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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 July 2019/20.19.7 release that were added to our system this month:

1) Activity Feed – Pin multiple posts

Instructors can pin more than one post to the top of their Activity Feed. Previously, only one post could be pinned at a time. This allow instructors to highlight more than one important post at a time to ensure that students do not miss critical posts.

Multiple posts pinned to the top of the feed
Multiple posts pinned to the top of the feed

2) Assignments – Edit category improvements

An Edit Categories option is now available in Assignments to allow users to edit all categories from one page. You can add, modify, delete, and sort categories, as well as manage unused categories. If a category with assignments is deleted, those assignments are added to the No Category area.

Select Edit Categories from the Assignments page
Select Edit Categories from the Assignments page
Manage all categories from one page
Manage all categories from one page

3) Assignments - Eraser added to Annotations

An eraser has been added to the Annotations tool bar to allow evaluators to remove ink annotations made when evaluating assignment submissions.

4) Class Progress - Default indicator change

Class Progress has two Content tool indicator graphs: Content Visited and Content Completed. In this release, the default is switching from Content Visited to Content Completed to better reflect learner progress through the completion of Content activities.

5) Navbar - Display user initials when there is no user profile image

If a user does not upload a user profile image in Brightspace, the navbar now displays the user's initials in the user-profile badge. Previously, if a profile image was not uploaded, a blank user image displayed.

6) Surveys - Improvements to the learner experience

To improve the learner experience when taking a survey, the following updates are now available:

  • The primary button when completing a Survey has been updated from Save Responses to read as Submit Survey. Learners will continue to be prompted to confirm their submission when they submit the survey
  • Learners can still save survey answers manually. The Save button now reads as Save Responses
  • A new Back to Questions button is displayed when attempting to submit a survey with unanswered questions
  • While learners are taking an anonymous survey, an alert appears at the top of the survey indicating that the survey is anonymous and their user information will not be tied to their responses

If you are interested in getting more information about these and all the July Continuous Delivery updates, refer to the Brightspace Platform July 2019/20.19.7 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, our Learning Management System (LMS), was designed with accessibility in mind. However, it is the responsibility of the instructor and/or course designer to ensure their course content is formatted using best practices for accessibility; including the use of good heading structure, text formatting, contrast and color, descriptive links, alternative text, tables, lists, etc.

I am writing a series of accessibility related blog posts that will provide suggestions on how you can make small changes when creating course content to make it accessible. This is the third tip in my series of accessibility related blog posts and it focuses on descriptive links.

signpost

Links are like sign posts. They should tell you what you will find when you follow them. When using a computer, people are generally skimming pages for links. They tend to skim pages to quickly find what they are looking for.

Text links on a page are easily identifiable to persons who are not visually impaired because they are normally colored and underlined, and therefore stand out from the other information on the page.

Persons with a visual impairment using screen reader software are presented with a “links list” with all the available links found on the page. Screen reader users and persons using text-to-speech browsers often navigate websites going from link to link using the tab key, so providing descriptive links is extremely important.

Link text stands out in the same way that bold text does. If all your links have non-descriptive link text like "click here" or "more information" users are forced to read the text around the link to understand the context of the link and where it will take them. Therefore "click here" and “more information” are more of a hindrance than a help.

non-descriptive link text example

For effective skimming, both visual and non-visual users benefit from link text that can stand on its own without the surrounding context of the page. Good link text provides a clear description of the page that will load when following a link. With good descriptive link text, users can skim links and make quick informed decisions about the path to take to accomplish their task. With non-descriptive link text, users cannot ascertain where the link will take them from the link text alone. Therefore, you should avoid non-descriptive link text such as:

  • Click here
  • Here
  • More information
  • Read more
  • Continue

These types of non-descriptive link text offer no explanation and require users to expand their focus to the surrounding context or follow the link to discover its destination.

Consider this example of a list of all the links on a page that a visually impaired user has pulled up for quick access.

useless, non descriptive link text in link list

As you can see, the list of non descriptive links is meaningless. Descriptive links as shown in the image below are far more useful.

descriptive, meaningful link text in link list

When choosing descriptive links the link text needs to be long enough to convey the purpose of the link and no longer. Make link text clear and self-explanatory to support quick and effective navigation.

descriptive link example

When scanning links, the first words in the link text are the ones most likely to grab the user’s attention. Link text that begins with keywords is easier to scan efficiently and works better with software features like "link lists" that visually impaired individuals use to get an alphabetized list of links on a page.

Links beginning with non-descriptive words are not very helpful. Consider these two examples "All about ocean acidification" and "Learn more about global warming." Scanning these links will be slower and the alphabetized links list is not going to be very useful. A better approach is to use only the keywords for link text. For example those two links could be improved if they were formatted as "All about ocean acidification" and "Learn more about global warming."

example of descriptive links

Some users make links out of entire sentences or entire paragraphs. These long links are probably unnecessary and are not user-friendly for screen reader users. Remember that screen reader users cannot visually scan through lengthy links. They have to listen to the entire text. Some screen reader users get frustrated with long link text and move on to the next link if they cannot understand the purpose of the link after the first few words.

URLs are not always human-readable or screen reader friendly and therefore using URLs as link text should usually be avoided. Exceptions are when the document is intended to be printed or if the URL is relevant content.

In most cases, it is better to use human-readable text instead of the URL. The human-readable link Inclusive Design for a Digital World is more user-friendly than the link to purchase the book by the same title on Amazon.com, which consists of this 170-character link full of letters, numbers, slashes, and text that is not very human-readable (https://www.amazon.com/Inclusive-Design-Digital-World-Accessibility/dp/148425015X/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Inclusive+Design+for+a+Digital+World&qid=1563708616&s=audible&sr=8-1.)

Additionally, links don't always lead to web pages. It is equally important to make this clear in your link text. Users appreciate knowing in advance, for example, that if they click on a link on their mobile device they will download a 20Mb PDF. In this case, the link text should indicate that it is a link to a file, including type and size of the file. Here's an example: Assignments Tool Quick Reference Guide (pdf 587KB).

effective links infographic

Hyperlinks that are good for both accessibility and usabilty use descriptive text and retain the standard underline style.

Example: Descriptive Links
Ugly: https://webaim.org/techniques/hypertext/link_text
Bad: Click here to learn more.
Good: Accessible link text and appearance by WebAIM

Writing good link text isn't difficult. If you take these tips for creating descriptive links into consideration when creating course content, you will remove significant barriers for the visually impaired. An added bonus is that there will be students without disabilities, as well as those who have chosen not to disclose their disability to you who will find your use of these tips helpful as well.

If you are interested in getting more information about descriptive links refer to “Link Text” at webaim.org.

Brightspace, our Learning Management System (LMS), was designed with accessibility in mind. However, it is the responsibility of the instructor and/or course designer to ensure their course content is formatted using best practices for accessibility; including the use of good heading structure, text formatting, contrast and color, descriptive links, alternative text, tables, lists, etc.

I am writing a series of accessibility related blog posts that will provide suggestions on how you can make small changes when creating course content to make it accessible. This is the second tip in my series of accessibility related blog posts and it focuses on text formatting.

Here are a few suggestions for making text legible for persons with a visual impairment and that work for nearly everyone.

Contrast – Use the highest possible contrast for text image showing contrasting text that is effective and text that is not effective

Point Size – The relationship between readability and point size differs somewhat among typefaces. image showing font point size that is effective and point size that is not effective

Leading – Spacing between lines of text, should be at least 25 to 30 percent of the point size. image showing leading that is effective and leading that is not effective

Font Family – Avoid complicated, decorative or cursive fonts. When they must be used, reserve them for emphasis only. image showing times roman font family as a font that is more effective than a decorative font family

Sans-serif or standard serif fonts with familiar, easily recognizable characters are best. image showing difference between serif and san-serif fonts

Font Style – Roman typeface, using upper and lower cases, is more readable than italics, oblique or condensed. image showing font style that is effective and font style that is not effective

Also, you should ensure that your text is selectable. Text that can be selected with a cursor is accessible to screen readers and other assistive technology. Images of text, such as word art, screenshots, or infographics are not accessible. A screen reader can not read the text in images. If you must include non-selectable text, also provide a text alternative.

Some additional points to consider:

  • Color should not be the only method used to convey information
  • Avoid red or green text or text decoration, such as Word Art, Shadows, 3D, etc.
  • Use bold or italic to display emphasis
  • Do not underline text (screen readers interpret underlines as links)
  • Avoid writing whole sentences in capital letters
  • Avoid moving or blinking text
  • Keep the number of fonts used to a minimum
  • The reading order should be the same as the visual order

You will remove significant barriers for the visually impaired if you take these suggestions into consideration when creating course content. An added bonus is that there will be students without disabilities, as well as those who have chosen not to disclose their disability to you, who will find your use of these tips helpful as well.

If you are interested in getting more information about text formatting refer to "Making Text Legible" at Light House International.

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visually impaired person using computer

This is the first in a series of blog posts that is a follow-up to my recent The Importance of Accessibility in Education post where I wrote,

Even though you may not have a student with a disability currently enrolled in your course, there are a few things you can do when creating content that will save you time later when you do have a student with a disability. This is not wasted time as you will find some students without disabilities will take advantage of accessible content as well.

Brightspace, our Learning Management System (LMS), was designed with accessibility in mind. However, it is the responsibility of the instructor and/or course designer to ensure their course content is formatted using best practices for accessibility; including the use of good heading structure, text formatting, contrast and color, descriptive links, alternative text, tables, lists, etc.

This post will focus on headings. A good heading structure is an important accessibility consideration. Headings should be used to indicate main points and sub-points on a page. Like an outline, heading levels should appear in logical and consistent order.

Headings allow screen reader users to easily navigate through the page and can make the page more usable for everyone.

typewritten sheet of paper with headings

When creating documents, many people do not use true "heading styles." For example, when creating a heading, they simply change the font type, enlarge the font size, change the color, make it bold, etc. When this is done, the document has no real structure that can be detected by a screen reader program. While visual learners can scan the page for text that stands out from the rest, users who rely on a screen reader are not able to "see" these elements.

The correct way to provide structure for accessibility purposes is to use heading styles. Listed below are instructions on applying heading styles in MS Word, PowerPoint, Google Docs, Google Slides, and the HTML Editor in Brightspace.

Add heading styles in MS Word document:

  1. Click on the Home tab.
  2. Highlight the text.
  3. Click on the appropriate heading selector in the styles panel (e.g. Heading 1 for top-level heading).
image of MS Word ribbon showing headings

Add heading styles in PowerPoint:

Using slide layouts will ensure that files have correctly structured headings and lists, and proper reading order. To assign a Slide Layout:

  1. Click on the Home tab.
  2. Click on New Slide.
  3. Choose the desired layout from the slide options menu.
PowerPoint ribbon showing slide layouts

Add heading styles in Google Docs:

  1. Highlight the text.
  2. Click on the appropriate heading selector in the styles panel (e.g. Heading 1 for top-level heading).
Google Docs formatting tab

Add heading styles in Google Slides:

Use predefined layouts instead of manually created text boxes, because the layouts are specially coded to work well with adaptive technologies like screen readers. To assign a Slide Layout:

  1. Click on New Slide with Layout button.
  2. Choose the desired layout from the slide options menu.
Google Slides, slide layouts

Add heading styles in the Brightspace HTML Editor:

  1. Highlight the text.
  2. Select the proper heading level from the Format dropdown menu (e.g. H1 - Heading 1 for top-level heading; H2 - Heading 2 for a subheading of the top-level heading, etc.).

HTML Editor showing format dropdown

Note: When creating heading styles always use the proper heading level. Create uniform headings so that a screen reader can navigate the content and can understand how it is structured.

Additionally, you can customize styles.
Learn how to change styles in MS Word 2016
Learn how to change styles in MS Word 2013
Learn how to change a style set in MS Word 2010
Learn more about PowerPoint 2016 slide layouts
Learn more about PowerPoint 2013 slide layouts
Learn more about PowerPoint 2010 slide layouts

The National Center on Disability and Access to Education developed Accessibility Cheatsheets to assist anyone who is creating accessible content. These free resources are catered to less-technical individuals.

1

Use due dates in Brightspace to help students stay on track. Students will see due dates when they look at entries in the course calendar and in the Pulse App.

Due dates and availability dates are generally entered when the instructor creates assignments, assessments, discussion topics and forums, etc. The dates automatically populate into the course calendar.

calendar with due date emphasized

Instructors can use the Manage Dates tool to view, edit in bulk, and bulk offset date availability from one central location. You can also set the calendar status of all content topics and modules, discussion topics and forums, assignment submissions folders, grades categories and items, announcement items, quizzes, checklists, and surveys in their course in the Manage Dates tool.

Follow these steps to do it.

To add availability and due dates in Content:

  1. Get into the course you want to add availability and due dates to course objects.
  2. On the NavBar (of the course you want to change dates in), click Content.
  3. On the Table of Contents page, click Bulk Edit.
  4. For any topic or module that you want to add availability or due dates to, click Add dates and restrictions.
  5. Do any of the following:
    • Click Add start date. Enter your start date details.
    • Click Add due date. Enter your due date details.
    • Click Add end date. Enter your end date details.
  6. Click Update.
  7. Click Done Editing.

Want More Information?

Add availability and due dates in Content
Manage Dates
Pulse App
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.

image showing various disasters

Today's heavy rains and street flooding should be a reminder that course delivery is vulnerable to unplanned events. Potential interruptions to class activities include but are not limited to natural disasters, widespread illness, acts of violence, planned or unexpected construction-related closures, severe weather conditions, and medical emergencies.

Here are a few things you can do in Brightspace to help you prepare should the need arise.

For those who missed our "Preparing to Teach During an Interruption: Strategies for Maintaining Instructional Continuity" workshop and for those who want to learn more about instructional continuity, you will find a link to the workshop recording, PowerPoint slides, and resources discussed in the workshop here:

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.

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 June 2019/20.19.6 release that were added to our system this month:

1) Discussions - Save feedback in draft state when associated with rubrics

This feature provides instructors the option to save feedback as a draft on discussions associated with rubrics before publishing it to learners. Now, when instructors add feedback for discussions with rubrics, the Save Draft and Publish buttons display. This feature extends existing Save Draft and Publish options available in other assessment tools to discussions that are only associated with a rubric.

Note that if a discussion topic is associated with more than one rubric, then both the rubrics are now visible in the same pop-up dialogue. Previously, the rubrics had to be opened individually to complete evaluation.

2) Quick Eval – Improvements to Quick Eval list

To improve the Quick Eval experience, the following updates are now available:

  • A Draft icon displays in Quick Eval for discussion posts that have feedback in draft status
  • Evaluators only see discussion posts and quiz attempts from learners in sections they are enrolled in. This matches the behavior of assignment submissions.

3) Quizzes - Arithmetic and significant figures questions round up from .5

Arithmetic and Significant Figures questions in quizzes now round up from .5 by default. Previously these types of questions were rounded down from .5.

4) Rubrics - Consistent assessment experience for Discussions

When instructors use the updated rubrics grading experience with Discussions, the following workflows present the same assessment experience:

  • if a rubric is attached to a discussion that is not associated with a grade item
  • if a rubric is attached to a discussion and associated with a grade item, but the instructor clicks on the rubric name to assess instead of topic score

In these workflows, the same assessment screen displays, with the details, score, feedback, post information, and all rubrics available to grade.

If you are interested in getting more information about these and all the June Continuous Delivery updates, refer to the Brightspace Platform June 2019/20.19.6 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.

1

keyboard with accessibility key highlighted

This year marks the 29th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This law was enacted to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

It is extremely important for students with disabilities to have access to accessible course content. Statistics show that 12.9% of students have a disability. One in 25 incoming freshmen have some form of cognitive disability. These students have neurological challenges processing information. *

Forty to 60% of undergrads and 9% of graduate students choose not to report their disability and will just struggle through their courses.*

Chances are you will have a student enrolled in one of your courses that has a disability and has chosen not to disclose that information to you.

Accessibility image

Accessibility best practices are built into the Brightspace Learning Management System (LMS) design and development processes. While Brightspace is accessible to persons with disabilities, uploaded content may not be.

While Brightspace is accessible to persons with disabilities, uploaded content may not be. Instructors should make a conscious effort to make sure content is accessible.

Instructors should make a conscious effort to make sure content is accessible. Even though you may not have a student with a disability currently enrolled in your course, there are a few things you can do when creating content that will save you time later when you do have a student with a disability. This is not wasted time as you will find some students without disabilities will take advantage of accessible content as well. Additionally, if you usually copy content from one course to another you will be one step ahead because your copied course content will already be accessible.

Also for cognitive disabilities it’s important to build flexibility into your courses. This is done by using many modes of information and creating a clutter-free learning environment.

In an upcoming series of blog posts I will provide information on things you can routinely do when you create content and setup your Brightspace courses to make them accessible.

*Source: Accessibility in Education in North America Infographic

grade book page

The Brightspace Grades Tool is useful for providing students with up-to-date information about their current standing in the course. For instructors, it’s useful for assigning and keeping track of student grades. Students can view grade entries and monitor their progress throughout the course.

As an instructor, you can determine how to set up your Grade Book to best reflect your approach to evaluation, including the grading system and grade scheme that is most appropriate for your course. You can select how grades display to learners, how they update in the Grade Book, and how you want to deal with ungraded items. You can create grade items for projects, assignments, discussions, quizzes, etc. to include in your Grade Book, and even associate them with other tools (e.g. Assignments, Quizzes, Discussions).

Follow these steps to do it.

Listed below are links to how-to documents to help you to use the Grades Tool:

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.

Photo Credit: Grade book by David Mulder | CC BY-SA 2.0

growth arrow up

The Class Progress tool helps track student progress in a course by measuring their completion of 9 different progress indicators. The Class Progress tool tracks students' overall progress as a class and individually. Instructors can use the Class Progress tool to do any of the following:

  • Monitor progress for any or all users in the course
  • View user profiles, email users, or instant message users
  • Track when a user accesses the course and downloads course content
  • Track a user's grades, completion of learning objectives, access of content topics, participation in discussions, assignment submissions, quiz submissions, checklist completion, survey responses, and login history
  • Prepare progress reports
  • Set up Intelligent Agents for users who are falling behind in a course

Instructors can customize the Class Progress page to make it easier to track and compare the performance of class participants.

class progress overview

Students can use Class Progress to keep track of all of their course-specific assignments and feedback.

Follow these steps to do it.

To access the Class Progress page, you should:
  1. On the NavBar, click Course Admin.
  2. Click on Class Progress.
  3. Click on a student’s name or one of the progress indicators to get more information about the student's progress.
To email or instant message a student from the Class Progress page, you should:
  1. On the Class Progress page, roll your mouse over the student’s profile picture (avatar) and click on the Send Email or the Send Instant Message button.
To change the Class Progress settings, you should:
  1. On the NavBar, click Course Admin.
  2. Click on Class Progress.
  3. On the Class Progress page, click Settings.
  4. From the context menu of the indicator you want to replace (i.e., the arrow on the right of the performance indicator name), select Replace.
  5. In the Select Progress Indicator dialog box, click on the progress indicator that you want to use as a replacement.
  6. To replace more progress indicators, repeat the previous steps.
  7. From the context menu of a progress indicator, select Move Up or Move Down to rearrange the order in which it appears in Class Progress.
  8. Click Save and Close.

Want more information?

Class and User Progress Quick Start Guide
Track Class progress
Understand and Modify the Class Progress page (video)

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.