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zen garden with bamboo in the background and stacked zen stones in the foreground

I usually get a lot of questions from faculty related to setting up their Brightspace courses. In the spirit of starting the summer session with less stress, I offer the following course design suggestions to reduce your course setup and management stress:

Setup Grade Book First

Setting up your Grade Book before adding assignments and activities that will be graded simplifies your course creation workflow. Grade items are not automatically created in the Grade Book. Instructors have to setup their grading system and create grade items separately.

When you setup your Grade Book first, you can associate the assignment/activity with the corresponding grade item in the Grade Book at the time you are creating the assignment/activity. This eliminates going back and forth between creating assignments/activities and the Grade Book.

Use Due Dates

Use due dates in Brightspace to help students stay on track. Dates automatically populate into the course calendar. Students will see due dates when they look at entries in the course calendar.

Enter due dates and availability (start/end) dates when you create assignments, assessments, discussion topics and forums, etc. Keep dates aligned with the dates in your syllabus to prevent student confusion about when an assignment/activity is due.

Make Names Consistent

Avoid naming assignment/activities one thing in the syllabus and another in the course (and/or still another in the Grade Book). If your assignment is listed as "Week 5 Short Essay Paper" in the syllabus, but your assignment submission folder is labeled "Educational Technology", you can expect to field questions and/or excuses from students who can’t figure out what they’re supposed to do.

Make things easier for students by making sure an item is named consistently throughout the syllabus and course, and things will be easier for you as well.

Keep Information Consistent

Posting multiple copies of assignment instructions or supplemental material in multiple places in the course is an invitation to trouble because there isn’t necessarily a correlation between them—they can be completely different documents. When there’s a change to the assignment, you have to remember to make edits everywhere you might have posted the information, or risk giving students conflicting information.

Instead of posting multiple copies use Quicklinks, as they are great for making sure information is consistent throughout the course. Quicklinks are useful because they allow instructors to provide students with a direct link to content in the course. For example, instructors can create an announcement or email for students with links that take students directly to specific content files or assignments inside of the course. Because this is a direct link to information in the course, when you make a change to the information it will be updated everywhere in the course because it’s linked.

Copy Course or Copy Components

You do not have to start from scratch when creating content for your course. If you created content in one course you can copy that content or copy components from that course into another course. For example, if you are teaching multiple sections of a course, you can create all the content in one course section and then copy the content into the other sections. Likewise, if you created content in one course (e.g. rubrics, discussions, quizzes, etc.) you can copy that specific content into another course. Copying course content is particularly useful at the start of a semester as it allows you to copy content from a previous semester to a newly created empty course.

Follow these steps to do it.

Listed below are links with instructions for:

Want more information?

Setup your Summer Course
Setup your Grade Book
Use Date Management
Using Quicklinks
Copy Course or Copy Components

View all the Brightspace training recaps
Continuous Delivery release notes
Brightspace Known Issues
Request a sandbox course
Sign-up for Brightspace training sessions
You can find Brightspace help at D2L's website.
Join the Brightspace Community.
Try these Brightspace How-To documents.
Visit our Brightspace FAQs for additional Brightspace information
or schedule a one-on-one session, email, or
call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418.

Note: Are you doing something innovative in Brightspace or perhaps you've discovered a handy tip? Share how you are using Brightspace in your teaching and learning in The Orange Room.

celebrate GAAD

Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). GAAD aims to get you talking, thinking and learning about digital access/inclusion and people with different abilities and talents.

Accessibility is about everyone. It is extremely important for students with disabilities to have access to accessible course content.

The Brightspace HTML Editor has a built-in accessibility checker that makes it easy to check for issues or offer suggestions to fix identified accessibility issues.

Follow these steps to do it.

To check for accessibility issues:

  1. After you add content to the HTML Editor, click the accessibility checker icon.
  2. HTML Editor accessibility checker icon

  3. The checker indicates if the content is free of accessibility issues, or offers suggestions to fix them.
  4. accessibility issues detected

Want more information?

Brightspace Accessibility Checker
View all the Brightspace training recaps
Brightspace Known Issues
Continuous Delivery release notes
Request a sandbox course
Sign-up for Brightspace training sessions
You can find Brightspace help at D2L's website.
Join the Brightspace Community.
Try these Brightspace How-To documents.
Visit our Brightspace FAQs for additional Brightspace information
or schedule a one-on-one session, email, or
call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418.

Note: Are you doing something innovative in Brightspace or perhaps you've discovered a handy tip? Share how you are using Brightspace in your teaching and learning in The Orange Room.

GAAD written in the clouds

Thursday, May 16th is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). The purpose of GAAD is to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital (web, software, mobile, etc.) access/inclusion and people with different disabilities.

While people may be interested in the topic of making technology accessible and usable by persons with disabilities, the reality is that they often do not know how or where to start. Awareness comes first.

The key to embracing accessibility – whether online, in the classroom, or on campus is realizing that taking the time to address an issue doesn’t just help a handful of individuals; in the end, everyone benefits.

Participants in global accessibility awareness day are encouraged to attempt to go an hour without using a technology most people take for granted – such as not using a computer mouse, attempting to navigate a website using a screen reader, or enlarging all of the fonts in a web browser to 200 percent, to see how functionality may be lost when accessibility isn’t taken into consideration in the design.

Whether you participate in an organized activity with others or not, join in and take an hour out of your day to experience digital accessibility first-hand.

1

Being prepared is a must for teaching online. In addition to using better practices for online teaching you should be thinking about how to deliver your online course for maximum success while avoiding the 7 deadly sins of online course design.

globe with a computer mouse and teaching online text

In an IDDblog blog post, Alex Joppie listed a few tips for keeping your online course running smoothly. I’ve combined his tips with a few of my own to provide you with suggestions to help your online course run smoothly. Those suggestions are as follows:

Before the semester starts—touch base with your students

Send an email to your students before the first day of class. In your email,

  • Make sure students know they’re enrolled in an online class. Some students take online classes because they think it will be easy. When in fact, some students struggle in online courses because they do not have the skills to be self-directed learners. You should let the students know that online classes take time and self-discipline.
  • Inform them of technology requirements, textbooks, and other required materials. This will help them hit the ground running.
  • Let the students know when your Brightspace course will be available.
  • Let the students know you’re there. This email can also serve to ensure to students that even though the entire course is going to facilitated by computers and networks, that there is a human being involved who cares about their success.
  • Make sure they got the email (and read it). Ask students to respond to the email. You may need to pursue other means of communication if a student doesn’t seem to be getting your email.

Additionally, take advantage of intelligent agents to automate sending email.

The first week—setting the tone

Follow these steps to set a healthy culture for the course and make sure everyone gets off to a good start.

  • Make sure students log in to your course. Use the Class Progress Tool to check to make sure everyone has logged in sometime within the first few days of class.
  • Create a welcome video for your course. Using a short video clip of yourself helps the students to have a picture of you in their mind. This video will help you to become a “real” person to your students.
  • Add a profile picture to humanize your course. Humanized learning increases the relevance of course content and improves students’ motivation to log-in to your course week-after-week. Your profile picture will create an inviting space for your students.
  • Create a more personalized learning environment in your course by using Replace Strings. Replace Strings allow you to create personalized messages for your students. A personalized welcome message, for example, will make your course feel more inviting to your students.
  • Be active in introductory discussions. Your introductory discussions will set the tone for the entire course. Make sure there’s a positive culture in your discussions by being engaging in the first one.
  • Encourage students to select their Brightspace personal preferences by configuring their account settings and notifications. Also encourage students to use the Brightspace Pulse app to keep up with critical and timely course related information and assignments.
  • Utilize the Brightspace Class Progress, Completion Tracking, and Checklists tools to help students stay on track. Students are more likely to be successful in an online course when they check-in regularly and keep up with their coursework. If a student falls behind early, they may never catch up.

Mid-course—checking in

  • Give your students an anonymous survey to get feedback from them on how the course is going. Do this sometime after you feel your students should have gotten a sense of the rhythm of the course but you still have time to make meaningful course corrections based on the feedback. This is especially important the first time you teach a new course.

Every week—the routine

Provide students with weekly communications that recap the previous week’s activities and prime students for the following week:

  • Highlight insightful discussion posts – Draw students’ attention to important points made by their classmates. It’s positive reinforcement for students and shows that you’re engaged.
  • Respond to gaps in student learning – Did everyone miss a question on the quiz, or skip over an important point in a discussion? If so, address it.
  • Contextualize the week’s main topics – Tie the week’s activities back to the learning goals of the course. Why is what we did this week important?
  • Prime the students for the next week’s main topic – Give some context about why they should care about what’s coming up next.

Consider presenting your weekly communications in the form of video announcements. Doing so will give your students more exposure to you as a "real" person speaking to them while giving them a presentation of material or virtual tour of the week's lesson.

Here are a few more ideas to keep your online course interesting.

End-of-semester evaluation—develop your teaching persona

  • An end-of-semester evaluation is a good opportunity to get feedback from your students to help you develop your teaching persona. Getting a “learner-sighted” view of the course-experience can add to your understanding of the learning environment, including aspects of your teaching persona that have framed it.

Studies show that students withdraw from online courses at a higher rate than in face-to-face courses. There are many reasons for students withdrawing from an online course. Some reasons are beyond the instructor’s control. Educators do not like to see students withdraw from courses for the wrong reasons. The suggestions in this blog post will help you to improve retention and reduce attrition by making sure that your students are prepared, that they get off to a good start, and that they’re engaged.

CAT+FD Online Teaching Resources logo

In a US News and World Report article, Ian Quillen identified six signs of a bad online instructor. The list included things like a syllabus that is unclear, no set timetable for responding to emails, and simply converting print resources used in the face-to-face class. Ian’s article was intended to help students access the quality of an online class and be able to withdraw if necessary. However, this list can also be used to help online/hybrid instructors recognize where their course may be in need of improvement.

Additionally, we developed an online teaching resource to help faculty develop or improve their online and hybrid courses. Check out our updated CAT+FD Online/Hybrid Teaching Resources and let us know what you think.

As you prepare to teach this summer, now is a good time to get started setting up your Brightspace courses. Our Information Technology Center (ITC) has created the summer courses in Brightspace.

To get started, you can post your syllabus, course documents, announcements, and setup your Grade Book in your Brightspace courses. You can also customize your course homepage and/or course image/banner.

checklist

If you teach a course that is cross listed you will have a Brightspace course for each cross listing. You can combine the cross listed courses into one Brightspace course so that you can post course materials and grades to one combined Brightspace course. Combining courses may also work for you if you are teaching different sections of the same course and would like to have the different sections combined into one Brightspace course so that you can post course documents and grades in the one combined course. The beginning of the semester is the best time to submit a request to merge your Brightspace courses before you add course materials or grades to the courses.

Additionally, if the summer course you are teaching is the same as one of your previous courses you can copy the entire course (or copy components) into your "empty" Brightspace summer course.

Follow these steps to do it.

Listed below are links with instructions to:

Want more information?

View all the Brightspace training recaps
Brightspace Known Issues
Continuous Delivery release notes
Request a sandbox course
Sign-up for Brightspace training sessions
You can find Brightspace help at D2L's website.
Join the Brightspace Community.
Try these Brightspace How-To documents.
Visit our Brightspace FAQs for additional Brightspace information
or schedule a one-on-one session, email, or
call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418.

Note: Are you doing something innovative in Brightspace or perhaps you've discovered a handy tip? Share how you are using Brightspace in your teaching and learning in The Orange Room.

1

We asked students what they thought of the new core curriculum at Xavier University of Louisiana. Here's what they want you to know.

 

This episode is hosted by Jay Todd, Associate Director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development.

Jay Todd studied writing with Frederick and Steven Barthelme and Mary Robison at the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi. His fiction has appeared in journals such as Southern California Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, Fiction Weekly, and 971 Magazine. Since 2007, he has been a member of Department of English at Xavier, where he teaches American Literature, Freshman Composition, Modern English Grammars, and The Graphic Novel and Social Justice. From 2007 to 2010, Dr. Todd served as Xavier's Writing Center Director. From 2010 until 2015, he served as QEP Director, managing Xavier's Read Today, Lead Tomorrow initiative. In 2015, he became the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development's first Associate Director for Programming. As Associate Director for Programming, Dr. Todd assists in providing high-quality, relevant, evidence-based programming in support of CAT+FD's mission to serve faculty across all career stages and areas of professional responsibility.

Dr. Todd is a member of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, the Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, the Popular Culture Association, and the Louisiana Association for College Composition.

Links for this episode:

Transcript:

Coming soon!

classroom with empty chairs

As we approach the end of the semester there are a few things you can do in Brightspace to wrap up for the semester.

Release final course grades

Unlike other grade items and categories in the Grade Book, final grades are not available to students by default. Final grades must be released. If you did not choose to enable the automatic release of final grades when setting up your Grade Book, you will have to manually release final grades in order for students to see their final grade.

Export your Grade Book

Student access to courses is removed two weeks after the end of a semester. This process of making the courses inactive allows student work and grades to be visible to instructors but students no longer have access to the course. Courses will remain on the Brightspace system for three semesters before they are removed. You should export (download) your Grade Book to your local computer after you submit your final grades.

NOTE: The export file that is created will NOT contain any student work or instructor feedback. Only the grades in your Grade Book will be exported.

Create a master copy of your course

Courses remain on the Brightspace system for three semesters before they are removed. You can request a Master Course Shell that you can use to develop and maintain your course materials. Master Course Shells will not be removed from the Brightspace system.

Follow these steps to do it.

Instructions are available for releasing final course grades, exporting your Grade Book, and requesting Master Course Shells.

Want more information?

Release Final Grades
Export your Grade Book (video [2:03])
Master Copies of Courses
View all the Brightspace training recaps
Brightspace Known Issues
Continuous Delivery release notes
Request a sandbox course
Sign-up for Brightspace training sessions
You can find Brightspace help at D2L's website.
Join the Brightspace Community.
Try these Brightspace How-To documents.
Visit our Brightspace FAQs for additional Brightspace information
or schedule a one-on-one session, email, or
call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418.

Note: Are you doing something innovative in Brightspace or perhaps you've discovered a handy tip? Share how you are using Brightspace in your teaching and learning in The Orange Room.

Photo Credit: School/Classroom/Inside | CC0

update

D2L (the company that owns Brightspace) uses Continuous Delivery to update our Brightspace system. The Continuous Delivery model gives us regular monthly updates allowing for incremental and easily integrated changes with no downtime required for our Brightspace system.

Our Continuous Delivery update occurs on the 4th Thursday of each month. D2L provides release notes to help users stay up-to-date with the changes.

Here are a few updates in the April 2019/20.19.4 release that were added to our system this month:

1) Activity Feed – Learners can create posts

Learners can now create Activity Feed posts on a course homepage. Previously, learners were only able to comment on posts created by their instructors. A new posting option in the Manage commenting and posting widget dialog allows instructors to enable or disable learners from posting in their course feed.

Activity Feed manage commenting and posting option
Activity Feed manage commenting and posting option

Activity Feed manage commenting and posting widget dialog
Activity Feed manage commenting and posting widget dialog

ICYMI, here's a link to my previous blog post which has more information about the widget: Brightspace Tip #51: Engage Learners with Activity Feed.

2) Activity Feed – Visual enhancements updated

As part of the Learners can create posts update, user profile images now display beside each post to provide a visual representation of the contributor. Previously, a message or assignment icon displayed to indicate the type of post. Also, inline feed updates now alert users that new posts have been added to Activity Feed since arriving on the course homepage.

Profile image displays with posts, and alert indicates that new posts are available
Profile image displays with posts, and alert indicates that new posts are available

3) Assignments – Notification improvements

When instructors evaluate assignments and new or updated feedback is published, email instant notifications are available for learners.

4) QuickLinks - Create Quicklink to Rubrics

Users can now create Quicklinks directly to Rubrics. In addition, users can also access Manage Rubrics at the bottom of the Quicklinks menu.

ICYMI, here's a link to my previous blog post which has more information about quicklinks: Brightspace Tip #54: Quicklinks.

If you are interested in getting more information about these and all the April Continuous Delivery updates, refer to the Brightspace Platform April 2019/20.19.4 Release Notes.

Additionally, refer to the Brightspace Release Notes for Continuous Delivery Releases, for details about current, past, and to preview upcoming continuous delivery updates.

Want more information?

View current, past, and preview upcoming Continuous Delivery release notes
View all the Brightspace training recaps
Brightspace Known Issues
Request a sandbox course
Sign-up for Brightspace training sessions
You can find Brightspace help at D2L's website.
Join the Brightspace Community.
Try these Brightspace How-To documents.
Visit our Brightspace FAQs for additional Brightspace information
or schedule a one-on-one session, email, or
call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418.

Note: Are you doing something innovative in Brightspace or perhaps you've discovered a handy tip? Share how you are using Brightspace in your teaching and learning in The Orange Room.

Brightspace calculates final grades for each student based on the grading system and the students' grades that are entered into the Grade Book. If the instructor wants more control over the final grades, perhaps to adjust the final grade for a student that is on the cusp of a higher grade, then adjusted final grades can be used and released to students instead of the calculated final grade.

adjustment

If the instructor decides to use adjusted final grades for one student in the course, adjusted final grades must be used for all students in the course. This does not imply, however, that final grades must be manually adjusted for all students.

Adjusting final grades are implemented by the instructor for only the student or students that are deemed to need an adjusted grade. The remaining students final grades would be the final grade as calculated in the Grade Book.

Note: The Grade Book must be configured to use adjusted final grades. If you plan to use adjusted final grades, you should make the adjustments before you release final grades.

Follow these steps to do it.

To adjust final grades for all students:

  1. Get into the course where you want to adjust final grades and click Grades in the NavBar.
  2. Click on the Enter Grades link.
  3. Scroll over to the Final Calculated Grade column and click on the arrow on the right of the column name and select Grade All.
  4. In the Final Adjusted Grade section for each student, enter the adjusted grades and then click Save.
  5. Once you have ensured that students' grades are accurate, you can release the final grades.

To adjust final grades for one or more specific students:

  1. Get into the course where you want to adjust final grades and click Grades in the NavBar.
  2. Click on the Enter Grades link.
  3. Scroll over to the Final Calculated Grade column and click on the arrow on the right of the column name and select Grade All.
  4. Click on the arrow on the right of the Final Grades and click Transfer All, then click Yes.
  5. In the Final Adjusted Grade section, enter adjusted scores where necessary and click Save.
  6. Once you have ensured that students' grades are accurate, you can release the final grades.

Want more information?

Understanding the Grades Tool (video)
Adjust Final Grades
Release Final Grades
Final Grades FAQs
Grades FAQs
Brightspace Tip #85: Grade Book
View all the Brightspace training recaps
Brightspace Known Issues
Continuous Delivery release notes
Request a sandbox course
Sign-up for Brightspace training sessions
You can find Brightspace help at D2L's website.
Join the Brightspace Community.
Try these Brightspace How-To documents.
Visit our Brightspace FAQs for additional Brightspace information
or schedule a one-on-one session, email, or
call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418.

Note: Are you doing something innovative in Brightspace or perhaps you've discovered a handy tip? Share how you are using Brightspace in your teaching and learning in The Orange Room.