D2L tips

User Links

Over the years, I’ve added a number of different websites and web resources to the D2L Links feature found, by default, in the upper right hand corner of the homepage.  While tinkering with my course homepages during winter break, I realized that D2L automatically creates a User Links widget from the information I’ve inputted into the Links feature.  I added that to my homepage (bottom left-hand column) and really like that now my students see some of the most recent information available about our course subject everytime they log in to the course.  If you have questions about how to use the D2L links feature in your teaching, let me know!

Collect student feedback…easily!

After a fun, interactive spring duty day session led by Kent Richards, I got to thinking about how I might more effectively collect useful information from my online students.  How do I know whether they’re finding the audio feedback helpful?  Are the study guides I’ve created useful to their learning experience?  Is it easy for them to access the videoclips I’ve embedded into the discussion area? 

I’ve used SurveyMonkey before to poll students about discussion results and opinions, but I’ve never used it to collect information about the usefulness of some of the online tools I use.  I decided to give it a shot.

I’ve been embedding an audio welcome into the news area of my homepage for a few semesters now.  I’ve been curious about how many students are able to open it.  I would like to provide some audio feedback to certain dropbox assignments, but won’t do this unless I know it’s relatively easy for folks to access.  So….I asked them!  I created a two-question anonymous survey using SurveyMonkey (free and super-easy to do), embedded the link to it into my weekly news message (please let me know if you have questions about how to do this), and requested that students complete it.  The results:  To date, 61% of students have answered the questions, with 67% stating the embedded audio was easy to open and 82% stating they’d like to see more of it this semester.

I was frustrated to see that only two-thirds of the students were able to easily open the audio, but I also learned that I must instruct students to download the latest, free version of Adobe Flash Player in order to view the audioplayer itself (instead of that nasty white box with the little red X in the corner).  Lesson learned!

I plan to continue surveying my students about various aspects of the class every few weeks this semester and expect that the responses will help to shape my classroom into a more user-friendly, effective place to learn!

Getting off to a great start!

  Good organization is important at any point in an online course, but it is especially appreciated by students the first week.  Just a few points to remember as you put the finishing touches on your courses before launching into a new semester:

  • Welcome students to the class in your homepage news area. 
  •  Specifically tell students what they should do first upon entering the class (example:  Click on “Content” on the above navigation bar to see the activities for this first week of class). 
  • Post your contact information in the news area as well as the syllabus.
  • Place important course information together in the content area (syllabus, course overview, calendar,  link to publisher’s website, etc).  Consider organizing your content area by weeks.
  • Remind students to read the syllabus and other important course information carefully (I do this several times!).
  • Consider adding a photo of the required textbook (and other materials) in the news area.  I found that doing this cut back dramatically on the number of students who were working with the incorrect text.
  • Encourage (or require) students to introduce themselves to one another in the discussion area.  Introduce yourself, too!
  • Remember to include the course outcomes, word-for-word, from the official course outline on your syllabus.  Peggy Gustofson has all official course outlines available online and will email them to faculty, upon request.

I’ll be in my office (E2330) Tuesdays and Thursdays this semester from 10:00 – 3:00.  If you have questions about teaching online, please stop in!

…and more about the checklist.

After posting a question in the Desire2Learn Community discussion area requesting more information about the usefulness of the checklist feature, I received only generic information about the tool — nothing new or exciting.  I’m glad I checked back, however, as this was just recently posted:

“After I realized that I could put Quicklinks into the Checklists, I decided that the Checklist may be my favorite tool associated with this program.  The only problem is that it does not have a convenient Print option.  I hope in future upgrades that this will be added.  I teach college prep courses, and most of my students do not spend nearly as much time online as the average college student.  If the Checklist were printable, they could put it into their class notebook or on their refrigerator, and it would help them remember what they need to complete each week.”

Maybe there’s hope for this little-used D2L tool yet!

Checklist how-to

The D2L checklist tool may be especially helpful to an instructor who requires students to follow a step-by-step process to complete a project, research paper, or other complex activity.  Students can check off each step of a process they’ve completed.  Instructors can clearly lay out activity steps and due dates.  In an effort to retrieve more information about this potentially useful tool, I’ve posted a question to the D2L Community discussion area.  I’m hoping to learn something that will wow me about this D2L tool.  I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in using the checklist tool, this video/explanation is really quite good:  http://help.d2l.arizona.edu/instructors/checklist

Helpful how-to links

LSC Math instructor, Mike Sakowski, has created some helpful D2L tutorials that he’s graciously sharing with us:

  • A link that may be especially helpful to new online students as it details exactly how to submit an assignment to the D2L dropbox:   http://sakowskimath.com/dropbox.html
  • A link that may be helpful to online faculty who have difficulty remembering from semester-to-semester (me included!) how to successfully set up the D2L grades feature.  It specifically outlines using points grades based on percentages:  http://sakowskimath.com/d2lgrades.html 

Thanks much, Mike!

How to embed YouTube video into D2L

I get such a kick out of the ease of using YouTube videos in both my on-campus and online courses.  How awesome is it that I can send my students directly to brief videos that perfectly illustrate the ideas and concepts we’re covering in class?!   Let’s face it, it’s one thing to read about Bandura’s famous observational learning experiments, but it’s another to read about them and then view actual footage!

Generally, I place videos in the course news area in my weekly updates, but I’ve also been known to place links to videos in the discussion and assignments areas.  I rarely use video that’s longer than six or seven minutes long unless it’s incredibly captivating.  It’s also important to note that you’ll likely have better luck embedding YouTube video if you use Firefox and not Internet Explorer.

So, how can one easily embed YouTube video into D2L?  Here’s an excellent video that takes you through the process step-by-step:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZqt6I-mPQs[/youtube]

2010 RSP/ITeach Conference

The annual Realizing Student Potential/ITeach conference at Minnesota Community and Technical College was great again this year, as usual.  I brought back a variety of good information and enjoyed touching base with colleagues from all over the state.

One of the better sessions I attended was facilitated by Kayla Westra of Minnesota West Community and Technical College.  She discussed how to effectively manage D2L courses and provided the following link to a worksheet she has developed over the years.  I highly recommend taking the time to check out her tips and tricks for making our courses more efficient and our teaching more effective:  http://its.mnwest.edu/instructional_design/iteach/Tips_and_Tricks.html

Thanks, Kayla!