Displaying Final Grade Calculations to Students

I always find it helpful for students to not only see the grades on each individual assignment in the D2L gradebook, but also for them to see an updated final average every time I enter grades. It’s not intuitive, but there is a way to get D2L to display final averages to students, and it’s not too complicated!

First: set up your gradebook. Even if you’ve already run the Setup Wizard in D2L, you can make the adjustments here without impacting anything you may have already entered in the grades area. The steps to pay most attention to are:

Step 2: Final Grade Released – make sure to check “calculated final grade.”

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Step 3: Grade Calculations – make sure that you drop ungraded items, or else it will look like everyone is failing the course because your ungraded items will be given 0’s! This just means you need to manually enter any earned grades of 0. Also make sure that you have checked the box to automatically keep the final grade updated.

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Step 6: Student View Display Options – make sure that you check the box to display the final grade calculation to users.

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Once you’ve made sure your gradebook is set up with those options, then go in to your grades area and click “Enter Grades” to actually display the final grade calculation to your students.

See the column that says Final Calculated Grade? If the grades are there but there’s a “null” looking symbol, which I think is supposed to be an eyeball with a slash through it, the students cannot see the final calculated grade.

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To fix it, click the arrow going down beside “Final Calculated Grade,” and then choose “Grade All.”

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This will take you to a screen where you can select all students in the list – do so by checking the box beside the ruler/grade icon. Once all students are selected, click “Release/Unrelease.”

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You’ll then notice that the column that says “Release Final Calculated Grade” has been checked for all students.

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Make sure to click “save and close,” and it’ll take you back to the main grades area.

From there, double check to see that there is an open eyeball beside the grades in the Final Calculated Grade column, and you’re all set!

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Best of luck, and let me know how this works for you.

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End Date vs. Due Date

Those of us who encourage or require online submission of assignments through D2L are faced with an important decision: should I use an end date or a due date? This post will explain the differences in the two settings and hopefully help you make an informed decision about which one is better for you and your classes.

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Whenever you set up your Assignment folders, under the “Restrictions” tab, you’ll see a screen that looks something like this picture. The start date refers to the date that the folder will become available for students to view and use. I generally don’t include start dates on my folders because I want students to always be able to see and submit assignments. If you only wanted to give your students a brief window of time to submit an assignment, then definitely consider setting a start date.

The tricker decision comes down to figuring out if you’re better served with an end date or due date, or even both.

The “due date” refers to the date and time the assignment is due. This date should correspond to the deadlines you’ve set up in the syllabus and discussed with your class. If you ONLY choose to have a due date – not an end date – students can still submit papers after the deadline. D2L will flag the assignment as late, but it will still enter the assignment folder.

The “end date” refers to the date and time the assignment folder will close. If you choose an end date and time, then students cannot upload documents into the folder after that date or time. 

For a long time, I always set a due date AND an end date. My assignment folders shut down for future access at my assignment deadlines. I don’t accept late work, so why wouldn’t I cut off access at deadline? Several others I’ve talked with have also adopted this strategy. As long as the students are aware that the folder will shut down at the deadline, then there’s nothing stopping you from having a final cutoff facilitated by the end date.

However, I’ve changed my strategy this semester, mostly because I routinely got emails from students who were in the process of submitting an assignment at 11:59:59 and got locked out of the system. Though I still don’t accept late work – and submitting an assignment at 11:59:59 is really pushing that deadline! – I leave the assignment box open so that last minute submissions are not automatically rejected. It started becoming a burden to deal with the frequent student emails, screen shots, and attached assignment documents the day after an assignment was due. What I tell my students now is that the assignment due date and time is non-negotiable, and I don’t take late work – so any assignment that has been submitted past the deadline of 11:59 pm will not be graded. I generally stick by that rule, with the occasional exception of work that appears to be in the folder at 12:00 am on the nose. I don’t mind giving a second of leeway in what can be a tricky online environment to navigate.

Another benefit to only setting a due date, as opposed to an end date, is that if students are having technical difficulties, they can email you to let you know about their issues while still having the flexibility to submit an assignment past the deadline, without you having to open up the assignment folder later. Remember, as long as your due date is set, any assignment submitted past the due date and time will be flagged as late, allowing you to make a determination about whether or not to grade it.

Top 5 Ways to Successfully Start a New Semester

Welcome to Fall 2017! It’s hard to believe we are here. Did anyone else’s summer go by too quickly? I taught one online course, built 2 online courses, did several online course reviews, and prepared a tenure dossier, so I feel like I lived in front of my laptop! At least some of those hours of work were spent outside on my deck with an ice cold La Croix, enjoying the sunshine. And, it was nice to have a break from making the daily commute to campus and meetings on top of meetings on top of more meetings.

I created a short, 9 minute welcome back video to talk about my top 5 ways to successfully start a new semester. I’d love to hear what you think, as well as any other strategies you have for success each new year. Welcome back & I look forward to working with many of you for your online education needs this year!

Boundary Setting in Online Classes

My first online course was a graduate research methods class, taught in the summer of 2013. Because it was at the graduate level, it demanded a different amount and type of attention and commitment than my undergraduate courses. I had an amazing group of students that truly wanted to get the most out of the course, and had already established a reputation as a hard-working, talented bunch of students. They were an active group who spoiled me with robust discussions, thoughtful questions, and some creative assignments. Because the students were working so hard, I was also motivated to give my very best effort. However, it had a downside for me as an instructor: I was pretty much glued to my laptop from May-July. I wanted to give the students the best online course experience possible, so I responded to 99% of the discussion posts, and checked in multiple times a day, every day, 7 days a week, all summer. It was all-consuming. As a result, August rolled around with one amazing online class experience in the books, and one totally burned out instructor. I had no idea how to set some boundaries around my presence in an online course. It’s a lesson I had to learn the hard way.

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This was basically my entire life for Summer 2013. 

Online classes can be all-consuming, if you let them. And just because you spend hours every day of the week in an online course does not mean you are giving your students the highest quality experience. In this post, I’ll talk through some strategies I’ve used for balancing the amount of time I spend in my online classes while maximizing my presence.

Find a Routine: I always tell my online and hybrid students that the best way to ensure success in the class is to carve out a consistent block of time each week to do the work needed for the course. In other words, I encourage students to treat their online classes like regular, face-to-face classes, complete with a “meeting time” that’s consistent each week. In an online course, they are lucky because that “meeting time” can be 11:30 pm on a Friday night, if that’s the only time they have available!

I find that when I have a consistent, routine time to check in and work with the class, my life is much easier. If I know for sure when those times will be each week, I’ll even tell my students. I’m a morning person, so my favorite time to set aside to do classroom management is from 5-6:30 am, when no one else is awake and I can enjoy my coffee & productivity in peace. Because my brain functions better in the morning anyway, I tend to get more accomplished in that 90 minutes than I would if I started at the screen from 2-4, when all I really want is a nap. I also find that a once-per-morning check-in with the course gives me the ability to handle most of the responding and grading that I need, without frantically checking in throughout the day, multiple times a day.

In short: figure out a consistent day and time to do your online course work, and stick to it. Set a timer if you need to. And understand that when you have assignments due, your schedule may need to adjust to accommodate the extra grading and time needed to invest in the course. Consistency is key!

Set boundaries around how students can contact youBecause we have so many ways to be reached these days, and because we almost never see our online students in person, it’s tempting to allow your online students the ability to contact you in many ways. Before you start teaching online, it’s important to figure out what channels of communication you’ll make available to students, and let them know the best way(s) to get in touch with you. I generally tell students to contact me by email with any questions/concerns, and that they are welcome to follow me/message me on Twitter. That means sometimes I’ll log in to my Twitter on a Saturday night and see a student question, when I may have been trying to avoid work emails at that time! So it’s important to think about how you want to be interrupted, and what your plan is for when a student reaches out in an alternative way.

Be open about your plans to be away. I think one of the biggest teacher misbehaviors in an online course happens when instructors go MIA with no explanation. If our expectation is for students to be regularly checking in, then it makes sense that we should be checking in often, too. Just like in a face-to-face class, where the occasional travel plans or life events interrupt our ability to show up for class, our online classes may suffer when we are unavailable to log in for a day or two. Whenever I plan to go to a conference or will be away from email for a short time, I always let my students know that my response time will be slower than usual. They don’t have to know the details of your travel, but I find that if I’m going to a conference, they enjoy hearing about it (sometimes).

Respond strategically to posts in the forums. I’ve not yet found evidence to support that instructors who respond to every single forum post in a discussion thread are better online teachers than those of us who respond strategically. Instead, we should aim to respond to 20-25% of the students in each forum. Part of this depends on the number of students you have in a class (if you’ve only got 5 students, then you should respond to everyone, in my opinion!), the type of class, the content, and the prompt, but across the board, I rarely would argue that it’s worthwhile to respond to every individual post. In a usual class, I try to pick different people each week to respond to, and I also try to respond in a way that will allow students to model what a “good” response looks like.

Another forum strategy would be to do a weekly summary of the best and most important comments that came up from the forums. I tend to do this in person in my hybrid classes, but I also do it online in the form of a weekly recap, which allows me to synthesize the major themes that came up in everyone’s posts, and helps students remember and connect what was happening in the threads that week.

As I always tell my students, we need to be finding ways to work smarter, not harder! These are steps in that direction. With the many demands on our time as faculty, it’s important to look for ways to maximize your engagement with online classes while still carving out time for other commitments. What are some strategies you’ve used to help balance your workload?

 

Student View vs. Enrolled as a Student in D2L

One of the first tricks I learned when taking my initial online teaching training was how to view your content in D2L as a student. Once logged in to the class, click on your name at the top right hand corner, then click “View as Student View.”

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Presumably, this would allow us instructors to see the class as our students see it, which is helpful for doing last-minute proofreading and ensuring our content and assignments are visible, or invisible, based on the deadlines we’ve set up in the course. Helpful, right?

I learned just as quickly that student view is not necessarily to be trusted! As the instructional design lead told us that day, “I know enough about code not to trust that student view really works.” Point taken.

The more I taught online, the more I realized he was right. There are some serious limits to student view. While student view is excellent for a quick check to make sure your students are, or aren’t, seeing your content, student view does not offer instructors the same D2L experience as being a student participant. Student view doesn’t allow you to make sure your students can see the feedback you left on an assignment, make sure the rubric is visible after you grade something, or see what your grade book looks like once you have some grades entered.

The solution: enroll yourself as a student in your own course. Here at KSU, all faculty automatically have a special student account that allows us full and unrestricted student access to our courses. I advocate for enrolling yourself as a student in each of your classes, and for periodically logging in as a student to see what your class is seeing. Here’s how it works.

First: enroll yourself as a student. Log in to D2L and go to the course in which you want to enroll yourself as a student. To do that, go to “Classlist” at the top, right hand corner, click “Add Participants,” then “Add Existing Users.”

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From there, you’ll need to search for your student account. Everyone’s student accounts are the same: your NetID, followed by “.stu” – so mine is “ldaws.stu” – and you can’t just search for your full name, either, or the student account isn’t likely to show up.

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Next, under the “Role” option, choose “Student,” and then select the appropriate section.

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It seems odd to choose “student” instead of “instructor,” right?

From there, click “Enroll Selected Users.” You can confirm that it worked by going back to the classlist and checking to see that your student profile is there.

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Now, you’re ready to log in as a student. 

First, you’ll need to log out of your instructor account. Go to the top right hand corner, and click on your name, then “Log Out.”

When you get back to the D2L login screen, enter your student account name in the Username box, and use your regular NetID password.

You should then be taken directly to your list of courses in which you are a student or, if this is the first course you’ve enrolled yourself in, you’ll go directly to that course.

Here are some ways to maximize your student account in D2L:

  • Whenever you have an assignment due, log in as a student and submit a file to the assignment box, just like you were actually a student writing a paper. You’ll get the benefit of seeing any submission message, and if you’ve set it up this way, the turnitin.com report on your paper.
  • Submitting an assignment also allows you to grade that assignment, and see what it looks like when you give yourself feedback. You get the benefit of seeing the steps they have to take not just to read your comments but also access any rubric you may have used. I generally submit something terrible and give myself failing grades, because it always makes students laugh when I demonstrate how to access feedback in the class!
  • Submit a paper you “plagiarized” and show students what a turnitin.com report looks like when you engage in patchwork plagiarism. (Yes, I know you can also give students the option of seeing their reports before they are finished submitting papers, but this method is also effective for pre-paper-deadline, in-class demonstrations.)
  • Take one or two of the quizzes you created. It’s a great way to double check that everything displays, and auto-grades, the way it’s supposed to.
  • Post a discussion response, and give yourself a grade for it. Definitely make sure if you do post something in the forum, you let students know that it’s actually you, and you’re doing it to test out what it looks like when you offer feedback.

Have you used your student accounts for other things in D2L? Let me know your thoughts and how it has worked for you!

Creating Randomized Quizzes in D2L

The issue of creating randomized quizzes in D2L has always baffled me, until I sat down with our helpful CHSS Instructional Designer Tiffani Reardon, who walked me through the process. I knew it couldn’t be that difficult, and I was right: the process is relatively easy, but like many things in D2L, it’s not intuitive. There’s a video at the end of the post that walks you through the steps, but a broad overview of them is as follows:

  1. Create a question library. You can’t generate a random quiz without a question library. Think of the question library as the master test bank from which all future quizzes/tests will be created. For the last random quiz I created, I used questions solely from the instructor’s test manual that corresponded with the textbook. However, I also recommend you create your own questions based on lecture and other class materials. Before you start creating the question library, it’s a good idea to think about how you’ll organize your questions: will you organize them by book chapters? By book chapters vs lecture notes? By topic/subject? The organizational structure really makes a difference here.
  2. Create a quiz with random sections. This is crucial, and the only way to construct randomized quizzes. You basically tell D2L to pull in X number of questions from Y sections of the question library, and voila! You have a randomized quiz, unique for each student.

I say this in the video, but it bears repeating: the hardest part is generating your question library. I used Respondus to import 18 chapters worth of test bank questions, which was tedious but much less time consuming than manually entering 18 chapters worth of test bank questions. One thing to keep in mind is that the Respondus program (not the lockdown browswer) only works on a PC, so if you’re on Team Mac like me, you’ll need to find another computer to work on while you import questions from the Word doc files to D2L.

Do you use randomized quizzes in your classes? I’d love to hear from you about it!

D2L Resources at Kennesaw State

It can be daunting to learn D2L, especially if you are brand new to the concept of online course management systems. Even seasoned users need the occasional skills update to keep up with all the new features that are rolled out in semesterly updates. This blog will point you in the direction of some online training resources to help new & returning faculty figure out how to best use D2L’s many helpful functions.

KSU’s UITS D2L Helpguides

Let me translate that headline into English for you. The Kennesaw State University’s Information Technology Services have compiled a list of detailed help guides and videos that will walk you through everything you need to know about getting started in Desire2Learn. Go here: http://uits.kennesaw.edu/d2l/ and scroll to the bottom of the page for videos and help guides. The ones I recommend you check out if you’re just getting started with D2L are the Environment guide, the Content tool, and the Gradebook feature.  Also, check out their page frequently for upcoming D2L-based workshops and seminars.

CHSS ODE Helpguides

Again, in plain English: the College of Humanities & Social Sciences (CHSS) has wonderful faculty and staff members who work diligently to ensure we have the training and tools we need to make the most of the online world in our classes. We have our own Office of Distance Education (ODE) that supports faculty who are teaching online or simply hoping to use online strategies to support their face-to-face courses. They’ve got a wealth of information on their website here.

SOCM-Specific Resources

Since you’re already here, you may as well check out some of my past blog posts where I’ve covered things like Using Rubrics in D2L: 3 Quick Videos to Get you StartedCustomize your Class with D2L Widgets, and 2 Strategies for Live Virtual Guest Lectures. More blogs are on the way this semester, too.

I’ve also got a D2L class set up for all full- and part-time faculty members that serves as a repository for things like QM-compliant policies & procedures, privacy statements, accessibility statements, and an APA refresher module. This section is great because if you see anything you want there, all you have to do is import it into your class. Easy peasy. I’ll be adding content each semester, so if there’s anything you think would be helpful over there, let me know! To find the content, just search for “SOCM Online Learning Resources” in your D2L search bar. (I’m still adding a few people who were either new hires or who just weren’t on my original list of faculty, so let me know if you need access and don’t have it yet.)