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.”


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.”


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.


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


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.


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 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 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: 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.)


Customize your Class with D2L Widgets

Widgets in D2L offer a way to customize the appearance and interactive features of your D2L main page. In this post, I’m going to share two videos I created that explain simple ways to incorporate widgets into your own D2L sections. I hope they are helpful not just for those of us teaching online classes but also the hybrid and face-to-face sections.

D2L offers many wonderful widgets already built in to their system, such as the inclusion of a Google search bar, and the KSU D2L system also offers custom widgets that allow you to include a Galileo search bar and/or a general library search bar directly in your classes. These custom library widgets offer effective ways to encourage your students to seek out peer-reviewed sources and take advantage of some awesome library resources, too!

This video explores the basics of widgets in D2L:

And this video explains how to import a custom header for the main D2L landing page:

If you’d like to take advantage of the SOCM custom header template I designed, just click here to access the .psd file. You’ll need to edit it in Photoshop. Remember when you’re done editing to save it as a .jpg file instead of a .psd file so you can easily include it in the content section of your custom widget!

Consider customizing your classes in the spring with D2L widgets!

2 Strategies for Live Virtual Guest Lectures

Me, hosting a virtual lecture with the social media director for Arby’s, pictured in the bottom right corner, joined by other members of my class, pictured next to him!

I find guest lectures to be a critically important component to the college classroom. Bringing in professionals from the field can be beneficial for a number of reasons: their insight is relevant, they expose students to new career ideas, and discuss industry trends that may influence how we as instructors approach content in the future.

However: if you teach online, does that mean guest lectures are out of the question? Absolutely not! Offering synchronous virtual discussions and lectures, on occasion, can be an excellent way to build relationships with your students and facilitate student-to-student interaction. The one thing I’d suggest, though, is to keep in mind that not all students will be able to join in due to conflicting schedules. It’s important to respect the fact that students taking an online class may be doing so because of the flexible schedule it offers. So if you do a virtual discussion in an online class, announce the date and time as soon as possible, and consider making live participation optional but viewing of the recorded discussion required for those who did not participate live.

Another helpful hint is to solicit questions from the class ahead of time, particularly from those students who know they will not be able to attend. This will help keep discussion rolling in the event students who are live participants aren’t asking many questions, and will help those students who can’t attend still feel like they are active members of the chat.

In this post, I’ll offer you two different strategies for including guest lectures in online classes. One is a technology incorporated in KSU’s D2L, and another is available independent of D2L.

Strategy 1: Google+Hangouts with YouTube Events. One user friendly technology that exists independent of D2L is Google+ Hangouts with YouTube Events. I tried this for the first time this year and it worked great!

Let’s start with what works well in this environment:

  • All you need to run the talk is a Gmail/G+ account, which most everyone has these days, and the G+hangout software which is an easy browser add-on. This is helpful for professionals who might have problems accessing Blackboard Connect or other platform-specific tools.
  • Students can easily be given the option of “attending” in the virtual room during the scheduled time if their schedule permits, or watching it afterwards on YouTube.
  • Students who can’t “attend” have the option of watching the lecture LIVE on YouTube, while it’s in progress, or after it’s over at their convenience.
  • It requires very little work on the part of the professor to get the video uploaded to YouTube. Just set up the event, hit “live,” and go from there.

The downsides:

  • Only 9 people total can participate “in the room” where the speaker is. This means it’s impossible for the entire class to join in the fun. But, since the talk is broadcast simultaneously on YouTube, participants who aren’t “present” with the guest speaker can type comments and questions via YouTube, which can then be incorporated into the talk.
  • Technical difficulties: I had no problem using the platform this year, but one of my students kept losing Internet connection, which was frustrating to him. Of course, there’s the risk of technical issues with any software for live-chat purposes.

Strategy 2Collaborate Ultra. This is a brand new feature in D2L that is an improvement over Blackboard Collaborate, which hasn’t gone away – but I think you’ll find its shiny, new cousin much more effective. Collaborate Ultra offers the ability to set up a virtual classroom environment where participants can connect with their webcams, as audio-only participants, or listen-only participants with the ability to type in a chat function. Best of all, once the classroom is set up, you can send a link to anyone in the world who’d like to join in. This is why I say it’s an improvement over Blackboard Collaborate, which required all participants to be logged in to the D2L section in which the virtual environment was used.

I see the implications for Collaborate Ultra as pretty far-reaching. While it’s obviously a great technology to use for guest lectures and even the occasional lecture from instructors, it can also be used for virtual advising and office hours.

It’s similar to YouTube Live in that:

  • Students can easily be given the option of “attending” during the scheduled time if their schedule permits, or watching it afterwards on YouTube.
  • Students who can’t “attend” have the option of watching the lecture LIVE on Collaborate Ultra, while it’s in progress, or after it’s over at their convenience.
  • It requires very little work on the part of the professor to get the video uploaded after the event is over.

It’s slightly better than YouTube live because you can have more than 9 participants in the room! To my knowledge, there isn’t a limit on the number of people who can join. This is helpful if you have a large class and want to facilitate more participants.

If you’d like to try out Collaborate Ultra, I encourage you to join me on Friday, October 28 from 12-1 when I offer the next SOCM training session so you can see for yourself how cool it is! The topic is the prevention of cheating in the online classroom. Check your emails for a link to the room. 

Beyond the Forum: 3 Strategies for Killer Online Discussions

A substantial amount of research points to the importance of facilitating student-to-student interactions in our online courses. In fact, it’s hard to earn QM certification without it! Our current KSU learning management system, Desire2Learn, offers an easy way to incorporate that type of interaction: the discussion forum. From what I’m gathering, most of us (myself included) make good use of the forums in our hybrid and online courses, sometimes requiring weekly or bi-weekly conversations of our students.

But is anyone else out there getting really burned out on forum usage? Are you seeing the same comments, over and over, that generally lack substance or the demonstration of critical thought? Or are your students waiting until the last minute to post, making the “discussion” nothing more than a last ditch effort to earn all the points each week?

instructors & students alike can be easily bored with online discussions in D2L…

I was talking with a colleague yesterday about this exact issue, particularly how we are going to incorporate student-to-student interaction in our large online sections. Grading 50 or more discussion posts each week, with student responses, will no doubt get (a) overwhelming and (b) old, really fast. Inspired by that conversation, I’m going to throw out a couple of ideas for facilitating discussion that do not rely exclusively on the discussion board/prompt setup, and instead offer unique strategies for getting our students talking, and thinking, about our content. I’ve used these in several online & hybrid classes with varying levels of success. As you can no doubt relate, the more you use a technique, the more you refine it, and the easier – and more effective – it becomes.

Strategy 1: Twitter & a class hashtag. The use of Twitter in the classroom, or a class twitter.jpghashtag, is not a new or necessarily innovative idea. But I am wondering why more of us don’t follow the lead of our colleagues who have moved at least part of their online discussions every week to this popular social media platform. I used #ksudsm with great success this year teaching a graduate-level social media course. I’m finding the key is tying the hashtag usage to a grade item, and – a lesson I learned this time around – a clear grading rubric.

One option, for example, is to assess students on simply the number of relevant contributions made to a hashtag over the course of the semester. This saves instructors from the awkward decision of whether or not to follow students on Twitter – many of them still haven’t quite made the migration to fully professional accounts at this stage in their lives. Or instructors could “nominate” certain students to be Twitter discussion leaders for the week, tasked with posing a question to generate engagement among classmates and other followers.

I have found that class hashtags tend to work best if the instructor models good hashtag behavior. It’s unfair to ask students to participate in such a social platform if the professor isn’t willing to participate actively as well, serving as a good example of the type of content she’d expect to see posted.

Strategy 2: Blogs. Here again is not a necessarily new idea, but I’ve found that blogs can hands-woman-laptop-working.jpgbe used to generate discussion in addition to fulfilling several learning objectives in a course. The blog assignment is great because it provides an incentive for students to think through and write more in-depth about a number of critical issues, and also provides a platform for other students to respond.

The obvious downside is about how to grade them. I’ve previously used Feedly or other RSS readers to collect all my students’ blogs, then enter grade items while reading from there. However, this year, I had a good deal of success asking students to post their blogs to a discussion forum in D2L, which made quick work of grading and saved me the trouble of manually entering a number of sites into Feedly!

To grade the interactions from students, instructors could either encourage comments on the blogs themselves or, if the blog addresses are posted in D2L, responses in that forum can be really easy to keep track of and grade.

Strategy 3: Snapchat. I’ll be honest. I only started using Snapchat this summer at the suggestion of my Teachapalooza friends. At first, I didn’t get it, mostly because I’m not *really* a millennial, and despite its popularity, Snapchat is still largely a millennial thing. 2-snapcode-to-special-discover-channel.pngBut I’m not *really* a GenXer, either. I was born right on the edge of where GenX stops and Millennials begin. Depending on the day and situation, I can pass for either. But believe me when I say that I have never felt more like a GenXer when I first started snapping. Snapchat requires a different way of thinking. A different way of writing. And a different way of seeing the world. My personal theory on it is that it’s much more fun than the other social media, so I’m mostly using it for that reason – just for fun. There’s something appealing about a post that disappears – for the most part – after you share it.

I’ll do a full rundown later of this platform if you’re interested. Let me know.

Anyway: I started to see the full potential of using Snapchat in class when I read this article from a colleague. Inspired by her ideas, I did a Snapchat Q&A with my graduate class as a test run for how I might use it at the undergrad level. We had a most interesting conversation that week in class, but I didn’t restrict students to snapping content that was class related, so I got a lot of off-topic comments and pictures. This was fine for me, but if I was to use Snapchat for a truly interactive discussion, I’d need to offer more specific parameters on content and level of appropriateness for the classroom environment.

And, too, there’s the issue of needing to follow your students in order for that to really work, so it brings up all sorts of issues about whether or not you want to do that. Grading the snaps turned out to be cumbersome, too, because it takes time to save snaps, upload them to an LMS, and evaluate them fairly.

I hope you’re able to take these ideas as starting off points for improving your online discussions. I’m anxious to try out some alternate strategies in the spring as I teach an online section of Uses & Effects of Mass Media, a class that should work really well for social discussions.

What are you doing in your online & hybrid classes to facilitate discussion? Have you used any of these techniques and found them effective, or ineffective? 

Using Rubrics in D2L: 3 Quick Videos to Get you Started

When I surveyed the SOCM faculty about the most-wanted D2L training topics for the year, rubrics were at the top of the list. I first started using detailed, specific rubrics back during my PhD program at Kentucky under the advice of a great mentor, Dr. Deanna Sellnow, who had wonderful suggestions and research to support us grad students learning how to grade with these helpful tools.

However, I didn’t start using rubrics in D2L until last year, when I finally faced my fears/resistance in the Build a Web Course workshop. I was totally comfortable using Word versions of my own rubrics. Why reinvent the wheel? What’s the benefit to linking those rubrics to the D2L environment? Wouldn’t it make things more complicated? With trained experts there to talk me off a ledge when I got frustrated (and, of course, lots of peanut butter M&Ms), I eventually figured out a strategy and system that worked great for grading the many papers we often assign in Communication classes. And I found that creating and linking rubrics is a relatively painless process, as long as you follow the rules and strategies listed here. You, too, can use rubrics in D2L and enjoy the process! I’m a total convert to D2L rubrics and can’t imagine grading without them now.

Here are three quick & easy videos to help you get started with using rubrics in your classes. They are divided into the three main steps you need to use rubrics:

  1. Create the rubric
  2. Link the rubric to an assignment
  3. Grade papers with the rubric

The “create the rubric” video is here:

The “link the rubric: video is here:

And finally, the “grade with the rubric” video is here:

Are these helpful? What other suggestions do you have that I may have omitted? Do you have other advice for instructors hoping to get started with rubrics?