D2L - Course Design Principles (UW-Madison)


UW-Madison is adopting Canvas as the single, centrally supported learning management system, and discontinuing support for Desire2Learn (D2L) and Moodle. Access to D2L and Moodle will permanently end June 1, 2018. For information about retaining materials from D2L or Moodle, please refer to this document.

The first step in the creation of a D2L course is to ask some basic questions. By exploring the questions below, a better understanding of tasks to be completed can be achieved and short term and long term goals for the course development can be defined.

  • How many modules will be presented in a semester? Are they broken out by chapters, sections, weeks, months?
  • How many exams will the course have? Will these exams be delivered online? Will students be given practice exams? If so, are there concerns about exams being taken online?
  • Would the course benefit from enhanced communication? Will participation be part of the grade? Will email be used to communicate with students?
  • What types of assignments will students be working on: papers, oral presentations, written homework? How will they be graded? Will students be handing in homework in class or online?
  • Are assignments and grades to be posted online?
  • Will content be delivered online?

Seven Principles for Good Practice

Taken from Janet deVry and David Brown's article "A Framework for Redesigning a Course." Based on Arthur Chickering and Zelda Gamson's article "Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education."

The seven principles listed below can be useful in designing and building a course that engages students. These steps can help facilitate better decisions regarding the use of tools and a better understanding of how the tools can be used to enhance learning.

  1. Good practice encourages student/faculty contact
    Contact between the student and the instructor can be helpful to all. Students have another way to clarify thoughts and ask questions. Instructors gain insight into the challenges students face. Try to provide multiple ways for students to interact.
  2. Good practice encourages cooperation among students
    Students benefit from sharing and listening to other students' ideas. Find ways to facilitate group learning and create opportunities for cooperation. Be prepared to engage in problem solving as students learn new ways of working together. Provide them with tools that help them understand and recognize the challenges and stages of group interactions.
  3. Good practice encourages active learning
    Create a learning environment in which students can gather, organize, analyze, present, and challenge information and assumptions. Find ways to engage students and assist them in interacting with the course content.
  4. Good practice gives prompt feedback
    Students want to know how they are doing in the course and how their performance compares to others. They value suggestions for improving their performance.
  5. Good practice emphasizes time on task
    Acknowledge the fact that learning takes time. Find ways of engaging students in the learning process. Provide interactive projects and communication methods. Find ways to deliver content online and in ways that encourage active learning and provide more flexibility in when students can learn.
  6. Good practice communicates high expectations
    It is important to set and communicate expectations to students. Set high standards to help motivate students. Show students ways in which they can succeed. Showcase excellent student work.
  7. Good practice respects diverse talents and ways of learning
    All students have a preferred method of learning. Use a variety of teaching and learning strategies to reach more students and to reinforce concepts through multiple methods and approaches. Students learn at different rates. Repetition may be as useful and effective as timed exams.

Seven Deadly Sins of D2L

  1. Putting PowerPoint slides in D2L when the text-based outline would suffice
    While PowerPoint in D2L works well using the campus network, there may be performance problems for students using home computers with modems. Reserve the use of PowerPoint for presenting information that can only be represented graphically.
  2. Putting a textbook online
    The purpose of an online course is not to replace the textbook. In addition to violating copyright laws, forcing students to read long pages of text on a computer screen is not a good idea.
  3. Using graphics, audio, or video unwisely
    Some students still have slow home connections, and waiting for large files may result in frustration -- particularly if these files are not necessary or do not enhance learning. Don't use multimedia unless it is critical to instruction.
  4. Failing to develop structure and clear requirements
    Experience shows that if students are to participate in an online course, expectations regarding participation must be stated clearly. Try to communicate concrete expectations, such as, "Every student must post to the Discussions tool at least twice per week." instead of vague statements such as, "Be sure to use the Discussions tool for interaction."
  5. Failing to master D2L
    Students will have a better opinion of the use of technology if they feel the instructor is proficient in the technology being used. Practice using the features of D2L being used in the course.
  6. Failing to interact with students online regularly
    Course evaluations have shown that students feel more connected with instructors who participate regularly in online discussions.
  7. Failing to manage the Discussions tool
    If the Discussions tool is used heavily in a course, make sure it is cleaned up regularly (e.g., delete or archive older messages) so only the most recent discussions appear.

Redistributed and formatted with permission from the author: Melanie Hill, State University of West Georgia

See Also

Using Course Design and Setup Checklist

Keywords:learn@uw learnuw d2l desire2learn design considerations starting pedagogy course design   Doc ID:8924
Owner:Learn@UW Madison .Group:Learn@UW Madison
Created:2009-01-26 19:00 CDTUpdated:2017-12-01 12:20 CDT
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