on creating courses to set up a semester in Desire2Learn


We're in the middle of our Fall 2013 "Pilot" semester - almost 5,000 students are using D2L ((I should start an acronym-based drinking game, except my liver wouldn't survive it)) this semester, with extremely positive feedback from students and instructors. We're now in the process of setting up for the Winter 2014 semester - where 4 faculties will be moving to use Desire2Learn for 100% of their online- and blended courses (and many courses from other faculties thrown in for good measure). Likely 10-12,000 students using it next semester. That's a lot of students. And a lot of courses. We still don't have automated course creation integrated with PeopleSoft, and are working feverishly on that (the thought of managing course enrolments for 12,000 students using CSV uploads makes me break into a cold sweat).

The basic process for setting up courses for a semester looks something like this:

  1. Create a data feed that triggers course creation. Course Code, Course Title, Department, other key metadata about the courses. This can either be done through the connection with PeopleSoft (which isn't working for us yet), or via the Bulk Course Create (BCC) tool. Feed BCC the CSV of course info (SFTP it to the D2L server), wait until the scheduled processing job crunches it, and boom. Courses are created. But they're empty. And nobody can see them.

  2. Enrol users in the courses. This can either be done via scheduled data feed from PeopleSoft (again, not yet), or via another CSV file that associates a user with a course and applies a role. This is done using a second tool, built into the Users admin interface. This Bulk User Management (BUM) tool ((BUM. giggle. No, just upload it to the BUM. D2L takes it in the BUM. oy. productive project meetings discussing this tool...)) takes the CSV, and crunches it on demand. No scheduled processing job to wait for. The CSV can also be cumulative, so you don't have to scoop out previous entries. Separate files are needed to handle CREATE, ENROLL, UNENROLL etc… because they all have different columns, in different orders.

  3. The courses are empty. They need to be populated with any default content that a faculty uses. We have set up "template" ((not the D2L concept of "Template" which is strictly an administrative thing - all Math 251 courses are set up with the D2L Template of "Math 251", making it easier to find all instances of a certain course. The "Faculty Template" I'm talking about here is just a Course Offering that is used by key people in each faculty to set up how they want all of their courses to look - they add stuff to the Content area. Items to News. Preload any content etc… that will then be copied into each course in their faculty.)) that needs to be copied into each course in a faculty. This uses another separate utility, Copy Course Bulk (CCB), with another CSV format. This utility is different, because it lives inside a special course in our D2L instance. You go to the course, open the "Manage Files" interface, and upload the CSV file (named input.csv) into an "Inbox" folder. Every night, at about 12:30am, a process crunches that file (if it exists), copies the content as specified in it, logs the result, and moves the file to the "Outbox" folder. But, this only copies course content, grade items, assignments, grading schemes, etc…

  4. To have the courses in each faculty use the proper homepage as designed by the key people in each faculty, yet another utility is needed. With yet another CSV format. We haven't seen the Automated Course Branding Tool (ACBT) yet ((stuck in the fun of University Purchasing etc…)) but I assume it lives as a special course offering within our D2L instance, as the CCB tool does. This tool will set the homepage (the layout of the course - which widgets are visible, where they are, etc…) - as well as setting the NavBar (the navigation menu for the course).

There. That's all it takes. Of the 4 steps, 2 will eventually be automatable through our connection with PeopleSoft, when that comes online. The other 2 will require semi-manual intervention, to create the list of courses for each faculty, tying course codes to "template" courses ((that aren't actually D2L templates)).

Of these tools, the Copy Course Bulk (CCB) and Automated Course Branding Tool (ACBT) require additional licenses, and need to be separately deployed in your D2L environment. This takes time. We weren't even aware these tools were separate, or that they needed to be licensed and deployed, until we went to use the functionality (assuming it would exist in the core product). Plan ahead. These tools do the job, but take some time to set up (and push through campus purchasing processes…).


See Also