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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.

1

Tibetan singing bowl with pond in the background

I usually get a lot of questions from faculty related to setting up their Brightspace courses. In the spirit of starting the new year 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 Spring Courses
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.

The first page students see when they enter your course leaves a lasting impression. Use this first look to orient students and convey important information.

course homepage
Example of a Brightspace Course Homepage

Instructors can personalize their course with a banner image. A course banner is an image that appears in the My Courses widget and at the top of the course homepage.

Instructors can use Replace Strings to personalize Brightspace. Replace strings allow instructors to customize course content and communications in Brightspace by incorporating the intended learner's personalized information, such as their name, automatically.

Instructors also have the option to customize their Brightspace Course Homepage Layout to suit their needs. Brightspace course Homepage Layouts are frames (panels) that contain Widgets. Widgets are sections of content that provide information and links to tools, courses, and personal settings. Widgets are placed within the frames in the Homepage Layout. Both the course Homepage Layout and the Widgets are customizable.

Want more information?

Change Course Image
Change the Name of Your Course
Using Replace Strings (pdf)
Teaching Tip - Use Replacement Strings for Personalization (video)
Homepages and Widgets
Design a Course Homepage with Widgets (pdf)
Place Twitter Feed in Custom Widget
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.

1

each of the seven deadly sins depicted by an eye that has makeup in a different color to reflect the deadly sin

In an Edvocate article, Daniel Stanford listed his seven deadly sins of online course design from a faculty developer’s perspective. These resonated with me; and I thought I would share Daniel's seven deadly online course design sins with you.

#1. Overwhelming Discussions

“Post to the discussion board, and then respond to three classmates’ posts.” Sound familiar? These are often the instructions for online discussions even though it would be impossible to replicate this level of participation in a face-to-face class. The result is a massive number of posts that instructors and students dread sorting through.

#2. Lack of Scannable Text

Staring at a computer screen trying to read the information is tiring enough as it is. Don’t make it worse by writing long paragraphs that lack visual interruptions and organizational cues. “Chunk” the content to make it easier to scan through.

#3. No Progress Indicators

Within seconds of entering a course or a specific unit of content, students should know what they’ve completed, what is incomplete, and when the incomplete items are due. The worst nightmare of any online student is to think he or she has met all the course requirements for a given day or week, only to stumble upon additional ones after a critical deadline has passed.

#4. Bad Narration

There are two reasons most instructors create narrated PowerPoints.

  1. They believe it will be faster to deliver a lecture verbally than write it out.
  2. They believe it will be more engaging for students than reading.

Both of these motivations have their pitfalls. First, faculty are often surprised how long it takes to produce an effective narrated presentation. Second, delivering information via audio with no text alternative makes it difficult for students to control the pace of their learning. Also, audio-only approaches to instruction can be challenging for ESL learners (English as a second language) and a deal breaker for students with disabilities.

#5. Buried Leads

Don’t make students read through or listen to several minutes of non-essential fluff before you get to the good stuff. Burying the lead wastes students’ time and hurts your credibility as a curator. As a result, students will struggle to find the part where you finally say something important. Worse yet, they might begin to ignore your emails, readings, or videos altogether.

#6. Digital Hoarding

Face-to-face courses come with limitations that encourage instructors to prioritize what they share with students. Examples include the number of hours in each class meeting and the number of photocopies the instructor has time to print. In online courses, these limitations are removed or relaxed, which makes it tempting to share every interesting reading, video, and website you’ve ever encountered. All too often, the result is a course site that feels like one of the homes on Hoarding: Buried Alive, but with more scholarly journals and fewer cats.

#7. Faceless Professor Syndrome

Online courses provide limited natural opportunities to reinforce that you’re a real human being and help students put a face with your name. Don’t squander these opportunities by obscuring your identity and increasing your anonymity on the discussion board and in your self-introduction. Humanizing your online courses improves the learning experience as well as student success and retention rates. This Humanizing Tool Buffet developed by Teaching and Learning Innovations at CSU Channel Islands has a collection of emerging tools just right for humanizing your online course.

If you are interested in knowing how Daniel Stanford suggests you atone for these deadly online course design sins, read his Edvocate article “Seven Deadly Sins of Online Course Design.”

The first page students see when they enter your course leaves a lasting impression. Use this first look to orient students and convey important information.

course homepage
Example of a Brightspace Course Homepage

Instructors can personalize their course with a banner image. A course banner is an image that appears in the My Courses widget and at the top of the course homepage.

Instructors can use Replace Strings to personalize Brightspace. Replace strings allow instructors to customize course content and communications in Brightspace by incorporating the intended learner's personalized information, such as their name, automatically.

Instructors also have the option to customize their Brightspace Course Homepage Layout to suit their needs. Brightspace course Homepage Layouts are frames (panels) that contain Widgets. Widgets are sections of content that provide information and links to tools, courses, and personal settings. Widgets are placed within the frames in the Homepage Layout. Both the course Homepage Layout and the Widgets are customizable.

Want more information?

Change Course Image
Change the Name of Your Course
Using Replace Strings (pdf)
Homepages and Widgets
Design a Course Homepage with Widgets (pdf)
Place Twitter Feed in Custom Widget (pdf) (updated 1/7/2018)
Brightspace training recaps
Brightspace Migration FAQs
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.

1

by Janice Florent

each of the seven deadly sins depicted by an eye that has makeup in a different color to reflect the deadly sin

In an Edvocate article, Daniel Stanford listed his seven deadly sins of online course design from a faculty developer’s perspective. These resonated with me; and I thought I would share Daniel's seven deadly online course design sins with you.

#1. Overwhelming Discussions

“Post to the discussion board, and then respond to three classmates’ posts.” Sound familiar? These are often the instructions for online discussions even though it would be impossible to replicate this level of participation in a face-to-face class. The result is a massive number of posts that instructors and students dread sorting through.

#2. Lack of Scannable Text

Staring at a computer screen trying to read the information is tiring enough as it is. Don’t make it worse by writing long paragraphs that lack visual interruptions and organizational cues. “Chunk” the content to make it easier to scan through.

#3. No Progress Indicators

Within seconds of entering a course or a specific unit of content, students should know what they’ve completed, what is incomplete, and when the incomplete items are due. The worst nightmare of any online student is to think he or she has met all the course requirements for a given day or week, only to stumble upon additional ones after a critical deadline has passed.

#4. Bad Narration

There are two reasons most instructors create narrated PowerPoints.

  1. They believe it will be faster to deliver a lecture verbally than write it out.
  2. They believe it will be more engaging for students than reading.

Both of these motivations have their pitfalls. First, faculty are often surprised how long it takes to produce an effective narrated presentation. Second, delivering information via audio with no text alternative makes it difficult for students to control the pace of their learning. Also, audio-only approaches to instruction can be challenging for ESL learners (English as a second language) and a deal breaker for students with disabilities.

#5. Buried Leads

Don’t make students read through or listen to several minutes of non-essential fluff before you get to the good stuff. Burying the lead wastes students’ time and hurts your credibility as a curator. As a result, students will struggle to find the part where you finally say something important. Worse yet, they might begin to ignore your emails, readings, or videos altogether.

#6. Digital Hoarding

Face-to-face courses come with limitations that encourage instructors to prioritize what they share with students. Examples include the number of hours in each class meeting and the number of photocopies the instructor has time to print. In online courses, these limitations are removed or relaxed, which makes it tempting to share every interesting reading, video, and website you’ve ever encountered. All too often, the result is a course site that feels like one of the homes on Hoarding: Buried Alive, but with more scholarly journals and fewer cats.

#7. Faceless Professor Syndrome

Online courses provide limited natural opportunities to reinforce that you’re a real human being and help students put a face with your name. Don’t squander these opportunities by obscuring your identity and increasing your anonymity on the discussion board and in your self-introduction. Humanizing your online courses improves the learning experience as well as student success and retention rates.

If you are interested in knowing how Daniel Stanford suggests you atone for these deadly online course design sins, read his Edvocate article “Seven Deadly Sins of Online Course Design.”