In late summer 2021, we released a new feature in Discussions to consolidate availability dates and started on a journey of consistency with Brightspace dates, behavior of activity visibility, and access around dates and calendar event control. We’re at the next phase of that journey.
This blog post details the exciting changes available to you in the December release. You’ll have the option to enable a new feature in Assignments that lets faculty have greater control over the behavior of availability dates for their students.
With the new availability date settings, teachers will be able to:
- Stop late submissions
- Let students view assignment information and submissions after it ends
- Schedule when an assignment becomes visible
- Prevent students from attempting an assignment while still viewing details
- Post the start and end of an assignment to the Calendar
Highlights of Upcoming Key Changes
After enabling the new feature, users can expect the following to happen:
New options for availability dates that allow for flexibility in visibility and access
- This will apply to the Assignments edit page, Classic Content, Lessons, and Manage Dates. When an assignment is set up with availability dates, the instructor will be able to choose whether learners can see and access assignments outside of those availability dates. The new options will be Hidden, Visible with access restricted, and Visible with submission restricted.
An option to display availability dates in Calendar.
- The new option will apply to both Availability Start Date and Availability End Date. Tools where an assignment could be modified will no longer decide which calendar event should be added.
- Note: when the feature is enabled, additional Calendar events for Availability Start and Availability End dates may appear.
Default date properties can be set for the course.
- Instructors will have the option to change the default date settings for new assignments and new discussions in their course from a new Availability Date Defaults page under Course Admin. An admin will also be able to set defaults for their organization via config variables.
Assignment list pages – removal of Due Date column and display of all assignment dates.
- On the instructor and student assignment list pages, all dates (due, start, end) will appear below the name of the assignment to be consistent with all activity list pages in Brightspace.
- The Due Date column within the table will be removed since Due Date is moving to below the assignment name.
Enabling the New Consistent Dates Feature
Admins can enable the new consistent dates feature for Assignments via the following configuration variable:
Options: On and Off
Default: On (in the June release of Brightspace)
Additional details for setting defaults for a course and entire organization can be found in the section Configuring Default Date Properties.
New Properties of Availability Dates for Assignments
The availability dates for Assignments will have new properties as described below. These new properties align and behave the same way as the same properties available to Discussions topics and forums.
The Availability Start and End Dates will each have a set of three options. You will be able to select one option for each date. By choosing an option, you are deciding whether learners can see the assignment and access it. The options are:
Visible with access-restricted (before start/after end)
- The assignment will be visible to learners before the Start Date or after the End Date, but they cannot click or open it.
- This behavior is consistent with how Classic Content, Assignments, and User Progress treat assignments outside of availability dates currently.
- With this setting, learners can see the name, dates, and restrictions. Learners cannot see the assignment description or attachments.
Visible with submission-restricted (before start/after end)
- The assignment will be visible to learners before the Start Date or after the End Date and they can click or open it, but they cannot submit or mark it as complete.
- With this setting, learners can see all details about the assignment including description, attachments, and rubrics, but they cannot upload files, enter comments, or mark the assignment as complete (for observed in person/on paper submission).
Hidden (before start/after end)
- The assignment is hidden to learners until the start date is reached or after the end date passes.
- Learners will not see the assignment anywhere across Brightspace, including corresponding Calendar events and Notifications.
The new availability date settings will let teachers setup assignments to achieve a few different workflows for students:
- To stop late submissions, set an end date that is submission-restricted. Learners will be able to see the assignment information after the end date, but will not be able to submit.
- To let learners access their submissions after the assignment has ended, set an end date that is submission-restricted.
- To prevent learners from attempting an assignment but still allow them to view details like instructions and attachments, set a start date that is submission-restricted.
- To schedule the visibility of an assignment you want students to see at a specific time, set a start date that is hidden to completely hide it from students; or set a start date that is access-restricted to let students see the name and dates of the assignment but no other details.
- To show the start and end of an assignment in the Calendar, include start and end availability dates on the assignment and select Add availability dates to Calendar.
Permissions Affecting Visibility and Access
Due to the limited set of permissions for the Assignments tool, any role with the permission See and Manage Assignment Submission Folders will be able to see and access any assignment outside of availability dates that is hidden, access-restricted, or submission-restricted.
Calendar Events and “Display in Calendar” for Assignment Dates
Calendar events are created for assignments based on rules defined within Assignments. Currently, Assignments does not support a ‘Display in Calendar’ option; and there is only ever one calendar event even if three dates (due, start, end) are set on the assignment.
The current rules for when dates are added to Calendar:
- If Due is set (and regardless of Start and/or End being set), show a Due event in Calendar
- If Due is not set and End is set, show an Availability Ends event in Calendar
- If Start is the only date set, show an Availability Starts event in Calendar
The new rules for when dates are added to Calendar are as follows:
When the new dates feature is enabled, learners may see additional Calendar events:
Editing Assignment Dates in the Assignments Tool
The following illustrates the changes to the Availability Dates and Conditions panel of an assignment before and after the new dates feature is enabled.
Figure: Availability Dates & Conditions in the Assignments editing page before the new dates feature.
Users can now adjust whether Calendar events for the availability dates are created from Assignments. A Due Date Calendar event is always created. Previously, Assignments would create a single Calendar event depending on which of the three dates were set.
Figure: Availability: Start Date window in the Assignments editing page showing availability settings.
Editing Assignment Dates in Classic Content
Like in the Assignments tool, users can edit the availability date settings from within Classic Content.
When clicking a date, a link becomes available to launch a dialog where the start and end availability date settings can be updated.
Note: Users can now adjust whether Calendar events for the availability dates are created from Classic Content. A Due Date Calendar event is always created. Previously, Content would create a single Calendar event depending on which of the three dates were set.
Figure: Assignment Start Date in Content under the Activity Details tab.
Figure: Availability: Start Date window in Content.
Assignment List Page Updates
From the instructor and learner Assignment lists, the following changes happen when the new date feature is enabled:
- The dates for an assignment will appear below its name. The update means all dates will be shown and the layout will be consistent with the Discussions and Quizzes list pages. Previously, only Due Date or End Date would be displayed.
- The Due Date column located at the far right of the table will be removed. With the addition of dates below the name, the Due Date column, which sometimes showed the End Date as the Due Date, would be redundant.
Figure: Manage Assignments page displaying the Due Date column.
Figure: Manage Assignments page without the Due Date column. The start and end dates are now visible below the assignment name and the availability date description appears as a tool tip when hovering over the availability date.
Configuring Default Date Properties
Instructors can choose the default settings for availability dates for any new assignment or discussion. The settings are available on the Availability Date Defaults page, which can be found under Course Admin.
Important: Making a change on this page will not affect the availability dates of any previously-created assignment or discussion, but it will affect the date properties of special access dates.
Figure: The Availability Dates Defaults page displaying the different options for Start and End Dates for Assignments and Discussions.
Org-level Setup for Availability Date Settings
Admins have the option to set the availability date setting for any new assignment created at their institution by updating the following configuration variables:
Admins can choose to set an org-wide override, setting up a cascading org unit type, or leave the defaults as is, which allows the instructor in each course to set up their own defaults as noted above.
Assignment Special Access
The special access screens for Assignments remains unchanged when the new dates feature is enabled.
However, special access dates inherit the date properties as follows:
- When the parent assignment has an availability date set, its date property is inherited by the corresponding special access date. For example, if the assignment is hidden before a start date, then the special access start date is also treated as hidden.
- When the parent assignment does not have an availability date, the special access date inherits its date property from the course default. For example, if the assignment does not have an end date, then a special access end date is set for a learner. This also occurs if the course default for assignment end dates is submission-restricted, making the special access end date be treated as submission-restricted.
Note: Whenever the availability date settings are changed from the Availability Date Defaults page, those changes will immediately impact the date properties of special access dates.
Summary of Changes to All Tools
The following is a summary of changes to various locations in Brightspace when the new dates feature is enabled for Assignments.
- The Due Date column is being removed from the Assignments list for both instructors and students.
- Due Date and Availability Dates will appear below the assignment name; and the availability date settings will be displayed in the tooltip when hovering over the availability dates.
- When editing an assignment, new date properties can be set for the assignment availability dates.
- Instructors can choose whether availability dates appear in Calendar with a new 'display in calendar' option.
- When editing an assignment either in the Table of Contents or in the Activity Details tab, new date properties and 'display in calendar' can be set for availability dates.
New Content Experience
- Assignments that are submission-restricted will be shown in the New Content Experience and the New Learner Experience. However, access-restricted assignments will continue to be hidden as they are hidden currently. When editing an assignment, new date properties and 'display in calendar' can be set for availability dates.
- The Bulk Edit dialog shows the new availability date settings, but applied changes affect only assignments and discussions. Manage Dates currently lacks the sophistication required to dynamically show the new date properties based on selected items.
- Assignment notifications
- Users will not receive notifications (email, instant messages alerts) for assignments that are hidden or access-restricted.
- In the assignment summary and details sections, assignments will be hidden only if explicitly set as hidden outside of availability dates; otherwise, they will be visible (non-accessible for access-restricted, clickable for submission-restricted), and included in submission counts.
- Assignments that are explicitly marked as hidden outside of availability dates will be excluded from statistics.
Assignment and Content APIs
- New elements for availability date settings will appear in a new version of the Assignment APIs.
- The Content APIs already support the new date properties via similar work released in 2021 for Discussions. When the new assignment dates feature is enabled, these elements for data properties will be populated with the corresponding assignment data.
- In addition to the changes mentioned in a previous section, editing a calendar event for an assignment will not provide the option to update the new availability date settings. These changes will need to be made through Assignments, New Content Experience, or Classic Content.
- Notifications: Learners will receive notifications for visible assignments (access- and submission-restricted).
- Work-to-do: Assignments marked as hidden before/after availability dates will not appear.
- Course Content: Future/past dated items that are set to hidden do not appear. Items that are set to access-restricted continue to show the Pulse app error.
- Activity Details Page: Learners can get to the Pulse activity details page for assignments that are access-restricted and submission-restricted. In the update, descriptions will be hidden for access-restricted assignments.
Content Browser Widget and Work-to-do Widget
- Assignments marked as hidden before start/after end will not be displayed. Access-restricted assignments will be visible but not clickable. Submission-restricted assignments will be visible and clickable.
- No changes to Course Builder. Users wanting to update the new availability date settings will need to use Assignments, Classic Content, or New Content Experience.
- Two new columns will be added to the Assignment Summary and Assignment Special Access data sets. The new columns will be for the start and end date availability date settings.