Getting Your Course Ready for a New Semester

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Desire2Learn for Higher Education Cookbook

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Gain expert knowledge of the tools within the Desire2Learn Learning Environment, maximize your productivity, and create online learning experiences with these easy-to-follow recipes with this book and ebook.

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by Brandon Ballentine | January 2013 | Cookbooks e-Learning

In this article by Brandon Ballentine, author of Desire2Learn for Higher Education Cookbook, we will cover the following recipes:

  • Copying course materials from a previous semester

  • Importing a publisher's course cartridge

  • Changing many due dates from one screen

  • Double-checking everything from the student view

  • Configuring your web browser

(For more resources related to this topic, see here.)

Introduction

Getting your course ready for students at the beginning of each semester can be a daunting task. You'll need to verify links to external content, make sure that previous materials have been copied successfully to your new course, and modify the existing assignment dates, among other tasks. You get the point—there are quite a few things you need to take care of before students ever see your course. This article offers recipes for streamlining this process to make setting up your course as stress-free as possible.

The first two recipes deal with getting materials into your course, whether you're copying an entire course from a previous semester or importing a compatible course cartridge provided by a textbook publisher. You may be surprised to know that course cartridges created for other Learning Management Systems ( LMSs) , such as Blackboard and Moodle, can often be imported without any trouble! Other recipes in the article focus on making quick work of date changes and external link validation. We'll wrap up the article by previewing everything from the student's view.

Please note that the recipes in this article, as well as the rest of the book, are written for Version 10.0 of the Desire2Learn Learning Environment. While many of the recipes are also applicable to earlier versions of the system, you may need to modify the steps to follow along.

Copying course materials from a previous semester

Copying materials, activities, and settings from one course to another can save you a considerable amount of time when preparing for the start of a new semester. The learning environment's Import /Export /Copy Components tool allows you to easily clone an entire course or select just the parts of the original course that you want to use in a new course. In this recipe, we will discuss copying materials from an existing course within the system. We will use the same tool to import a course cartridge from a publisher in the next recipe.

Getting ready

The Desire2Learn (D2L) Learning Environment is highly customizable, and each organization that uses it can customize many aspects of the user experience. This recipe assumes that your school has allowed the use of the Import/Export/Copy Components tool for your specific role within the system. In order to complete this recipe, you'll also need access to two courses—an empty course that we will be copying materials to and another one that contains the materials we will be copying. To copy materials from one course to another, your role in both courses needs to allow the use of the Copy Components function. For example, you wouldn't be able to copy quizzes from a class in which you are enrolled as a student into one that you are teaching.

How to do it...

We will be working with two courses in this recipe – a new, empty course and an existing course that contains the materials to be copied. Remember to start by accessing the destination course or the course that you want to copy materials to.

  1. Start by accessing the destination course from My Homepage.

  2. Click on the Edit Course link in the course navigation bar.

  3. Click the Import/Export/Copy Components link under the Site Resources heading.

  4. Select the option Copy Components from Another Org Unit and then click on Start.

  5. Locate the course from which we will be copying materials by clicking on the Search for offering link. If needed, use the search tool at the top of the list of courses to help locate the course. You can also click on any of the column headers to sort the list of courses based on that field (clicking twice reverses the order). Check the radio button to the left of the course, and click on the Add Selected button.

  6. Within a few seconds, the page updates to display all of the available components from the course we just selected. To clone an entire course, check the Select All Components box, and click on the Continue button.

  7. Since we chose to clone an entire course, we can continue on our way by clicking on the Finish button.

  8. Depending on the amount of materials being copied and the server load, the copy process may take a few seconds to several minutes. When the Done button becomes active, it means that the process has completed. As each tool finishes copying, you'll see its progress indicator change into a green checkmark. Anything that didn't copy successfully will be noted in the summary.

How it works…

We start off by accessing the destination course. The Search for Offering screen displays a list of all of the courses you currently have access to copy from. If you've been teaching for a while, this list may be quite large. The search and filtering tools at the top of the course offering list may be helpful if you are having difficulty finding the correct course from the list.

In this recipe, we copied all the available components from the source offering by choosing the Select All Components option. However, you can copy individual tools or even individual items within those tools by choosing the Select individual items to copy option. If you decide to copy specific components, then you need to select those items on the Choose Components to Copy screen, as shown in the following screenshot:

There's more...

If you're copying large course files or complex question libraries, there's a chance that your browser will time out before the copy process is complete. If this happens, there are a few things you can do to complete the task:

  • Break up the copy process into several smaller jobs. If, for example, you're getting error messages while copying Course Files, try only copying half of the files, then return to the tool and try the second half later.

  • The current server load can greatly impact the time it takes to copy components. You may want to try copying the components during an off-peak time.

  • If you experience a browser time-out while copying Course Files, you might want to visit File Manager and look for duplicate or large files in the source course. Deleting unnecessary files can speed up the process significantly.

  • Your Desire2Learn administrator has access to other ways of cloning a course or copying files. If you continue to experience difficulty with the tool, talking with your friendly admin would be a great idea!

Importing a publisher's course cartridge

Publishers frequently offer complimentary course cartridges to instructors who adopt their textbooks. The content of these cartridges varies greatly, but can include content and files, assessments, web links, and more. In this recipe, we will walk through the process of importing a course cartridge into an existing Desire2Learn Learning Environment course.

Getting ready

In order to complete this recipe, you'll need either a publisher's cartridge or an export from another Desire2Learn Learning Environment course. These files come in the form of .zip archives. Publishers typically offer different versions of cartridges for several of the major learning management systems. While you may not always find a version of a particular cartridge formatted for the Desire2Learn Learning Environment, you may be surprised to know that versions made for other systems, such as Blackboard 6 and WebCT, will typically work just fine. Check with your system administrator, if you have any difficulties importing a cartridge.

You will also need access to the Import/Export/Copy Components tool. You will need to talk with your Desire2Learn system administrator if your role in the current course does not include access to the tool.

How to do it...

  1. Start off by accessing the destination course from the My Home page.

  2. Click on the Edit Course link in the course's navigation bar.

  3. Access the Import/Export/Copy Components tool by clicking on the link under the Site Resources heading.

  4. Select the option to Import Components. Then, select the from a File option and choose the cartridge to import by clicking on the Choose File button. Click on the Start button after locating and selecting the file:

  5. Click on the Continue button on the Preprocessing screen when it becomes available.

  6. Import the entire cartridge's contents by choosing the Select All Components checkbox and then clicking on the Continue button.

  7. Click on the Continue button on the Confirm Import Selections screen.

  8. The process is complete when all of the progress indicators have changed to green checkmarks. Click on Finish, then Done when the components are finished copying.

How it works...

We start off by accessing the Import/Export/Copy Components tool in the destination course. After selecting the .zip folder to import, the system uploads and pre-processes the archive's manifest file. Depending on the complexity of the cartridge and the size of the archive, this can happen very quickly or it may take quite some time.

After the pre-process action is complete, we choose to import the entire cartridge into the course, just as we did in the previous recipe. While this is often the easiest approach, it is possible to pick and choose individual components (such as Quizzes or Grades) or even individual items (such as specific quizzes or grade items), as we will discuss in the following section.

Once you verify the components to be imported, it's just a matter of waiting for the progress indicators to become green checkmarks. Any item not able to be imported will be displayed on screen at the end of the process. You probably won't run into too many problems unless you are importing extremely large or complex cartridges, but it is always a good idea to verify that everything was successful before clicking on the Done button.

There's more...

In the last two scenarios, we have seen examples of copying and importing entire courses. While this is common at the beginning of the semester, there may be times when you will need only certain parts of another course. Suppose, for example, you only want the question library portion of a publisher's course cartridge. Luckily, this is easily accomplished by selecting individual components on the Choose Components to Copy screen instead of the All Components option.

In the following screenshot, I have chosen to copy all the available Content items, but only selected Discussions and Dropbox folders:

After selecting the components to copy and clicking on the Continue button, I'm prompted to select the individual quizzes I want to copy into my course. Clicking on the Expand All link shows a list of all quizzes, and selecting individual items to be imported is as easy as checking the option next to the item titles. Since I've chosen to also import selected Dropbox folders, I would complete a similar process for selecting those items on the next screen:

I should point out one "gotcha" that frequently causes trouble for new users of the Desire2Learn Learning Environment. Items under the Content heading are frequently linked to uploaded documents or system-generated HTML files, which are stored in the File Manager. Unfortunately, selecting the items under Content doesn't copy these associated files, so you need to manually select these files under Course Files. Since this can be a somewhat tricky task depending on how you've organized your files, you may find it easier to copy everything and delete what you do not need.

See also

The Copying course materials from a previous semester recipe

Desire2Learn for Higher Education Cookbook Gain expert knowledge of the tools within the Desire2Learn Learning Environment, maximize your productivity, and create online learning experiences with these easy-to-follow recipes with this book and ebook.
Published: November 2012
eBook Price: $26.99
Book Price: $44.99
See more
Select your format and quantity:

Changing many due dates from one screen

There's a pretty good chance that you'll need to update quite a few assignments' start and end dates if you've populated your course by copying or importing materials from a previous semester. In earlier versions of the Learning Environment, this meant accessing each tool and editing each item whose date needed to be adjusted. Luckily, that's no longer the case—now we can quickly create, edit, or delete all items from one location. In this recipe, we will use the Manage Dates tool to change the due dates for all dropbox folders in an example course.

Getting ready

To complete this recipe, you'll need a course with some date-restricted materials or activities. We will be adjusting the dates of dropbox folders in this example, but feel free to edit whatever you like.

How to do it...

  1. Access a course from the My Home page.

  2. Click on the Edit Course link in the course's navigation bar.

  3. Click on the Manage Dates link under the Site Resources heading.

  4. Let's start by updating all the dropbox due dates from the previous semester. Under Filter Options, select the option to search for Specific Tools. Then, uncheck each tool except for Dropbox. Click on the Apply Filter button.

  5. Click on the Start Date column header to sort the listings in chronological order.

  6. Hover over the name of a quiz to reveal the contextual menu bar. Click on the small triangle icon and choose the Edit Dates option.

  7. Choose new start and end dates, then click on the Save button

  8. Repeat the process for all of the quizzes in the course.

How it works...

By default, the Manage Dates tool lists all content, dropbox folders, assessments, news items, discussions, and grades in one table. If your course doesn't have a lot of content, this is probably fine. However, as your course grows, you may find it easier to filter by specific tools. In this recipe, we are only interested in changing the due dates for dropbox folders at the moment, so we narrow our selection to include only those items.

You further refine your search by clicking on any of the column headers to sort the data by different parameters. In this recipe, we sorted the dropbox items by their start date, but you can even sort by the end date, item name, and so on. Clicking on a header a second time reverses the sort order.

Although we chose to edit the dates for each quiz separately, you may have noticed the Edit Dates icon at the top of the table. By checking the boxes next to multiple items and clicking on the Edit Dates button, you can assign the same date to multiple items. This is useful for changing the dates for an entire unit or module.

You may have also noticed the Offset Dates icon. This option is similar to the change dates function, but rather than setting specific dates, we move the existing dates either forward or backward a certain number of days. Although you could conceivably move the dates forward a whole semester, I find this option more useful for rearranging the schedule after college closings or class cancelations.

There's more...

The Manage Dates tool also gives you a quick way to entirely remove dates from items. Simply click on any of the red X icons to remove that date from the assignment.

The checkbox for the Show in Calendar option works in a similar way. Check the boxes for any item that you want to appear in the course.

See also

The Copying course materials from a previous semester recipe

Double-checking everything from the student view

The Desire2Learn Learning Environment uses role-based permissions to control your experience within the system. We've seen this on the My Home page, where various system roles are presented by tabs above the list of available courses. Accessing a class in which you are enrolled as a student will be a much different experience compared to accessing one in which you are an instructor or developer. By the start of the semester, you've no doubt spent a lot of time getting everything in your course ready for student access. The problem is that you have been viewing everything from the instructor's point of view. Sometimes, however, seeing things from the student's perspective helps identify display or permission problems. It's good practice to double-check your course using the Role Switch tool before students gain access. In this recipe, we'll take a walk through our course, previewing everything from the student's perspective.

Getting ready

In order to complete this recipe, you need a Desire2Learn Learning Environment course and access to the Role Switch widget.

How to do it

  1. Access a course from the My Home page.

  2. Locate the Role Switch widget and select the Student role from the drop-down list. Click on the Change Role button.

  3. Access the Content tool and try clicking on a few topics. Make sure that everything loads as expected.

  4. Access the Dropbox tool and make sure that you are able to view all of the folders.

  5. Go ahead and check out the other areas of the course as well. Come back here when you're finished.

  6. Head back to the Role Switch widget and change your role back to normal. Make sure to click on the Change Role button after selecting a role from the drop-down list. We are going to do things a bit differently for the Grades and Quizzes tools.

  7. Click on the Quizzes link in the course navigation bar. Click on the name of a quiz, and then click the Preview button. Take a look at the quiz and make sure the questions are formatted as expected. Feel free to exit the preview window when you're done.

  8. To wrap up this recipe, let's visit the Grades tool. Click on the name of one of the students from the list of names on the Enter Grades page.

  9. Click on the Preview link to simulate the student view in the Grades area.

How it works

We make use of a few different tools in order to view everything in the course from the student's perspective. The Role Switch widget is a great way to check course news, checklists, content, and dropbox tools. While we can use it to view the list of course quizzes, we can't enter the quiz or grade book tools using that method. In order to access a quiz and view its questions, we need to use the Preview function of the quiz itself, as opposed to the Role Switch widget:

Similarly, to see what the grades tool looks like to students, we need to preview the tool for a particular student. Instructors normally aren't added to the grade book, therefore the Role Switch widget isn't really helpful in this case. Previewing the grade book for a student in the class will give us a much better idea of how everything looks.

Configuring your web browser

Because the Desire2Learn Learning Environment is web-based, it's important to make sure you're using a web browser that's fully supported by the system and that you also have the appropriate plugins required to view certain types of content, such as Flash videos and Java applets. In this recipe, we will use the system's built-in System Check tool to make sure your browser is compliant. We will also learn how to set up Internet Explorer's security settings to avoid receiving those annoying "Navigation Canceled" messages that can create problems when displaying external content, such as YouTube videos.

How to do it

  1. Launch the web browser that you plan on using to access your online courses.

  2. Navigate to https://your-school.edu/d2l/systemCheck, replacing your-school.edu with the actual URL for your organization's Desire2Learn instance.
  3. Make sure that you have all green checkmarks in both the Critical System Checks and Non-critical System Checks sections. If you see any recommendations, address those and then return to the System Check page to run the check again.

How it works...

Items in the Critical System Checks section are required to use the system. If your browser doesn't support JavaScript and cookies (or if you've turned them off), then you will not able to log in. While items in the Non-critical System Checks section are not required to log in, you may experience trouble viewing content or working within the system if you're using a non-supported browser or if your browser is missing recommended plugins.

The System Check page is a great starting point for making sure your browser is configured correctly, but you may need to adjust some other settings as well. For example, you will need to make sure your browser doesn't block pop ups, since the system uses them to display important information to users. You'll also need to verify that you have installed any other plugins required to view content in your course. I recommend keeping a list of required plugins in your course syllabus so that they can be easily accessed by both you and your students at the beginning of the semester.

The System Check page is a great starting point for making sure your browser is configured correctly, but you may need to adjust some other settings as well. For example, you will need to make sure your browser doesn't block pop ups, since the system uses them to display important information to users. You'll also need to verify that you have installed any other plugins required to view content in your course. I recommend keeping a list of required plugins in your course syllabus so that they can be easily accessed by both you and your students at the beginning of the semester.

In order to allow this type of behavior, we need to create an exception for our Desire2Learn site. We start by adding the server address to our list of Trusted Sites. We then adjust the settings of the trusted sites to allow for Mixed Content, or secure and non-secure content, to be displayed on the same webpage.

Once we save our changes, IE should have no issues presenting non-secure content within the Desire2Learn Learning Environment.

  1. Open Internet Explorer.

  2. In the Tools menu, choose Internet Options.

  3. Access the Security tab.

  4. Click on the Trusted Sites list and add your organization's D2L URL by clicking on the Sites button:

  5. A little further down on the panel, click on the Custom Level button to assign a custom security level for Trusted sites.

  6. Locate the Allow Mixed Content heading, choose the Enable option, and click on OK:

Summary

This article explains how we can:

  • Copying course materials from a previous semester

  • Importing a publisher's course cartridge

  • Changing many due dates from one screen

  • Double-checking everything from the student view

  • Configuring your web browser

Resources for Article :



Further resources on this subject:


 

 

 

Desire2Learn for Higher Education Cookbook Gain expert knowledge of the tools within the Desire2Learn Learning Environment, maximize your productivity, and create online learning experiences with these easy-to-follow recipes with this book and ebook.
Published: November 2012
eBook Price: $26.99
Book Price: $44.99
See more
Select your format and quantity:

About the Author :


Brandon Ballentine

Brandon Ballentine is an Instructional Technologist in East Tennessee. He is a D2L system administrator and provides faculty training on D2L and other educational tools. Brandon also teaches workshops on iOS Application Development and Mobile Web Design.

Prior to working in the educational technology field, Brandon developed and managed interactive technologies for a financial institution.

Brandon has a Master's degree in English from East Tennessee State University. In his free time, he enjoys travelling and photography. To learn more about Brandon and his latest projects, visit www.brandonballentine.com.

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