Would you like to congratulate your students for a job well done or give them a nudge when they might need to work harder -- without having to do a lot of extra work to make it happen? The Brightspace Intelligent Agents tool can help automate this process for you.
Intelligent Agents allow instructors to delegate some of the course communication and notification tasks to the system, based on specific triggering activities in the course. Intelligent Agents can be used to both recognize student achievement and warn of potential problems. For example, you can use Intelligent Agents to:
Check for users that have not logged into the course
Check for users that have not logged in within a specific number of days
Notify users with grades below a certain level
Congratulate users with grades above a certain level
Check for users that view a specific content topic
The automatic notifications that are generated when specified course performance criteria are met can be sent to instructors, advisors, and/or students.
Repetitive emails may lose their effectiveness, so use Intelligent Agents sparingly. Consider using Intelligent Agents when there isn't a better way of communicating. Ask yourself,
Would an announcement work better?
Would a personally crafted email work better?
Would a discussion board posting work better?
If the answer is no, then consider using an Intelligent Agent!
VoiceThread is a web 2.0 tool that allows you to humanize interactions in an online environment. Instructors and students can share a wide variety of media (images, PDFs, slides, video, and more) and share text, audio, and video comments on that media quickly and easily. VoiceThread transforms stale, text-based discussions by infusing your content and conversations with human presence, just as if students were all sitting in the classroom together, but without scheduling a specific time to meet.
There are some great new features available in VoiceThread assignments! Read on for more information about the new features that were recently introduced.
Separate Close and Due Dates + Late Submissions
When building an assignment, you can now set a due date and a close date. This enables you to continue making the assignment available to students even after the due date passes. It will only become unavailable after the close date.
Additionally, students can submit after the due date has passed, and their submissions will be marked as "Late" on your grading page so you can decide whether to deduct any credit for missing the due date.
Replying To Comments after Submitting
After students submit a commenting assignment, you might want them to go back and reply to classmates to keep the conversation going. Now they can use the threaded reply option to continue the conversation even if they've submitted and received a grade. The image below illustrates how a student can make a reply comment even after submitting successfully.
Create and comment assignments can require students to add a specific number of slides before they can submit. Set this requirement in the same place you set a required number of comments.
Point Value Grading
Instructors can make VoiceThread assignments worth a specific number of points instead of using percentage grading. You can set the points possible in the "Assessment" section when you are creating the assignment. Previously you had to grade based on a percentage scale.
When it's time to grade, just enter the number of points you want to give each student. No more need to convert to percentages first!
Submission views can be created to allow students to go back and review a submitted quiz. Customizing the submission view allows instructors to choose what information the student sees upon completing the quiz, as well as what they can see when they go back to review a quiz. The default submission view shows the overall score to the student (when they submit their quiz) and nothing else. To release more information to students (i.e. feedback, their submitted answers, the answers to each question, class averages and statistics, etc.) you need to either edit the default submission view or set up an additional submission view.
The Default View is what students see immediately upon submitting their quiz. The Default View typically does not allow students to see answers to a quiz, but does allow them to view their score on auto-graded items. If you adjust the Default View to allow students to see the answers to a quiz, keep in mind the Default View is what students see as soon as they submit their quiz. Thus, showing answers in the Default View while the quiz is still in progress would reveal answers to the quiz before ALL students have submitted the quiz.
Additional Views can be created with a specified release date and time that allows instructors to release information, or answers, after a certain time. For example, an Additional View could be created for after all students have submitted the quiz (i.e., after the quiz is closed) to allow students to view which questions they answered correctly and/or incorrectly, as well as answers to questions. Another Additional View could also be created to allow students to see the class statistics and could be set to release at the end of the semester. If a quiz has multiple attempts, you can also specify a score required on an attempt in order to release the submission view.
I recommend you create an Additional View and name it “Shutdown View”. For the Shutdown View you would select "No" for the Show Questions option (in the View Details section) and enter the date/time you would like the first additional view to close to your students (in the View Restrictions section). This additional view will “shutdown” the first additional view as only the most recent submission view is the active one. This will ensure that your quiz questions and answers are not available past the time you plan to have it available. You may decide that you want the submission view to be available to your students through the end of the semester. In this case, I suggest creating a “Shutdown View” with an end of semester date/time. Creating a “Shutdown View” with an end of the semester date/time is good practice if you are planning to copy a course with quizzes that have submission views into another course. This ensures that a quiz with a Shutdown View will force you to update the settings in the course you are copying to. Thus reducing the possibility that you have a submission view enabled before you want it to be.
Submission Views DO NOT take effect until the quiz scores have been published. The “Allow attempt to be set as graded immediately upon completion” option must be checked. This option is found in the Assessment tab.
The Limited Duration option allows students to only be able to access the submission view for a short period immediately after completing the quiz. This option SHOULD NOT be used if you want students to review at a future date/time. In this case you should set up an additional view for the date/time you want the view to start AND set up a “Shutdown View”.
As you know, hurricane season runs from June 1st through November 30th. Hopefully there won't be another hurricane, tropical storm, or weather related event that causes an interruption this semester. However, it's a good idea to be ready just in case. ICYMI, read my Brightspace Tip #245: Are You Ready? blog post which has information to help with instructional continuity.
Additionally, have you considered using VoiceThreads in your courses? With VoiceThreads you can have discussions asynchronously using voice. VoiceThread is an interactive tool that allows instructors and students to share a wide variety of media (images, PDFs, slides, video, and more) and to share text, audio, and video comments on that media quickly and easily.
Our "Be Ready for Mother Nature with VoiceThreads" training focused on how you can use VoiceThreads for unplanned events. You don’t have to lose precious class time when you incorporate VoiceThreads. In case you missed our Be Ready for Mother Nature with VoiceThreads training session or if you attended the training session and want to recap what was covered, you can review these resources:
*NOTE: The workshop recording refers to the old way of setting up VoiceThreads in Brightspace. There has been a recent change in how you setup VoiceThreads in Brightspace. You can find more information about the change in my Brightspace Tip #258: VoiceThread Integration Changes blog post. The other information in the workshop recording is correct.
Recently a student congratulated me on my email signature. In light of that exchange, I thought it appropriate to share the following "unsatisfactory meditation" on personal pronouns.
He, him, his. These are my pronouns. Or at least, they are the ones I've answered to all my life.
It's become a custom, recently, to let other people know your pronouns by way of introduction. You might see them in an email signature. Sometimes people label them as "gender pronouns" or "preferred pronouns" or simply "pronouns." Or they might just be sitting there next to the person's name. You can now specify your pronouns in your Zoom profile, and on certain social media sites.
This might seem odd or unnecessary the first time you see it, but in practice it's actually very helpful. If you've ever experienced confusion over what pronoun to use with a new acquaintance, well, it can be embarrassing for all parties involved.
Did you know a new quiz accommodations feature was introduced in our February Continuous Delivery Updates? This new feature enables instructors to grant quiz accommodations to learners through the Classlist tool. Instructors can assign accommodations to specific learners that apply across ALL quizzes instead of applying them on a quiz-by-quiz basis.
Accommodation options currently available include: more time to complete quizzes at the course level and the ability to bypass right-click restrictions in quizzes. The right-click restriction in quizzes is the ability for learners to right-click in the quiz while taking the quiz. The ‘Always Allow Right Click’ is a common requirement for students that use assistive technology to access their quizzes.
Once granted, these accommodations apply to all quiz activities in a course for that learner. The additional time can be applied in terms of quiz time multipliers (for example, 1.5 x quiz time) or +minutes (for example, an additional 30 minutes) on every quiz in a course.
Accommodations for Instructors:
An icon appears next to the learner’s name in the Classlist to indicate that the learner has an accommodation.
Instructors can filter the Classlist by Accommodations.
Instructors can also Print or Email a list of users with accommodations by adding the filter to those pages.
Accommodations for learners:
An icon appears next to learners’ own names in the Classlist to indicate they have an accommodation. To view accommodation details, learners can click My Accommodations from their learner context menu.
When commencing a quiz, the accommodation icon appears next to a learner’s quiz time to indicate that their accommodation has been applied. If a learner’s time accommodation has been overridden by a quiz-specific special access, this icon does not appear.
Quiz-specific special access can overwrite an accommodation for any user on a quiz-by-quiz basis. When you overwrite an accommodation and then click Save, a warning describing the impact of overwriting the accommodation appears. Accommodations set for learners in Classlist are displayed in the Special Access for the quiz.
I usually get a lot of questions about quiz availability and time restrictions. In particular, I am asked to clarify the quiz availability and timing options. I’m writing this blog post to provide some clarification on this.
The availability settings are used by Brightspace to determine when to make the link to the quiz available for the students to click on to start the exam. The timing options are used to determine how much time the student will have to take the exam. Availability and timing work independently of each other. If the availability date/time is set for a two hour exam window, then the student will be able to start the exam anytime during that two hour window and the timing will determine how long they have to take the exam. Brightspace IS NOT going to subtract the time the student started the exam and then limit the testing period to the remainder of the time. A student will have the entire time to take the exam regardless of when they started it.
The way in which the availability and timing options work may be more of a concern for faculty who are teaching a remote class and their students are expected to take their exams on a given day at a given time. For example, you have a course that is being taught remotely. Your class meets 8:00 am until 9:15 am on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Your students are expected to take their exams during the regular class meeting time. You can restrict the time students have to start the exam. You will have to decide how long students would have to start the exam. Let’s assume you are okay with the students starting their exam during the first 15 minutes of the class meeting time. The start time for this example would be 8 am on the testing day. The end time would be set to 8:15 am on the testing day. This means the students would have this 15 minute window to start their exam.
Your timing options would be set to give the students 75 minutes to complete the exam once they start it. A student who starts the exam at 8:10 am would have until 9:25 am to complete it.
A student who tries to start the exam after 8:15 am will NOT be able to start the exam because the link will no longer be available. Likewise, a student who has an internet connectivity issue while taking the exam will not be able to get back into the exam after 8:15 am (to pick up where they left off) because the link will no longer be available. In those cases, you would have to use the “Add Users to Special Access” option to grant the student access to the exam. The Add Users to Special Access option would allow you to change the length of time the student has to take the test and/or to open the exam back up for a student who had connectivity issues.
Continuing with my example, you have a student who notifies you at 8:30 am that they are late and want to be able to take the exam. You would edit the exam, click on the Add Users to Special Access button (on the Restrictions tab), and change the timing to allow the student the remaining 45 minutes to complete the exam. You would also have to change the end date/time for that particular student's special access in order for the link to the exam to be available to that student.
NOTE: The type of access would NOT be changed when allowing the student to take the exam. The “Type of Access” would still be “Allow selected users special access to this quiz”. More information about Special Access for quizzes can be found in this blog post.
Finally, I think it is a good idea to explain the availability and timing options that you decide to set for your exams to your students. This could eliminate confusion about the testing options and what to expect when taking the exam.
Devon Price, a social psychologist (they are the best!) and author of the book, Laziness Does Not Exist, reminds us that we don’t have to “earn our right to exist. We're fine and beautiful and completely lovable when we're just sitting on the couch just breathing.”
This quote made me think of my colleagues (and students) who are doing some heavy lifting post-Hurricane Ida and in Surge 4 COVID to keep up with their courses, advise their students, and be insightful in committee meetings. It’s a lot, and it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of “if I am not working this very moment, I am not _________ (successful/effective/professional/committed/worthy). You fill in the blank. But that kind of thinking leads to burnout (or as I describe in a previous post of mine, job-related depression).
In fact, Price argues that feeling “lazy” shouldn’t always be viewed as a deficit; instead, it might be your body telling you that you need a break!
So find time to do just that. Take a break, slow down, enjoy some nature, savor some you-time. Do this to model it for colleagues who look up to you. Do this to model it for your students (who feel like they aren’t really studious unless they are stressed out). Do this for your friends and families who care about you. But mainly, do it for yourself.
NPR’s Life Kit has some good information about avoiding burnout and other topics related to well-being. I highly recommend you check it out. You can subscribe and get their newsletter delivered right to your inbox.
Did you know the Brightspace Community has a PIE? Yes, there is a PIE (Product Idea Exchange) in the Brightspace Community. The PIE is a system that allows users of Brightspace to share their suggestions on how to make Brightspace better. I invite you to take a few minutes to explore the Brightspace Product Idea Exchange (PIE).
We’ve put together this collection of PIE ideas you can consider upvoting so that we can add our voice to the community to make the Brightspace experience better. You can also search the PIE for ideas to upvote or submit your own idea to the PIE. Let us know if you submit your own idea to the PIE so that we can upvote it. Here is a resource on navigating the PIE, just in case you need it.
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 September 2021/20.21.9 release that were added to our system this month:
1) Assignments – Create select box grade items in the New Assignment Creation Experience
This feature builds on the Add categories capability in the Assignment Creation Experience | New feature released in July 2021/20.21.7.
With this release, the new assignment creation experience supports creating new select box grade items. Previously, only numeric grade items could be created from the new assignment creation experience.
In addition, this feature provides support for choosing a grade scheme when creating numeric or select box grade items. Grade categories now progressively display when creating a grade item. Previously, grade categories always displayed when available.
Also, to make interface text more clear, the following labels have been renamed in the new assignment creation experience:
Score out of is now Grade out of
In Grades is now In Gradebook
Choose in Grades is now Edit or Link to Existing
Remove from Grades is now Not in Gradebook
When creating a new assignment as an instructor, under Grade Out Of, click Ungraded.
Click In Gradebook, and then select Edit or Link to Existing.
From the Edit or Link to Existing dialog, the following options may display under Create a new grade item:
If the Grades tool has available grade categories, the Choose Grade Category option displays. Clicking this button displays available grade categories for association.
If the Grades tool has multiple grades schemes, the Change Grade Type & Scheme option displays. Clicking this button displays available grade types and schemes for association.
Click OK, and then Save.
2) Assignments - Restricting file extensions for submissions
Instructors can now specify the extensions of files that learners can upload as assignment submissions. When an instructor is creating a file submission assignment, there is a drop down in the Submission and Completion section of the New Assignment Creation Experience. In this drop-down list, instructors can choose the restrictions they want. Choices include:
Files that can be previewed without any conversion, such as .HTM, .HTML, .MHT, .MHTML, and .BMP
Images and Videos
Custom File Types
When a .GIF file is converted to PDF, only the first frame of the .GIF displays.
If an instructor choses Custom File Extensions, they can then enter file extensions that are allowed for file submissions. When this restriction is set, learners are presented with a list of acceptable file extensions for their assignments. When a learner attempts to upload a file submission for an assignment of an file extension type that the instructor has restricted, an error message appears.
3) Brightspace Learning Environment - Set and view user pronouns
Users now have the option to indicate their preferred pronouns in their user profiles. Brightspace user profiles are visible to anyone who shares a course with a particular user, including students, instructors, administrators, etc.
NOTE: You can find the option to indicate your preferred pronouns in your Account Settings.
4) Discussions - New Discussion Evaluation Experience
This feature is a continuation of the Discussions - Consistent evaluation experience feature introduced in August 2021/20.21.8.
With this setting, the new evaluation experience for Discussions appears first for all users, but they have the ability to opt-out until the December 2021/20.21.12 release, at which time the new evaluation experience for Discussions will become the only option available.
Now when you export Brightspace Learning Environment course packages, you can export Release Conditions and any associations. As a result, you no longer need to re-create these Release Conditions when you import the course package.
6) Rubrics - Additional information on Grade tiles
When a rubric is collapsed, instructors can now see if the rubric is complete. If the rubric is complete, the collapsed rubric shows the overall level of the rubric, and if the rubric is not complete, the number of unscored criteria appears on the tile.
Previously, it was only possible to see the overall score of the rubric when the rubric was expanded.
The Brightspace Editor toolbar now appears in the following locations:
Rubrics Creation and Edit experiences in the Description field
Rubrics Creation and Edit experiences in the Feedback field
Evaluation mode in the Feedback field.
The Insert Stuff and Insert Quicklink buttons now appear in the different views with additional formatting options.
8) Rubrics - Copy and delete criteria groups
In response to client feedback about the New Assignment Evaluation Experience, it is now possible to copy or delete a criteria group on a rubric. The delete option is only available if there is more than one criteria group.
Note: When a rubric with attached assessment items has submissions evaluated against it, the rubric is locked and can no longer be edited or deleted.
After you click Copy Criteria Group, a new criteria group appears below the original criteria group.
If you are using keyboard-only navigation, these options are available in the tab order after the criteria group name. Once the criteria group is copied using keyboard navigation, the keyboard focus moves to the new group's name.
9) Discussions – Improvements to visibility and posting restrictions
There is a new workflow that makes it easier for instructors to set visibility and posting restrictions for discussion forums and topics. More specifically, this change simplifies date management for discussion activities, offering a more consistent, simplified, and consolidated experience for instructors.
The following changes are visible to instructors when creating or editing discussion forums and topics:
Note: These changes also affect the Classic Content and Manage Dates tools.
From the Restrictions tab, the previous Locking Options are now consolidated with the Availability Start Date and End Date options and display as the following new options:
Visible with access restricted before/after start/end. The topic/forum is visible to learners before/after the start/end date, but they cannot access it. Previously, Classic Content was the only tool to make discussions visible without access.
Visible with submission restricted before/after start/end. The topic/forum is visible to learners before/after the start/end date and they can access it, but they cannot post new threads or replies. This effectively makes a discussion read-only. Previously, this was accomplished with the lock option or unlock dates.
Hidden before/after start/end. The topic/forum is hidden from learners until the start/end date. This is a new feature. Calendar events for Availability Starts and Availability Ends are hidden until the start/end date. Notifications are also not sent until the start/end date. Previously, the hidden status of a discussion topic was decided by the tool displaying the topic.
From the Restrictions tab, the Display in Calendar option is now consolidated with the Availability Start Date and End Date options, which adds the start date and end dates to the calendar. Previously, the tool decided which calendar event should be added to the calendar. With this change, calendar events for availability dates may change and additional events for Availability Start Dates may be added.
Calendar events for unlocked dates are now hidden from learners.
Where Discussions and User Progress may have previously hidden a topic or forum when outside of availability dates, those tools now may show them as visible, but inaccessible.
From Discussion Settings, instructors can now set the default visibility and access behavior for new discussion forums and topics. The defaults can be set at an organization level.