Subtitled: A Slightly More Efficient Way to Determine if Students Are Viewing Online Content
Sub-subtitled: Not Gonna Lie, I Freaked Out When I Realized This Was a Thing in D2L
I’m going to start my post with a disclaimer. The only way to truly determine whether or not students are accessing the content you post online is to assess them on it. D2L’s metrics for seeing what students are, or aren’t, looking at your content are not 100% accurate. More on that later. But D2L does offer some insights on how active students are in the online part of your course. I recently found a trick that I didn’t know existed in D2L that makes my life much easier when trying to determine, generally, if my students are looking at all the stuff I’ve put in the course for them to learn from.
With my disclaimer in place, and a promise to unpack it by the end of the post, I’ll continue.
Until recently, the only way I knew to follow up and see if students were viewing my content was to go individually to each student’s progress tab under Classlist, and look from there. Under the “Student Progress” area, you will see a report of how much time, total, they’ve spent logged in to your online section, as well as a run-down of how much content they’ve completed.
This is great, but I’ve often thought it would be much more efficient, and helpful, to be able to look at student views by content item as opposed to by each student. It’s just cumbersome to click through somewhere between 25-50 students individually to see if they all read my online lecture notes for that week. It seemed impossible until I, as a last resort move, Googled it. And guess what? You can!
In other words: do you want to see exactly which students have read your syllabus? Now you (pretty much) can, with just a few clicks, and without going to each individual student progress tab!
The fine folks at Arizona put together this handy tutorial about how to see content views by each content item. You can find the tutorial here:
I cannot tell you how excited I was when I found it. But: Hidden under the Table of Contents? Seriously? I felt like I’d found the neatest D2L easter egg ever. You can also export the statistics into one file. My colleague/good friend over in Biology who asked me about this and I both were so excited when I found this solution, we may have used multiple exclamation points and typed in all caps in our emails back & forth for a while. Yes, we are nerds, and this is one of the reasons we are friends.
Now, before you get super excited and think you can/should tie grade items to whether or not students have viewed material: let me explain why this is not a perfect system, and why I don’t recommend tying a grade item to whether or not students are looking at the content based on the metrics D2L gives you.
It is possible for a student to access material that D2L does not recognize as “accessed.” Some of my fellow online ed coordinators and I have discussed this issue at length, especially because it tends to comes up in grade disputes in online classes. An instructor may claim that a student is not reading the material in the online section, when the student swears that s/he is. Should be easy enough to determine with these metrics, right? Wrong! It’s not always clear.
Let’s say, for example, you’ve included a .pdf of a journal article you want your students to read. If your students read the article locally in D2L by clicking the title or by clicking “View Topic” as you see below, then D2L registers that as accessed. However, if your students just download the article and read it offline or print it out to read later, D2L does not always register that content as accessed. So it’s entirely possible for a student to be reading/viewing the material you’ve got online, but they’ve inadvertently tricked D2L into thinking they’re not accessing it.
The graphic above highlights the difference as explained above. Clicking on the title of the content, or “View Topic” from the downward arrow beside the title, will make D2L think the student has completed the topic. But if the student just clicked download, and never clicked the title or the “View Topic” option, D2L will think the student didn’t access it.
So use these statistics and metrics with a grain of salt. Understand that they are not 100% accurate. Of course, you could explain all this to your students – let them know you follow up to see who’s looking at content and who’s not, and you would appreciate it if they do access the material to do it locally in D2L at least once just to trigger the system to register the content completed – but that does take time, there’s a learning curve involved with this for your students, and it might not be the best way to spend your precious class time, in person or online. My suggestion is to focus more on the assessments and incorporate assignments or activities that require students to obtain online content in order to pass them. Use these statistics as just one way to get a general idea of who’s viewing your content, and talk to your students frequently about whether the content you’re sharing is helpful or useful.
But still: finding new data and ways to look at it is always cool. If you want to be as excited about this option as I am, please feel free to do so, and share your excitement with me here in the comments. We can nerd out together. In all seriousness, I would love to know about your experiences with tracking student progress in D2L- let me hear from you!