Get to know your way around Brightspace by familiarizing yourself with some of the most common tasks faculty and instructors need to do when building courses in your school’s Brightspace site and which Brightspace features and tools are available to help carry out these tasks.
Are any of the following statements true for you?
- My school is new to learning management systems and/or new to Brightspace.
- I am new to learning management systems and/or new to Brightspace.
- I want to know what some of the most popular features and tools are in Brightspace, and what teaching tasks they can help me with
- I want to know how the most commonly used Brightspace features and tools can help educators accomplish some of their routine teaching tasks
If you've answered YES, then the information on this page is right for you! The information in this topic summarizes some of the most common tasks K-12 educators need to do when building online classrooms in Brightspace, a description of the Brightspace features and tools most commonly used to accomplish the task, and links to some how-to resources. The intended audience is anyone whose job it is to support educators as they incorporate the use of technology into their teaching practice.
I want to set up an online course
In Brightspace, a course is loosely defined as a shared online workspace in a learning environment. It can take many forms, depending on your organization's learning needs. In K-12 education, a course is often referred to as an online classroom.
You might be interested in the following Brightspace features and tools to help you get started:
To build your online classroom site, you need to know how to find the things you need. You'll use the navigation bar found at the top of the page that contains links to tools, websites, or materials that educators and students will use in a course.
Hot tip! Use the Course Admin navbar link to access all the tools available to build and maintain a course.
Customize a course
There are many ways to customize the appearance of your course:
- Customize a course navbar by choosing which navbar links to hide/display. It is possible to add custom links to other websites frequently used in the course.
- Browse the Brightspace library for a unique banner image or upload a photo of the class so that students easily recognize that they are in the right place
- Customize a homepage by creating replace strings to display a personalized message to each student to create a welcoming experience for students.
- Add widgets that put the information students need to see first, right up front!
- Best practices for creating a Course Homepage
- Navigation and Themes - Create a Custom Navbar (Brightspace Tutorials video)
- Customize your course navbar
- Custom Widget: Photo Banner - Best Practices
- Automatically customize course content using replace strings
- Create a widget-based homepage
Set up your course with the Lessons Tool
Set up folders and sub-folders (modules) to organize lessons, learning activities and materials. Within the Lessons tool, it's possible to import and export course components from previous versions of a course, drag and drop content from 3rd party tools like Google Docs, create new content with the HTML editor, and create learning activities like assignments, discussions, or quizzes.
It is also possible to import standards and link them to course content. Once this initial mapping is done, the Lessons tool provides visualizations to show how course content aligns to standards.
Hot Tip: Check out the Creating an Online Course: A step by step guide for more information on what is typically included in a course.
- Add and organize learning materials in the New Content Experience (Lessons)
- The New Content Experience in Brightspace
Engage your students through communication
Consider using some of these popular Brightspace communication tools to improve student and parent/guardian engagement and make it easier for educators to communicate with students and their parents/guardians.
Discussions provides a place for students to discuss course materials in an organized way, moderated by an educator. Educators create a discussion post with instructions, and students post their responses, which are viewable to everyone in the course. It's possible to assign a grade and/or a rubric to discussion posts so that students receive credit and feedback for their participation in discussions.
- Introducing the New Discussion Creation Experience
- Create and manage discussions
- The New Discussions Creation Experience (Brightspace Tutorials video)
Promote higher-order phases of learning with interactive video assignments. Use this tool to assess soft-skills such as conducting a presentation, arguing a point, participating in role-play through simulations, and/or capture their own reflections on different projects.
- Set up Virtual Classroom and Video Assignments (Brightspace Tutorials video)
- Virtual Classroom Overview for students
The Brightspace Pulse app allows senior elementary and secondary students to access easily access their courses on their mobile devices. When courses are built purposely to integrate with the Pulse App, Pulse allows students to keep track of what work they need to complete, stay up to date with updates to their course including notifications when there’s a course announcement, new content has been added, a grade or feedback has been published. It also provides the ability to review grades and feedback. Students love the ability to do their coursework right from their mobile devices and Brightspace Pulse provides a great way to keep your students engaged.
Note: Students must be at least 13 years old to use the Brightspace Pulse App.
Get parents and guardians engaged in their students’ learning
When a classroom is set up for use with Brightspace for Parent and Guardian, authorized parents and guardians can log in to the Brightspace Learning Environment and view their child's classroom activity feed, grades, shared Portfolio items, and upcoming work. Once Brightspace Parent and Guardian is set up at the school or district level, and online classrooms have been set up intentionally to work with the Brightspace Parents and Guardian tool, notifications are available to parents/guardians automatically.
Note: Brightspace Parent and Guardian requires some technical work to get started - ensure you carefully review the setup information.
When a parent/guardian logs in to their version of the learning environment, they can see details for assignment and discussion activities for their children's classes. Parents/guardians have an option to subscribe to weekly email notifications. If they subscribe, they receive an email summarizing upcoming work in the next week, any shared portfolio items, and work that is past due from the previous week.
- Brightspace Parent & Guardian Mobile App - Teacher Tip Sheet
- Brightspace Parent & Guardian Web Application - Teacher Tip Sheet
Evaluate and Monitor Student Progress
Monitor student progress toward learning objectives, capture student reflections, and share evidence of learning with peers, colleagues, and parents/guardians or make the assessment experience easier for educators and students using some of these tools and features.
Brightspace Portfolio App
Document evidence of students’ learning, attach standards/curriculum expectations to portfolio artefacts, assess against those expectations and learning outcomes, provide feedback, and share student work with parents/guardians all within the learning environment. Suitable for use with students from K to 12, even the youngest learners can independently capture and reflect on their own work. Available in French and English. Students’ work is saved in their personal portfolio so that they can track their own progress throughout their educational journey.
Hot Tip: To share a student portfolio with parents/guardians, the Brightspace Parent & Guardian integration must already be set-up for the district or school.
- Brightspace Portfolio - Oversee and View Individual Portfolios (Brightspace Tutorials video)
- About Portfolio
Allow educators to quickly view, compare and track student performance at a glance.
Build quizzes from a question library or from scratch. The quiz tool allows for many question types including equations, multiple choice, short answer, and can be used as a diagnostic, formative, or summative assessment activity.
- Visual tour of the Quizzes tool
- Evaluate quiz activity manually
- New Quiz Experience (Brightspace Tutorials video)
Create or use existing rubrics to evaluate an activity or item based on a predefined set of criteria. Rubrics help ensure that activities and items are evaluated fairly and consistently and deliver effective feedback for students. Using rubrics as part of your course assessment options streamlines the grading workflow.
Grades tool and Grade book
Set up a grading system in the Grade book for an entire district, school, or individual course. The grading system can be set up to connect to course assignments, discussions, or quizzes. It takes a bit of effort to set up the grade book for your course, but once you’re done, the Grades tool records the grades you assign learners for any of the associated learning activities in your course site and calculates each grade contributes to the learner’s final grade. The Grades tool can even record the grades you’ve assigned to learners through Rubrics. It is also possible to record grades assigned to students for learning activities that occur in-class, such as an oral presentation or an art display.
- Visual tour of the Grades tool
- Set up your Grade Book
- Grades Tool Overview (Brightspace Tutorials video)
View all ungraded student submissions in one place. In Quick Eval, you can see a summary of the grading work you have left to complete. You can sort submissions by course, learner, and assignment so that you can grade learner work however it suits you. You can evaluate submissions and publish feedback and grades right from within the Quick Eval tool so you don’t need to navigate all over the place to get your grading done.
Note: Quick Eval is only available to clients clients who have purchased the Brightspace Core package.
- Grade Submissions using Quick Eval (Brightspace Tutorials video)
Annotation tools for Assignment grading
It's important to be aware of the various assessment options available to you in your Course site. When planning a course site in Brightspace, you should know how to set up assessment for the activities, assignments, discussions, and quizzes you have included in your course site.
Learning Outcomes and Competencies
There are two different ways to map course content to standards. Using either method of assessing students allows educators to track which student progress as they work toward achieving the desired learning outcomes.
- Use the Competencies tool to create competency structures to help assess students’ learning outcomes and determine if they have acquired the intended knowledge, skills, and abilities from a learning experience.
- Use the Learning Outcomes tool to map standards to course content and then assess students against these standards.
Today, the Learning Outcomes tool requires the use of the Lessons tool to import outcomes (Such as common core standards in the US) and align those outcomes to assignments, discussion topics, and rubric criteria.
Note: An important difference between the two tools is that assessment of the outcomes can be done on a holistic scale (such as Meets Expectations) in the Learning Outcomes tool and can only be measured as achieved or not achieved using the Competencies tool.
- About Learning Outcomes
- Assess learning outcomes in rubric criteria
- Outcomes Assessment: How-To
- View course progress against learning outcomes
- Understanding competency status settings
Consider using these tools to provide students with a differentiated learning experience tailored to students’ individual needs.
Gain insight into learner’s involvement in your course so you can automate and personalize how you interact with them. The intelligent agents tool finds an activity that matches predetermined criteria, and then automatically (and proactively) triggers an action. For example: emailing users that have not accessed your course in a week or have missed an assignment submission due date.
Awards and Badges
Provide merit-based awards to motivate and engage learners as they progress through your course. There are two types of awards: Badges and Certificates. You can automatically award Badges and Certificates based on release condition criteria or you can manually awarded them.
Use release conditions to create a custom learning path through the materials in your course. When you attach a release condition to an item, users cannot see that item until they meet the associated condition. For example: attach a release condition to the second topic in your course’s content area that hides that topic until users viewed the first topic; or attach a release condition to a quiz at the end of a module that restricts the start of the next module until the quiz has been attempted.
- Add a Release Condition to Content
- Content - Attach a Release Condition (Brightspace Tutorials video)
Add special access for learners who require different access to content or quizzes in your course, For example: use special access to allow a student to submit an assignment after the due date or take more time to complete a quiz.
Use data to improve student success and inform decisions
Data analytics is an exciting area of the Brightspace platform that allows your school to create reports and data visualizations to analyze what learners and faculty are doing in Brightspace. are used by data analysts, not by individual educators. If learning to use data from your school’s Brightspace site is important to you, and you do not have the resources necessary to analyze the data, speak to your D2L account team.
Data Hub combines Brightspace data sets and Advanced Data Sets to provide a picture of all your data from Brightspace. Advanced data sets give a slice of the overall data and a more complete report. You can download Brightspace Data Sets regularly and load them into a data warehouse for use with a Business Intelligence tool by joining them together.
Note: Data Hub is only available to clients clients who have purchased the Brightspace Core package.
Insights contains the Adoption, Engagement, Learner Engagement, and Assessment quality dashboards. Each dashboard is built for mid-level to administrative roles that need to have data visualized across courses or the entire organization.
Note: Brightspace Insights is only available to clients clients who have purchased the Performance+ package.
Not in K-12?
If you're a Corporate or Higher Education Customer, we have a Mapping Brightspace Functionality article just for you!
- Mapping Brightspace Functionality (Corporate, Extended Corporate, and Association) - Infographics
- Mapping Brightspace Functionality (Higher Education) - Infographic