Wednesday, May 20, 2009

D2L Tips and Tricks

The following are some of my favorite tips and tricks.

  • Encourage Undocking: Remind students that they can use the "Undock" icon to view documents in a new window free of the D2L navigation. This allows better use of the screen real-estate, and when they close the window - D2L still remains in the background window.
    Undock icon
  • Multi-Edit Content Topics: If you need to update short titles or dates inside content titles, you can multi-select the topics for change and then use the "multi-edit" button. This saves time over opening and saving each individual document.
    Multi-Edit icon
  • Edit in Raw HTML: For those who are tech-savvy, you can directly edit your HTML codes in the built-in HTML editor. This allows you to link to external CSS style-sheets, so that you can create ADA accessible documents which are also rich in color and design.
    TIP: The HTML editor allows you to resize the editing panel to any size you desire. Bigger can be better.
    HTML Editor showing Raw HTML mode icon
  • Discussion Deadlines: if you have weekly discussions, set the availability of the discussions in the FORUM level rather than each individual TOPIC.
  • Quizzes Mixed Up: Build all of your quiz questions directly in the question library. Then, when you make your quiz, you can use a Random Section folder which will give every student the questions in a different (random) order. Much less worry about "hey, what did you get for question 3?"
  • Quizzes as Homework Worksheets: Online quizzes are essentially insecure. Unless you have someone standing over the shoulder of your student making sure they don't use their cell phone, another computer, a walkie-talking, text note files on an iPod or MP3 player, or any various other ways of scheming the system, students who "cheat" have an unfair advantage over the rest of the class. Instead, consider the quiz tool as a way to ask really tough homework problems. Students solve the homework and then post their answers into the Quiz tool. They get automatic grading, feedback when they've guessed incorrectly, and the ability to "redo" by using the quiz's ATTEMPTS (suggest using LAST ATTEMPT or AVERAGE OF ALL ATTEMPTS). Multiple attempts are very helpful in giving students incentive to go back and study harder - to make sure they know the materials before going onto the next topic / chapter.
  • Launching Other Websites in New Windows: If you are linking to any external website, you should open the link in a new window. Many websites "reload" themselves into the outer-most browser frame - thereby "taking over" the browser and breaking the connection to D2L. When opened in a new browser window - you don't have to worry which sites misbehave. Use the LINK property to OPEN IN: NEW WINDOW.
  • Gradebook PASS/FAIL Item Type: Online students tend to procrastinate. Breaking up any assignment into a series of "completion exercises" (all or no credit) helps motivate students to keep on task. The PASS / FAIL grade item type allows you to easily award full or no credit. I suggest using the GRADE ALL item to set everyone to PASS, and then individually setting to NONE those students who did not complete the assignment (or FAIL to those who missed the deadline and didn't do the assignment sufficiently).
    5 pts P/F - Select a Topic (Week 2)
    5 pts P/F - Turn in 8 credible sources for the topic (Week 3)
    5 pts P/F - Turn in Preliminary Outline (Week 4)
    5 pts P/F - Turn in Draft of Point 1 (Week 5)
    10 pts P/F - Turn in Bibliography (Week 8)
    10 pts P/F - Turn in Draft of Full Paper (Week 10)
    60 pts - Turn in Final Version of Paper (Week 12)
    (notice that student will "fail" assignment unless they do all the completion exercises)
  • Grade Attendance as a NEGATIVE BONUS Item: If you take deductions for missing class, then the best way to handle that in the gradebook is to create a numeric type grade item which is set to type BONUS. Since Bonus items are not added to the denominator when calculating Final Course Percentage, any score (positive or minus) is not a "graded" item. D2L allows negative scores, even in the Bonus item. Use the Comments balloon in the grade to keep track of the specific dates and times missed, and then enter a negative number to reflect how much of a deduction so far (cumulative).

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