Getting Your Course Ready for a New Semester

10 min read

(For more resources related to this topic, see here.)


Getting your course ready for students at the beginning of each semester can be a daunting task. You’ll need to verify links to external content, make sure that previous materials have been copied successfully to your new course, and modify the existing assignment dates, among other tasks. You get the point—there are quite a few things you need to take care of before students ever see your course. This article offers recipes for streamlining this process to make setting up your course as stress-free as possible.

The first two recipes deal with getting materials into your course, whether you’re copying an entire course from a previous semester or importing a compatible course cartridge provided by a textbook publisher. You may be surprised to know that course cartridges created for other Learning Management Systems ( LMSs) , such as Blackboard and Moodle, can often be imported without any trouble! Other recipes in the article focus on making quick work of date changes and external link validation. We’ll wrap up the article by previewing everything from the student’s view.

Please note that the recipes in this article, as well as the rest of the book, are written for Version 10.0 of the Desire2Learn Learning Environment. While many of the recipes are also applicable to earlier versions of the system, you may need to modify the steps to follow along.

Copying course materials from a previous semester

Copying materials, activities, and settings from one course to another can save you a considerable amount of time when preparing for the start of a new semester. The learning environment’s Import /Export /Copy Components tool allows you to easily clone an entire course or select just the parts of the original course that you want to use in a new course. In this recipe, we will discuss copying materials from an existing course within the system. We will use the same tool to import a course cartridge from a publisher in the next recipe.

Getting ready

The Desire2Learn (D2L) Learning Environment is highly customizable, and each organization that uses it can customize many aspects of the user experience. This recipe assumes that your school has allowed the use of the Import/Export/Copy Components tool for your specific role within the system. In order to complete this recipe, you’ll also need access to two courses—an empty course that we will be copying materials to and another one that contains the materials we will be copying. To copy materials from one course to another, your role in both courses needs to allow the use of the Copy Components function. For example, you wouldn’t be able to copy quizzes from a class in which you are enrolled as a student into one that you are teaching.

How to do it…

We will be working with two courses in this recipe – a new, empty course and an existing course that contains the materials to be copied. Remember to start by accessing the destination course or the course that you want to copy materials to.

  1. Start by accessing the destination course from My Homepage.

  2. Click on the Edit Course link in the course navigation bar.

  3. Click the Import/Export/Copy Components link under the Site Resources heading.

  4. Select the option Copy Components from Another Org Unit and then click on Start.

  5. Locate the course from which we will be copying materials by clicking on the Search for offering link. If needed, use the search tool at the top of the list of courses to help locate the course. You can also click on any of the column headers to sort the list of courses based on that field (clicking twice reverses the order). Check the radio button to the left of the course, and click on the Add Selected button.

  6. Within a few seconds, the page updates to display all of the available components from the course we just selected. To clone an entire course, check the Select All Components box, and click on the Continue button.

  7. Since we chose to clone an entire course, we can continue on our way by clicking on the Finish button.

  8. Depending on the amount of materials being copied and the server load, the copy process may take a few seconds to several minutes. When the Done button becomes active, it means that the process has completed. As each tool finishes copying, you’ll see its progress indicator change into a green checkmark. Anything that didn’t copy successfully will be noted in the summary.

How it works…

We start off by accessing the destination course. The Search for Offering screen displays a list of all of the courses you currently have access to copy from. If you’ve been teaching for a while, this list may be quite large. The search and filtering tools at the top of the course offering list may be helpful if you are having difficulty finding the correct course from the list.

In this recipe, we copied all the available components from the source offering by choosing the Select All Components option. However, you can copy individual tools or even individual items within those tools by choosing the Select individual items to copy option. If you decide to copy specific components, then you need to select those items on the Choose Components to Copy screen, as shown in the following screenshot:

There’s more…

If you’re copying large course files or complex question libraries, there’s a chance that your browser will time out before the copy process is complete. If this happens, there are a few things you can do to complete the task:

  • Break up the copy process into several smaller jobs. If, for example, you’re getting error messages while copying Course Files, try only copying half of the files, then return to the tool and try the second half later.

  • The current server load can greatly impact the time it takes to copy components. You may want to try copying the components during an off-peak time.

  • If you experience a browser time-out while copying Course Files, you might want to visit File Manager and look for duplicate or large files in the source course. Deleting unnecessary files can speed up the process significantly.

  • Your Desire2Learn administrator has access to other ways of cloning a course or copying files. If you continue to experience difficulty with the tool, talking with your friendly admin would be a great idea!

Importing a publisher’s course cartridge

Publishers frequently offer complimentary course cartridges to instructors who adopt their textbooks. The content of these cartridges varies greatly, but can include content and files, assessments, web links, and more. In this recipe, we will walk through the process of importing a course cartridge into an existing Desire2Learn Learning Environment course.

Getting ready

In order to complete this recipe, you’ll need either a publisher’s cartridge or an export from another Desire2Learn Learning Environment course. These files come in the form of .zip archives. Publishers typically offer different versions of cartridges for several of the major learning management systems. While you may not always find a version of a particular cartridge formatted for the Desire2Learn Learning Environment, you may be surprised to know that versions made for other systems, such as Blackboard 6 and WebCT, will typically work just fine. Check with your system administrator, if you have any difficulties importing a cartridge.

You will also need access to the Import/Export/Copy Components tool. You will need to talk with your Desire2Learn system administrator if your role in the current course does not include access to the tool.

How to do it…

  1. Start off by accessing the destination course from the My Home page.

  2. Click on the Edit Course link in the course’s navigation bar.

  3. Access the Import/Export/Copy Components tool by clicking on the link under the Site Resources heading.

  4. Select the option to Import Components. Then, select the from a File option and choose the cartridge to import by clicking on the Choose File button. Click on the Start button after locating and selecting the file:

  5. Click on the Continue button on the Preprocessing screen when it becomes available.

  6. Import the entire cartridge’s contents by choosing the Select All Components checkbox and then clicking on the Continue button.

  7. Click on the Continue button on the Confirm Import Selections screen.

  8. The process is complete when all of the progress indicators have changed to green checkmarks. Click on Finish, then Done when the components are finished copying.

How it works…

We start off by accessing the Import/Export/Copy Components tool in the destination course. After selecting the .zip folder to import, the system uploads and pre-processes the archive’s manifest file. Depending on the complexity of the cartridge and the size of the archive, this can happen very quickly or it may take quite some time.

After the pre-process action is complete, we choose to import the entire cartridge into the course, just as we did in the previous recipe. While this is often the easiest approach, it is possible to pick and choose individual components (such as Quizzes or Grades) or even individual items (such as specific quizzes or grade items), as we will discuss in the following section.

Once you verify the components to be imported, it’s just a matter of waiting for the progress indicators to become green checkmarks. Any item not able to be imported will be displayed on screen at the end of the process. You probably won’t run into too many problems unless you are importing extremely large or complex cartridges, but it is always a good idea to verify that everything was successful before clicking on the Done button.

There’s more…

In the last two scenarios, we have seen examples of copying and importing entire courses. While this is common at the beginning of the semester, there may be times when you will need only certain parts of another course. Suppose, for example, you only want the question library portion of a publisher’s course cartridge. Luckily, this is easily accomplished by selecting individual components on the Choose Components to Copy screen instead of the All Components option.

In the following screenshot, I have chosen to copy all the available Content items, but only selected Discussions and Dropbox folders:

After selecting the components to copy and clicking on the Continue button, I’m prompted to select the individual quizzes I want to copy into my course. Clicking on the Expand All link shows a list of all quizzes, and selecting individual items to be imported is as easy as checking the option next to the item titles. Since I’ve chosen to also import selected Dropbox folders, I would complete a similar process for selecting those items on the next screen:

I should point out one “gotcha” that frequently causes trouble for new users of the Desire2Learn Learning Environment. Items under the Content heading are frequently linked to uploaded documents or system-generated HTML files, which are stored in the File Manager. Unfortunately, selecting the items under Content doesn’t copy these associated files, so you need to manually select these files under Course Files. Since this can be a somewhat tricky task depending on how you’ve organized your files, you may find it easier to copy everything and delete what you do not need.

See also

The Copying course materials from a previous semester recipe


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