D2L Regional Conference (Ontario) 2014 Recap

Thought I published this in late October, but I guess not. Whoops.

So this conference was all about ePortfolio and the Competencies tool – every presentation I went to had something to do with either of those two topics. If neither of those are interesting to you, then well this’ll be a boring recap.

I took part of a focus group around course level analytics – I don’t know if D2L got much out of our conversations, but they were good ones. I hope they heard that the analytics tools are good at what they do, but aren’t robust enough for the complexity of the task.

On to the  presentations.

Tracking Overall Expectations in Brightspace

This presentation was by the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board administrators who are using the Competencies tools to track outcomes. It’s interesting that they use the language learning goals (as a proxy for outcomes) and success criteria (as a proxy for activities). That language is much clearer for K-12 – but would probably be a bit bristly for higher education. John Baker was in the meeting and suggested that there will be a D2L tool to copy outcomes from the standards source (whether that be a District School Board, Provincial standard or other). If that comes to fruition, I could see the CEAB (Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board) lining up to get their standards in, which would be a big boom for D2L clients who have Engineering departments. They also shared their videos for how to use the Competency tool.

At lunch I was sitting with a friend and John Baker came by, and I asked him about future improvements to ePortfolio – as we’ve been struggling with the presentation creation aspect of the tool. He mentioned some things that they were working on, specifically learning goals (unfortunately I couldn’t ask him more about this) and automatic page creation based on tags.

D2L ePortfolio and All About Me

Durham CDSB use ePortfolio as a way for students to think about where they are going. Specifically these are K-6 students, so elementary students for those who don’t reside in Canada. It seems the program is all about identity forming and goal setting. Interesting aspects, and the approach is pretty much how you’d expect. Students are prompted to answer questions about their future, and they periodically answer the questions over the six years. One key thing is that they’ve developed a workflow page, which I think goes a long way to helping students with their tool use. Another interesting aspect is the teacher is selecting artifacts for the student, putting them into a collection and then sharing that collection with the student.

Learning Portfolio: Year One

This was my co-presentation with Catherine Swanson, the Learning Portfolio Program Manager. We talked about some of the challenges of introducing a portfolio process across all disciplines, in all facets of campus and how we did. As an institution we did fine. In many of the cases where the ePortfolio tool was used in conjunction with a good use in a course (particularly good where one has to make a choice or work through a messy process to “learn”) it was ultimately successful. Where the purpose was less directed, more fuzzy, well things didn’t work as well.


Ontario Ignite 2013 Recap

I feel like it’s valuable to post my notes about conferences and events I attend – I hope you find them useful as well.

I attended and presented at the Ontario Ignite Regional Conference, which is a Desire2Learn conference intended to gather users of the system together and exchange information. It’s a good chance to catch up with friends and to learn a whole bunch of stuff. Someone suggested it was like a mini-Fusion, which I think is a pretty apt comparison. These smaller conferences might even be better as you have less choice and are more likely to hit on some tips that are interesting to you. I presented about putting the Polling Widget into your Org Level or at a Course Level homepage, which I’ve posted on here elsewhere. After that, I attended other presentations. Here’s a cliff’s notes (or a synopsis for you non-Canadians).


University of Guelph, who are using the Competencies and Rubrics tool more than maybe other Universities (certainly mine). In this context the presentation outlined the process for Guelph’s Applied Human Nutrition program who have external competencies from the College of Dietitians Ontario. The course(s) need to feed 147 competencies, which were previously tracked in Excel. Currently content and quizzes feed these assessments, needing to meet both the requirements to trigger the Competency. Competencies allow two options – all sub options or any of the sub options – which allows for some interesting options when assessing criteria. One has to be careful when wanting to assess any of the options to meet the competency. Outcomes are able to be assessed on individual criteria of rubrics. Quizzes are able to have outcomes tied to individual quiz questions.


University of Guelph has been working on Learning Outcomes for many years; in 2008 UDLE’s and GDLE’s (Undergraduate Degree Level Expectation and Graduate Degree Level Expectation).  In 2012, new undergraduate learning outcomes developed for all (in some cases redeveloped). Guelph developed a curriculum mapping tool (CurricKit) since 2007. In 2012, Guelph engaged in an Analytics pilot with D2L.

Some best practices of curriculum development:

  • Faculty driven
  • Evidence based
  • Discipline oriented
  • Collaborative
  • Facilitator-guided
  • Learning centred

Guelph’s curriculum mapping survey asks faculty what they intend to assess with the course. They renamed Competencies to Outcomes on tabs within tools – which better aligns with how most people know this thing. Competencies at org level feed competencies at the program level then feed competencies at the department level in D2L. Courses with individual templates are not going to work with this structure – need programs to sit separately due to the cross disciplinary nature of courses at Guelph. I asked, Do you only associate learning outcomes at the course level? No, it’s actually at the template level, activities are at the course offering level –  set up this way to facilitate visibility and to aggregate data to the template. One problem was how to validate course assessment as outcomes assessment? Does the course assessment really add up to an achievement with outcomes? Can we make the assumption with course based assessment = program based assessment? Literature suggests not, so how do we rectify?



Etexts can include digital media (eg. Video). I asked, Can licensed materials be disabled after x amount of time? Yes, controlled by date permissions in Content. Vision: “Any learner today should have the best in class utility and access to all of their course content – all in one place, all digital anytime and anywhere.” Files from your ipad will be added to that instance of Binder – not uploaded to the cloud version of Binder. Binder for Android is coming, as well as a web client. Discoverbinder.com – fusion or community.desire2learn.com will give you content to pull in.

DRM and Copyright controls in Binder

  • Date and time restrictions are respected by Binder
  • Instructors can turn off send to Binder feature as well
  • Students are notified that content is expiring

Binder Apps: provide annotation and Dropbox and Skydrive integration, within ios you can shift attachments in Mail app to Binder (on that device).  Binder allows annotation, exporting, tagging.