The Save Draft button is the first part of this process. Once ready to make the feedback available to students, the Folder Submissions page can be used to publish the feedback for all students (first click in the check box to Select all rows, then click the Publish Feedback link).

    Compose and Reply in Discussions

    A discussion topic (this is not an option for a discussion forum) can be set up to require that students must compose a message (i.e., start a new thread) before they can read anything else that their classmates have written inside that topic. By turning this option on, instructors can more readily assume that students have not read what their classmates have posted prior to writing something in that topic. If this is turned on, the student can read and reply to other other messages after writing a new one.

    The discussions statistics section of the User Progress page (accessed from the Classlist, not the Discussions Statistics page) shows a different count for messages that were original ("Authored") and responses to classmates ("Replied")

    24 April 2013


    The content tool includes a feature called Course Overview, which instructors always see but students do not unless it is empty. Also instructors can drag and drop files directly into the browser window, and there is a file viewer so that students do not have to have a local desktop application to see certain files*. These features and more are demonstrated in the video for D2L content.

    *: The following file types can be viewed with Desire2Learn's inline file viewer (all other types must be downloaded before they can be viewed):
    • Images:
      • Graphics Interchange Format (.gif)
      • Joint Photographic Experts Group (.jpg, .jpeg)
      • Portable Network Graphics (.png)
    • Text:
      • HyperText Markup Language (.htm, .html)
      • Microsoft Word (.doc, .docx)
      • Plain Text (.txt)
      • Portable Document Format (.pdf)
    • Presentations:
      • Microsoft PowerPoint (.ppt, .pptx)

    23 April 2013

    One Dropbox, Different Due Dates

    In a multiple-enrollment course offering, you may have an assignment that has a different due date for each of the classes. For example, the paper for your MW class may have a due date of April 18 and the same paper for your TTh class may have a due date of April 19. There is a one-to-one relationship between a dropbox folder and a grade item, so using the same dropbox folder for both classes requires use of "Special Access" to give students in one class a different due date. Students will see the correct due date when they visit the dropbox folder inside the course offering but (as noted in the video), the automatic calendar entry for the folder will only show the "main" due date. [VIDEO DEMO]

    Another option for this is to create different dropbox folders for each section, which could have different due dates and could each be conditionally released so that they are visible only to students enrolled in that section. However, this would complicate the Grades tool. Individual grade items can be conditionally released, but then the final grade item would include both of the items. So then the Grades calculation setting to drop ungraded items should be selected.

    Here are some images of a sample involving Frodo Baggins and Bilbo Baggins, who are enrolled in different sections in the same course offering:
    1. The Manage Grades page. Note that two of the grade items are set to be conditionally released and that their maximum points differ:
    2. Frodo's Grades page (he is enrolled in the TTh section). Note his maximum points for his Final Calculated Grade do not include the item Quiz 2, which is not yet scored.
    3. Bilbo's Grades page (he is enrolled in the MWF section):

    17 April 2013

    News Tool and the Text Editor

    The News tool allows instructors to post important course information in a conspicuous place. The text editor includes options for linking to web sites outside of Desire2Learn and a handy tool to include multimedia.

    Course Homepage and the Course Selector

    The Desire2Learn course homepage includes several widgets that provide useful information to students and instructors. The persistent minibar allows easy navigation between course offerings and can be organized to make it more efficient.

    04 April 2013

    Color Codes Used on CRC Course Offerings

    Here are the color codes to match the defaults in CRC's course offerings:

    Color Code Where Used
    Navbar text, widget titlebar, CRC logo
    Bottom of page background
    Navbar links (hover color)
    Background behind navbar links
    Background behind course homepage and name
    CRC logo, border at bottom of navbar

    20 March 2013

    Find Captioned Videos

    To help ensure that your instructional material is accessible to students with disabilities, there are a couple of tricks you can use to find videos that have already been captioned.

    12 March 2013

    Add Sections to a Manually Created Course Offering

    In Los Rios we use the Holding Tank to manage the integration of user data and enrollment between our SIS and D2L, and this prevents course offerings that are created manually (i.e., outside the Holding Tank) from having sections added to them. Sections are useful for bulk enrollment, which is a tool that is more likely to be used in a course offering that is created manually. Even a system administrator cannot manually add sections to a course offering, but this video shows a workaround.

    05 March 2013

    Links to Course Offerings Disappear

    If a link to a course offering does not appear on your homepage, it is possible that part of the course organization menu has been collapsed. This video shows how to use the collapse/expand button to manage the appearance of links to course offerings.

    04 March 2013

    Automatically Submit Quiz Scores to Grades

    If you forget to check the box to have Quiz scores automatically sent to the Grades tool and want to know how to get scores sent after students have submitted attempts, this video shows how.

    13 February 2013

    Student Editors on a Los Rios Google Apps Site

    This is cross-posted on Greg's Google Blog
    The Los Rios Google Sites tool can support a group assignment wherein create a web site together. This video shows how to add students' Los Rios Google user accounts as editors to a Los Rios Google Site. The names are taken from the classlist on a Desire2Learn course offering.

    10 February 2013

    Limit quiz attempts to students who attend a class meeting

    Here is a question from a colleague:
    Is there a way to configure a D2L quiz so it can only be completed from a campus computer lab? I have a hybrid course that has a once-a-week lab meeting, and I'd like to force students to take the lab quiz from the computer lab classroom.

    And an answer:
    Unfortunately no. Since we use a load balancer the IP address restriction will not work. What I have done in a similar situation is to restrict access with a password. The only students who will know the password are those in the room with me.

    08 February 2013

    Sharing Los Rios GaGA Documents

    This is cross-posted on Greg's Google Blog
    You can use a Los Rios Google Apps (GaGA) document to collect data from students, say for a sign-up sheet. Here are the steps, starting in your GaGA document:
    1. In your GaGA document click the blue Share button to open the Sharing settings dialog box.
    2. Paste the list of your students' GaGA usernames separated by commas to the Add people box (be sure to append @apps.losrios.edu after each student's Los Rios username)
    3. Because not all students have yet upgraded to Los Rios Gmail, do not check the box to notify people via email (you will do this via D2L)
    4. Copy the "Link to share" at the top of the Sharing settings dialog box (this includes a very long string of characters)
    Then tell your students the following in D2L:

    1. Log in to the Los Rios Google Apps domain (http://apps.losrios.edu) using your Los Rios username and password
    2. Click on [insert a url quicklink to the "Link to share" you copied from your GaGA document]
    If that second step does not work for you, do the following after logging in to Los Rios Google Apps:
    1. Click on the link to "Other Google Apps"
    2. Click on the link to "Drive and Docs"
    3. Click on the link to "Shared with me"
    4. Click on the link to "[name of your shared document]"

    06 February 2013

    Rubrics and the Dropbox

    The Rubrics tool can be used in conjunction with the Dropbox to make grading student submissions more efficient, with objective-based feedback that can be customized. [VIDEO DEMO]

    Note the following about the Rubrics tool and Grades: It is a current weakness of D2L that the only place where the score from a rubric can be pushed to the grades page automatically is in the dropbox. Rubrics attached to a discussion topic and quiz do not push scores into the grades tool. D2L’s design philosophy for the rubric tool is strongly connected to the competencies (SLO) tool and its connection to grades appears to be an afterthought for the programmers. I hope that future versions of D2L will allow for discussion and quiz rubrics to push scores to the grades tool.

    04 February 2013

    Tracking Checklist Progression

    The Checklist is a tool that instructors can use to give students a list of to-do items for a course. It does not connect to the Grades tool, and students self-assess whether a particular item has been completed. To view that self-assessment, use the Progress Report. The report shows how many total items the student has marked completed, how many the class has marked completed, and the status for each item for that student.