Design: Best Practices for Designing Your Course in D2L

Design:  Best Practices for Designing Your Course in D2L



Here are some recommendations to help you get started in D2L. Hope you will find them helpful in designing and developing your online course. 

Provide an orientation:

In the first week of your class, provide an online orientation for your students. The orientation will guide the students to get started in your course. The Getting Started widget in the left top of the Course Homepage is designed for that purpose.

Many instructors include such an orientation in the course syllabus. Some even create a video walking the students through the syllabus. In the course syllabus, the instructor typically includes what the course is about, course objectives and goals, how the course is organized and conducted, what communication methods will be used, whether students need to get any additional hardware and software, and finally, how student performances will be evaluated. The key point is to let students to know who you are, what they should do first, and how to find their way around in the course site.


Provide student introduction:

An interactive introduction through a discussion forum during the first week allows students to personalize their social presence in the course by sharing bios, interests, and photos. This helps lay the foundation of a learning community (Mary Bart, 2010). You can gather information about your students that can be used to make the course better related to their background, interests, expectations, etc., and to better demonstrate the real-world significance of the course.


Periodically check with students for any technical problems:

At the beginning of the semester, students typically need some help in D2L login and course access, course software download and installation, or some other technical glitches. Provide timely help or direct them to where they can get help to ensure a smooth start. For D2L login and access, contact

Address course policies and expectations:

It is important to make course policies and expectations clear to students, concerning participation, academic integrity, missing homework, exams, etc. Let students know what they can expect from you (e.g., your availability, how soon you can usually respond to questions.

Use D2L Content Tool:

The D2L Content tool can be used to present all course materials and learning activities such as assignment dropbox, quiz, discussion, and survey. It can provide a one-stop shopping for students to see what they need to do throughout the course. The Content area is organized into modules and topics. Each module can have multiple topics. Modules are typically organized by time (Week 1, 2, 3…), unit (Chapter 1, 2, 3…), topic, project, or even student group. Each module and topic can have date/time restriction and/or release condition based user group or student performances. From the Content area, you can monitor and check student’s access to the course materials and completion of assignments and learning progress.

Create measurable learning objectives:

Quality Matters Standards* emphasize the importance of having learning objectives at module/unit levels. These learning objectives should be specified in measurable terms and be aligned with course content, learning activities, assessment measures, resources, and technology.

To articulate the measurable leaning objectives, you should focus on student behavior, use simple, specific action verbs, select appropriate assessment methods and state desired performance criteria to describe how or where learning activities are to be performed, and how the outcome is to be assessed and measured.  D2L allows the instructor to associate a learning activity such as an assignment Dropbox folder with one or more learning objectives. Common measurable learning objects include: “Be able to classify”, “critique”, “compare”, “differentiate”, “explain”, “formulate”, “justify”, “defend”, and “summarize.”

Establish clear criteria for grading:

To evaluate student learning and performance, you need to establish clear criteria for grading assignments to ensure that students know exactly how their performances will be measured. Rubric, available in D2L, is a highly effective method to present and communicate such criteria.  Rubrics in D2L can be integrated with assignment dropbox folders, and discussion topics.

Respond to student emails promptly:

Let your students know exactly how soon you will be able to respond to their emails or calls, such as “normally within 24 hours on weekdays, possibly longer over weekends and holidays”. Many students expect instructors to respond to their email messages within a day. If you cannot give a detailed answer right away, you may want to send a short note that you will get back to them later. At least, students know you are not ignoring their messages.

Provide timely feedback:

Tell the students how feedback will be provided on their assignment submissions, quiz attempts, and other learning activities. The information can be included in the syllabus or explained in a separate page dedicated to the topics of assessment and grading. For Dropbox submissions, the instructor can provide feedback as comments or attach a document with marks and comments in it. Quick responses to discussion posts and email questions can help keep students on track for the next assignment or activity. Turn-around time on grading of assessments can also have an impact on future student efforts. Timely feedback helps students make necessary adjustments for upcoming learning and assessments.

Build class interaction:

Class Interaction is a key factor in the success of online learning.  D2L has tools that can help facilitate instructor-student, student-student, and content-student interaction and promote student engagement. Discussion is a great asynchronous tool for posting ideas, sharing thoughts, and exchanges views. You can also set up groups in the Discussion area for students to work with peers, share files, and help each other. Collaborate is a real-time video conferencing tool that supports text chat, audio and video talk, application sharing, and present materials through a whiteboard. The Group tool allows you to put students into different groups and work on different tasks or projects.

Create accessible course content:

Right from the beginning of course design, keep accessibility considerations in mind. Use the webpage editor included in the D2L course Content area to create page content. Standard HTML web pages are easier to load and generally most accessible. Be sure to add Alt (a text-only alternative) tag for non-text objects, such as images and graphics and provide captions describing the audio and video content.

Special access for students with special needs. In assignment dropbox folders, Content topics, and quizzes, you set Special Access for students with special needs. We strongly encourage you to follow D2L accessibility best practices to ensure you meet the learning needs of all your students.

* Quality Assurance Rubric is a set of standards as guidelines for DSU online instructors to design, evaluate and improve their online and blended courses. To learn more about the QA Rubric, go to That site includes statements or explanations, updated standards, criteria for meeting standards, annotations, examples, etc.


·       J. V. Boettcher. (2013). Ten Best Practices for Teaching Online Quick Guide for New Online faculty

·       Carnegie Mellon University Design & Teach a Course

·       Susan Biro. (2011). Get Your Online Course Off to a Good Start

·       Mary Bart. (2010). Nine Ways to Customize Learning Experiences


Article ID: 29325
Thu 4/13/17 11:02 AM
Thu 4/13/17 11:04 AM