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Online groups can enrich class discussion and provide a virtual environment for sharing information. You can use groups to organize users’ work on projects and assignments, or you can create special work areas for users with different learning needs. The Groups tool allows instructors to form virtual groups of students to support peer collaboration.

Users can belong to multiple groups within the same course. For example, each user can simultaneously belong to a group for class projects, a group for special interest discussions, and a group for advanced users. Each group can have its own discussion forums, assignments, and locker area to work in. You can grade members of groups individually or as a team.

Groups have a maximum enrollment of 200 users. If there are more than 200 users in a course, you can create new group categories; there is no limit on the number of group categories in a course.

Groups can be designated as Self Enrollment (allows students to add themselves to a Group), No Auto Enrollment (instructor assigns students to Groups), or random enrollment (Brightspace system distributes students equally into Groups).

Group Enrollment Type Description
# of Groups

Groups of #

Groups will be created by either number of groups (i.e., 4 groups total) or group size (i.e., groups of 4 students). Students will be randomly assigned to each group.
# of Groups - No Auto Enrollment This option allows instructors to manually assign students to groups.
# of Groups - Self Enrollment

Groups of # - Self Enrollment

# of Groups, Capacity of # – Self Enrollment

Blank groups will be created for students to sign-up for. Students will be able to see the other members of their group.
Single user, member-specific groups This option creates groups of one (1). Each group has a single user where the first name and last name of the learner is the name of the group.

Important: Currently, there is no way to hide the names of group members from other students who are in the same group. Therefore, creating groups for remedial or disability purposes could violate confidentiality laws if group names and/or group members makes the purpose of the group obvious.

Follow these steps to do it.

To create a group category you should:

  1. On the navbar, click Groups.
  2. On the Manage Groups page, click New Category.
  3. Enter a Category Name and Description.
  4. Select an Enrollment Type from the drop-down list.
  5. Depending on the chosen Enrollment Type, enter the Number of Groups to create, the Number of Users per group, or both.
  6. To apply a distinctive prefix to each group name and code in the category, enter it in the Group Prefix field. If you do not fill in this field, the prefix defaults to "Group".
  7. Depending on the chosen Enrollment Type, to automatically enroll users to groups, select Auto-enroll new users.
  8. Depending on the chosen Enrollment Type, to randomly place users in groups, select Randomize users in groups. If you do not choose this option, users are placed alphabetically based on the Classlist.
  9. If you select an Enrollment Type that supports self enrollment, to set a deadline after which learners can no longer self enroll in the group, select Set Self Enrollment Expiry Date.
  10. Click Save.

To create a group you should:

Note: Groups reside in categories. You must create a category before you can create a group. These instructions assume you have already created a category for the group.

  1. On the navbar, click Groups.
  2. On the Manage Groups page, from the View Categories drop-down list, select the category you want to add a group to.
  3. From the context menu of the category, click Add Group.
  4. If you do not want to use the default name provided, enter a group name.
  5. If you do not want to use the default group code provided, enter a group code.
  6. Enter a description for the group.
  7. Click Save.

Want more information?

Groups Tool Quick Reference Guide (pdf)
Creating Groups in Brightspace
Create Group Work Areas for Learners
Create a Group (video)
Understand Group Enrollment Options (video)
Modify Group Enrollment (video)
Create Groups and Group-Based Assignments (video)
Best Practices for Setting Up Groups

View all the Brightspace training recaps
Instructors Quick Start Tutorial
Continuous Delivery release notes
Brightspace Known Issues
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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.

Image credit: image by qimono from Pixabay

Announcements are one of the first things your learners see when they log in to your course. Announcements can provide timely information for your learners about class activities and time-sensitive material. Announcements can be used to remind learners of assignment and/or test dates, post changes to the course, announce upcoming events (such as a guest speaker), etc.

news in type

You can post multiple announcements when setting up your course and select a specific day for the announcement to be displayed by choosing staggered future start dates. For example, you know now that you want to post an announcement about the midterm exam and another about the final. Write both announcements now, but set the midterm announcement to display the week before the midterm and the final exam announcement to display a week before the final. Students will not be able to view either announcement until their assigned start date.

When creating an announcement, you should set an end date for it so that when the information in the announcement is outdated the system will no longer display the announcement.

You can use Quicklinks within the announcement to direct students to a particular section of your course. You can display (release) announcements based on conditions you choose by using Release Conditions.

In the Faculty Focus article, Building Community and Creating Relevance in the Online Classroom, Amy Erickson and Catz Neset suggested creating video announcements as a way to build community in your online courses. Their formula for successful announcements are:

  • Provide an introduction each week and share your availability
  • Give feedback and answer questions from the previous week
  • Showcase exceptional student work from the previous week
  • Highlight the objectives of the coming week and any special preparation or required resources
  • Connect your coursework to relevant current events

Consider using Video Notes (built-in media recording tool in Brightspace) or your favorite video sharing service to create video announcements for your learners.

Here is a video announcement that Dr. Mark Gstohl created for his students. In the video announcement, Mark gives his students a tip that will help them with an upcoming assignment. He also uses humor in his announcement which goes a long way to building a rapport with his students.

In another Faculty Focus article, Using Announcements to Give Narrative Shape to your Online Course, Dr. Nathan Pritts suggests using announcements to create a narrative that increases student engagement. He starts the semester by letting his students know that he will post around three announcements per week—on the first day of the week (to kick things off), then about three days later (positioned to help motivate and encourage forward progress), and finally, at the end of the week (to provide some closure and open a channel for any last questions). He labels the subject lines of his announcements so students can process and sort them at a glance. For example, some labels that he uses in the subject line are Course Policy, Instructional Content, and Dig Deeper. He uses the announcements as a roadmap to help his learners navigate the course.

Follow these steps to do it.

Watch this short video for instructions on creating announcements:

Want more information?

Post Course Announcements
Announcements Tool Quick Reference Guide (pdf)
Create an Announcement
Announcements - Create an Announcement - Instructor (video)
Teaching Tips - Make Regular Announcements - Instructor (video)
Brightspace Tip #164: Quicklinks
Brightspace Tip #237: Release Conditions
Brightspace Tip #273: Video Notes

View all the Brightspace training recaps
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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.

Image credit: image by stux from Pixabay

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

course design zen infographic

Accessible PDF version of Course Design Zen infographic.

Want more information?

Course Design Suggestions
Merging Courses
Setup your Spring Courses
Setup your Grade Book
Use Date Management
Using Quicklinks
Copy Course or Copy Components

View all the Brightspace training recaps
Instructors Quick Start Tutorial
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.

why merge road sign

Faculty can request to have two or more of their courses combined into a single course. Combining courses can be useful when you are teaching multiple sections of the same course or when you are teaching a course that is cross-listed. Merging courses allows you to have all the students in a single Brightspace course which can be useful for collaborative work. Merging courses reduces the number of courses an instructor has to manage within Brightspace, especially when each section has identical content.

Once your courses are merged, you can upload your course content and assignments into the merged course; communicate with the students in the merged course; setup collaborative course work; and have one Grade Book for the merged course. You can create groups within your merged course that correspond to the original course sections. This way you can target a particular course section (group) of students for specific things (e.g. send email to a specific group, make content available to specific group, enter/view Grade Book entries for a specific group, etc.)

NOTE: Merging of courses is typically done at the start of the semester before content is added and before students submit course work. You should wait to request your courses be merged if there is a possibility that there will be last minute changes to instructor course section assignments. You can request a Master Course Shell to build your course and then transfer the content into your merged course.

You should carefully consider whether merging courses is right for you. Some disadvantages to merging courses are:

  • Course enrollments for the merged courses will be combined which can make grading student work a challenge. If you create groups for the different sections, you will be able to view your Grade Book by groups to make grading easier.
  • Only one due date and start/end date can be assigned to an assignment, discussion, quiz, etc. Therefore you will not be able to assign different due dates and start/end dates to the activity (e.g., assignment, quiz, discussion, etc.).
  • If you decide you want to unmerge courses after students have submitted course work, student work and grades will be lost. Only student enrollments are retained when courses are unmerged.

Follow these steps to do it.

A system administrator will have to merge your courses. Send an email to Yamlak Tsega (ytsega@xula.edu) if you want to merge courses. You should include the course ID (including CRN) for all the courses you want merged together.

NOTE: When courses are merged, one of the existing courses will serve as the "merged" course. If all the course sections are empty, it won't matter which one is used as the "merged" course. If you have already created content in a course, you should request that the course with the content be the "merged" course. This will reduce the need to copy content.

Want more information?

Merge Courses
Working with Groups

View all the Brightspace training recaps
Instructors Quick Start Tutorial
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.

Image credit: "why merge" by jflorent is dedicated to the public domain under CC0 and is a derivative of merging by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

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

NOTE: You should see your spring courses in the My Courses widget. The July Continuous Delivery Updates implemented the updated My Courses Widget sort logic. If you do not see your spring courses in your My Courses widget, you should click on the link to "View All Courses" (located at the bottom of the My Courses widget). Verify that you are listed as the instructor for the course in Banner.

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.

to do list

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 spring 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 spring course.

Follow these steps to do it.

Listed below are links with instructions to:

Want more information?

View all the Brightspace training recaps
Instructors Quick Start Tutorial
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: "to do list" by wuestenigel is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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 December 2021/20.21.12 release that were added to our system this month:

1) Assignments – New assignment creation experience universally enabled

This feature sets the new assignment creation experience to ON by default. This will mean that the classic assignment experience will no longer be available. Details of the New assignment creation experience can be found at this link; the differences between classic to new assignment creation experiences can be found at this link.

2) Brightspace Editor – Hotkey shortcut to Brightspace Editor source editor

This feature adds a new hotkey shortcut in the Brightspace Editor to access the source editor. Previously, the source editor was unavailable by a hotkey shortcut.

The hotkey shortcut is:

  • Windows: Ctrl+Shift+E
  • Mac: Command+Shift+E

This feature addresses the following accessibility criteria:

  • WCAG 2.1 Success criterion 2.1.4 Character Key Shortcuts

3) Brightspace Learning Environment – Alerts in the minibar persist for 90 days

With this release, when you click on the Message alerts, Subscription alerts, or Update alerts icons in the minibar, you can retrieve alerts from the last 90 days. Previously, all alerts disappeared after 7 days.

The way these alerts display to users has not changed: when you click one of the icons, the 5 most recent alerts appear in the dropdown. When you click Load More, 5 more alerts appear.

4) Content – Updated count and overdue badges

In the Classic Content tool for instructors and learners, the count and overdue badges in the Table of Contents now reflect an updated appearance that is consistent with the New Content Experience and other Brightspace tools. The new count badge is circular (for single digits) or a capsule (for double-digits), with a grey background, and with higher contrast text. In addition, the overdue badge is now circular (for single digits) or a capsule (for double-digits). Previously, the count badge was rectangular, with a white background, and grey text/outline. The overdue badge was rectangular and red.

This feature addresses the following accessibility criteria:

  • WCAG 2.1 Success Criterion 1.4.3 Contrast (Minimum)
The new count and overdue badges in the Classic Content tool
The new count and overdue badges in the Classic Content tool
The old count and overdue badges in the Classic Content tool
The old count and overdue badges in the Classic Content tool

5) Course Import/Export – Import and export intelligent agents

With this release, administrators and instructors can now include intelligent agents when importing or exporting courses. This allows administrators and instructors to share the dynamic notification interactions in imported/exported courses with other Brightspace instances. Previously, intelligent agents were not included when importing or exporting courses.

6) Email – Address Book changes to To/Cc/Bcc options

This feature changes the Email tool's workflow when selecting an email recipient in the To, CC, and/or Bcc fields. Each of these fields in the Compose window are now links that, when clicked, launch an Address Book dialog to select recipients from. Once a user or users are selected, they are added to the respective field.

Each of the three fields (To, CC, and Bcc) have their own separate links.

This feature also affects the Intelligent Agents tool; when users create a new Intelligent Agent, they can select the Send an Email option. Users then click the Address Book button next to each To, CC, and/or Bcc fields to choose the recipient(s). In effect, the changes made to email above are also reflected in the Intelligent Agents tool.

Under the previous workflow, users would have to select Address Book, select a recipient or recipients from the list by clicking the checkbox, and then selecting the Add Recipients button. The existing Address Book button remains unchanged; users can continue to use the old workflow.

The layout of Compose Email window prior to the update
The layout of Compose Email window prior to the update
The layout of Compose Email window after the update
The layout of Compose Email window after the update

7) Quizzes – Improved language terms

To offer more intuitive and consistent terminology to instructors and learners when using Quizzes, many interface labels and dialogs now use more descriptive language. For example, Automatic Grade is now Automatically Publish Evaluation. Previously, many interface labels and dialogs used short terms that did not provide clear meaning for some users.

For a detailed list of all language term updates in Quizzes, see the Quiz Language Updates blog post.

If you are interested in getting more information about these and all the December Continuous Delivery updates, refer to the Brightspace Platform December 2021/20.21.12 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
Instructors Quick Start Tutorial
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.

Image credit: image by geralt from Pixabay

A conversation between Elizabeth Yost Hammer and Joe Bandy on teaching, learning, and equitable assessment.

Joe Bandy is Assistant Director of the Center for Teaching and affiliated faculty in the Department of Sociology at Vanderbilt University.  He received his PHD from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1998, and was Assistant and Associate Professor of Sociology at Bowdoin College from 1998 to 2010, after which he came to Vanderbilt.  

Elizabeth Yost Hammer (headshot)
Elizabeth Yost Hammer

Elizabeth Yost Hammer is the Director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development and a Kellogg Professor in Teaching in the Psychology Department. She received her Ph.D. in experimental social psychology from Tulane University.

Links for this episode:

Transcript:

Coming soon!

end road sign

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
Instructors Quick Start Tutorial
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.

Photo Credit: "end" by jflorent is dedicated to the public domain under CCO and is a derivative of image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

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.

wrench

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 Enter Grades.
  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 Enter Grades.
  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 #109: Grade Book

View all the Brightspace training recaps
Instructors Quick Start Tutorial
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.

Image credit: Image by moritz320 from Pixabay

Unlike other grade items and categories in the Grade Book, final grades are not available to students by default. Final grades must be released. When setting up the Grade Book, the instructor can choose to automatically release final grades so that the students can see their final grade throughout the semester. 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.

Additionally, you can selectively release final grades for some students now and release the final grades for other students later. For example, you can release the final grades for graduating seniors on one date and release the final grades for everyone else on a later date.

Follow these steps to do it.

To manually release final grades:

  1. On the NavBar, click Grades.
  2. On the Enter Grades page, from the Final Calculated Grade or Final Adjusted Grade context menu, click Grade All.
  3. To release grades for all users, on the Final Grades page, from the Final Grades context menu, click Release All. To release final grades for a specific user, do one of the following:
    • Select the check box by the user name and click the Release/Unrelease link.
    • Select the check box in the Release Final Calculated Grade or Release Adjusted Final Grade column.
  4. Click Save.

OR watch this video for instructions on how to release final grades:

NOTE: There is a slight change in the video instructions. The "Enter Grades" option should be used anywhere in the video where "Grade All" is referenced.

Want more information?

Adjust Final Grades
Release Final Grades
Final Grades FAQs
Grades FAQs
Brightspace Tip #109: Grade Book

View all the Brightspace training recaps
Instructors Quick Start Tutorial
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.

Image credit: "final grades" by jflorent is dedicated to public domain under CC0 and is a derivative of grade by OpenClipart-Vectors on Pixabay