We’re preparing to upgrade our version of Desire2Learn from 8.1 to 8.2 in the Spring. This week I got access to our 8.2 sandbox to take a look.
While I have experienced 8.2 in action at the D2L community site, I didn’t fully realize the extent of this upgrading. In the words of some of my colleagues – it’s HUGE!!!!!!
Here are some of my thoughts and some screen shots for you.
The changes to the user interface are substantial. Overall the design feels more unified and cohesive. Navigation between tools has pretty well be standardized on the left. No longer do you have to hunt around for where the option tools might be – on the right, left or along the top.
There are new icons which feel more contemporary and help give the system that more unified feel I mentioned above. The new icons are also more logical, although I think D2L relies a bit too much on icons to convey information, especially in the content area for students where no text information is provided for the icons they see.
A nice feature is the icon highlighting of your current option. This makes it much more obvious as to what option you are currently using within the system. The previous version didn’t have this highlighting and relied on font color alone to convey what option you were currently working with. This was always confusing for me, especially if a tool only had 2 options and you had one option with blue text and the other with black text. Which one was I actually using? Now at a glance I can see where I am and what option or tool I am using.
Course Management (edit course)
This area has had a major upgrade for the better.
The previous Course Manager area was very clunky and confusing. For one thing the course navigation bars used to disappear and were replaced by the Course Manager options. This was a bit confusing for faculty, especially when they would make changes to the navigation bars for their course and not see those changes reflected in the navigation bar. So it’s nice to see that when you now enter the new Course Manager, the standard course navigation bars remain. And if you add a tool to the navigation bar, it immediately appears. Instant feedback for users.
The Course manager navigation bar has been moved from the top to the left, making options more obvious to users. And you can now manage your groups via Edit Courses.
This area has also had a major overhaul and is probably going to throw our faculty more than any as it is quite a bit different than the Content Manager in 8.1. But once they get used to it I think they will find it saves them time as it reduces the number of clicks you need to add or edit content.
When you first enter the new Content Manager as a teacher, you are now taken to manage content instead of view content, which will save a few mouse clicks. The navigation has moved from the right to the left and has been greatly simplified.
You can now access reports about your content directly from the Content Manager, giving you a snapshot of how many times the content has been viewed and which students have viewed what content. And student feedback is directly accessible from the Content Manager.
For students, the content modules and topics are now collapsible, reducing the clutter on the screen.
As with the Content Manager, the Discussions tool in 8.2 is quite a bit different than the Discussions in 8.1 in terms of look and feel and new features.
When you first enter Discussions you are taken directly into Manage Discussions instead of View Discussions.
As I mentioned before, there is a peer rating system so students can rate other participants content. And discussions can now be tied directly to the Grade tool, a nice integration feature.
Finally, users can now have multiple bookmarks to content within the system as opposed to a single bookmark.
Blogs & Personal Homepages
Two tools that haven’t changed that I was hoping would are the Blog and the Personal Homepages tools.
The blog tool is still the only way you can publish an RSS feed for any content from within D2L. Both the blog and the RSS feed can be made public. But compared to other blogging options, the D2L blog is still very clunky and confusing to use. I would love to see some major work done here to make this a more compelling option for our faculty and students.
I was also hoping we might be able to suggest the Personal Homepage tool as a possible replacement for stand alone faculty websites as the Public Homepage is also outside the LMS. But you can’t link from one page to another within the Personal Homepage tool. And you cannot create folders or organize content. A bit of work here would make this a much more compelling option that Frontpage for many of our faculty.
This isn’t a definitive or comprehensive look at all the changes in 8.2, but rather a snapshot of what I’ve noticed after poking around the system for about an hour. For example, I haven’t touched the new Group Folder or Group Dropbox functions, or taken a look at the Group Workspaces area or any of the new Admin tools within the DOME. But overall I’m quite impressed with the changes D2L has made to the LMS.
Now, on to train our faculty….