D2L Tool Tip of the Week: Creating Forums and Topics in the Discussion Tool in D2L

This tutorial is designed for faculty who have previous experience using D2L and will cover the steps involved when you wish to create forums and topics in the Discussion tool in D2L. The Discussion tool allows for asynchronous discussions of topics, and sharing of information, between students and groups of students. But first, you need to know the difference between Forums, Topics, and Threads/Replies.

  • A Forum is a container for Topics.
  • A Topic contains the discussion itself.
  • A Thread contains an individual student’s post to the Topic, along with others’ replies to that post.

So, a Topic contains multiple Threads, and a Forum contains (often) multiple Topics. You could, for example, have a Forum called “Module 1 Discussions”, and within that Forum, have a series of Topics called “Week 1 Discussion”, “Week 2 Discussion”, “Module 1 Group Discussions”, etc.

For further information, please contact desupport@camosun.ca for assistance.


  1. Go to the Discussions tool in your course.

To create a Forum

  1. Click on the New button, and select New Forum. Note that you need to create a Forum before you can create a Topic, even if there is only going to be one Topic in that Forum.Select New Forum
  2. Give your Forum a Title. You can also give your forum a Description if you like. This description will appear under the Forum’s title in the main Discussion area.Add a title and optionally, a description
  3. The Options you select for the Forum will apply to any Topics within it. These options include:
    • Allow anonymous posts (this means students can choose to post anonymously)
    • A moderator must approve individual posts before they display in the forum (this means that YOU need to approve posts before students can see them)
    • Users must start a thread before they can read and reply to other threads in each topic (this means that a student has to post to a topic BEFORE they can see other student’s posts)
    • Display forum description in topics (this will repeat the forum description under the title of all the topics within it)Select your options
  4. Visibility controls whether or not (and when) students can see the Forum.Select Visibility options
  5. Locking Options allow students to SEE the Forum, but control whether or not (and when) they can POST to it. Click Save and Close when you are done.Select Locking Options, and click Save and Close

To create a Topic

  1. Click on the New button and select New Topic.Select New Topic
  2. From the Forum drop-down menu, select the Forum you want the Topic to be part of. Note that this is mandatory – every Topic must belong to a Forum.Select the Forum you want the Topic to be part of
  3. Under Topic Type, choose:
    • Open topic (meaning that all students can see the topic and post to any and all threads posted to it).
    • Group of section topic (meaning that all students can see the topic, but they will only see threads created by other students in their group –that this means that you need to have Groups set up in D2L in order to use this Topic Type).Select the Topic Type (Open or Group)
  4. Give your Topic a title, and the rest of the options are similar to those of the Forum (as described above). Click Save and Close.Give your Topic a title, description, select other options and click Save and Close

 To create a Thread to start the discussion

  1. Click on the title of the Topic you wish to post to.Click the title of the topic you want to post to
  2. Click Start a New Thread.Click Start a New Thread
  3. Give your post a Subject and add the body of your post. You can add attachments if you like. You can also change the Topic you are posting to (in case you have gone into the wrong Topic). Click Post.Give your post a Subject, type the body of your post, click Post

To Reply to a Thread

  1. Click on the title of the Topic you wish to post to.
  2. Click on the title of the Thread you wish to reply to.Click the title of the Thread you with to Reply to
  3. Click Reply to Thread.Click Reply to Thread
  4. Add your reply to the HTML editor, and click Post.Add your reply and click Post

Things to Remember

You cannot create a Topic without putting it into a Forum – every Topic must belong to a Forum!

You and your students CANNOT post to a Forum. You need to have a Topic in order to post threads and replies.

One Forum can contain multiple Topics. You don’t need to have a separate Forum for each discussion, only separate Topics or Threads.

If you have Locking Options set up for a Forum or Topic, and you copy your discussion Forums and Topics from one course to another, remember to revise these settings for the next course, otherwise the original settings will control whether students can post to that Forum or Topic. So, for example, if you locked your Week 1 Discussion Topic on October 31, 2016, that date will copy along with all the other Discussion settings!

How do I keep my Final Calculated Grades updated as I add grades?

Here’s a topic from the The Amazing D2L Gradebook workshop:  Keeping final grades updated so you don’t have to calculate them all at the end of the term.


Are you wondering why you don’t see the Final Calculated Grade appearing as you add grades for students? Does it look like this?

Final Calculated Grades not updated

Wonder no more!

In order to see the Final Calculated Grade changing in the Enter Grades area as you add grades for students, you need to adjust a Setting. So, here’s how you do that!

  • Go to the Grades tool in your course
  • Go to Enter Grades
  • Click on Settings (in the upper, right-hand corner)Click Settings
  • Click on the Calculations Options tab.Click the Calculations Options tab
  • Scroll down, and under Auto Update, select Automatically keep final grade updated. Note that this will keep the Final Calculated Grades column updated for you, but students will NOT see their final grades until you release them. Then click Save.Select Automatically keep final grades updated, and click Save
  • Click Close to return to Enter Grades.
  • You will now see that your Final Calculated Grade column is updated.  This column will now be updated every time you enter new grades.Final Calculated Grades are now updated as the course continues

Want to know more? Contact desupport@camosun.ca to book an appointment with an instructional designer!

D2L Monthly Upgrades – What’s new in March 2017!

Welcome to our monthly Camosun D2L Upgrade Report.

Grades – Exempting a Learner from Multiple Grade Items

If you remember from December, D2L added a feature where you could exempt a grade item for individual students (from the grading area for a Grade Item).  You can read about it at D2L Monthly Upgrades – What’s new in December!

This month, we are seeing an improvement to this feature.  Now you can go straight to a student’s gradebook, and exempt that one student from multiple grade items.  If you’re looking for options around dropping different grade items for different students that aren’t covered by dropping the lowest grades in an equally weighted category, this may be an option for you!

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Go to the Grades tool.Go to the Grades tool
  2. Go to Enter Grades.Go to Enter Grades
  3. Click on the name of the student who you want to exempt from some grade items.Click Student's Name
  4. Click on the down arrow next to the student’s name and select Bulk edit exemptions.Select Bulk Grade Exemptions
  5. Select the grade items you wish the student to be exempted from, and click Save and Close.Select Grade Exemptions

Those exempted grade items will then be automatically excluded from the final grade calculation for that student.


UDL SLAM 2016 Stories | SLAM Story #4: Dan Reeve (Political Science)

(Our final Slam Story in this series!)

In October 2016, the eLearning unit in CETL hosted Camosun’s first “UDL Slam.” Faculty and staff were invited to share stories about practical applications of UDL (Universal Design for Learning) Principles they have implemented in their courses or programs. The “Slam” format required that these stories include the following details and be told in 5 minutes or less:

  1. The specific barrier to learning;
  2. The solution applied to address this barrier;
  3. Some assessment of the solution to date.

Dan ReeveIn this fourth and final in a special series of posts, we give you this effective and adaptable example of UDL in practice, which was shared at UDL Slam 2016 by Dan Reeve from Political Science.

At the bottom of this post, we have included our own mini-analysis of which UDL Principles & Guidelines underpin Dan’s solution to a learning barrier.

Barrier: Getting quiet people to contribute ideas in class

In his 1st and 2nd-year Political Science classes, Dan actively encourages discussion and feedback from students. However, he’s well aware that not all of his students are comfortable putting up their hands and speaking out in front of their peers or telling him if they are struggling with course concepts. Knowing that this discomfort can equate to missed learning opportunities for everyone and wanting to hear from more voices in his classes, Dan was looking for a way to coax ideas and feedback from the quieter or more introverted students in a way that would not also generate stress or anxiety.


After a conference workshop introduced him to the web-based tool, Poll Everywhere, Dan looked into whether he could incorporate it as a low-risk method of supporting communication in his classes.

Poll Everywhere allows an instructor to pose questions to students during a class and while the collective responses are shared for the full class to see, students’ responses are anonymous. The collected responses can then serve as a springboard for deeper class discussions on the topic, or give the instructor a quick read on the students’ grasp of concepts at that point in the course. Students can use their mobile phones or web browsers to respond to a range of question types (open-ended, multiple-choice, short text, etc.), and an instructor has options about how and when to reveal a class’s responses to the full group.

One of the reasons the Poll Everywhere tool appealed to Dan was because he could incorporate contextual questions for students into his in-class PowerPoint presentations and then display their collected responses within the same PowerPoint slides and context. Additionally, since most students in his classes already had cellphones, no additional technologies were required. If there were any students without a cellphone or laptop in the class, Dan simply paired them up with a classmate who did have the hardware. That said, students were not required to participate and were not assessed on their responses; if students still were not comfortable or willing to respond to questions, they could opt out.

And finally, as far as privacy concerns go, students did not need to provide any personally-identifying information to participate in the Poll Everywhere activities: they did not need to create an account on Poll Everywhere to respond to Dan’s questions, and they could also access the Internet through the college’s EDUROAM service and not their own data plans.

[For more information about Poll Everywhere and useful applications of the tool, see http://www.polleverywhere.com/blog/great-ways-to-use-poll-everywhere-in-the-classroom/]


In his pilot use of Poll Everywhere, Dan found that he could pose open-ended questions to his class and generate more responses than he would typically get through the traditional “hands-up, vocal responses in front of the class” approach. In other words and as per his original goal, he did end up hearing more from the quieter introverts in his classes.

A tertiary benefit to the Poll Everywhere-based questions was that Dan was able to save some in-class time. Rather than posing a question and going around the room one student at a time to collect responses, all of the responses to a question would appear on the screen at the same time and could be reviewed and discussed further from there. This not only made “pair-and-share” activities more efficient, but also permitted more opportunities to pursue a wider array of questions.

Lessons Learned

In addition to being mindful about students having access to a cellphone or laptop in his classroom, Dan found that students’ enthusiasm for responding to Poll Everywhere questions waned if he posed too many questions per class; he could easily end up losing the participation he had just gained. His recommendation is to avoid overloading a class with questions; use Poll Everywhere thoughtfully and not too much.


The following screenshots illustrate examples of some of Dan’s Poll Everywhere-based, in-class activities and how the collected responses are displayed to everyone in a class:

  1. Sample of student feedback to the open-ended, short-answer question: “What’s one thing that could be improved with this class?What’s one thing that could be improved with this class?
  2. Sample of responses to this question associated with critical course concepts: “What is a conservative?What is a conservative?
  3. Sample of a word-cloud display of one-word responses to the question: “If a nation is an imagined community, what – in a single word – binds a nation together?What binds a nation together?

UDL Breakdown & Analysis

We think this story is a great example of a practical application of these UDL Principles:

UDL Principle #2: Provide Multiple Means of Action & Expression

By embedding in-class opportunities to check-in with his students regularly and providing an option to participate anonymously, Dan’s solution to a learning barrier supports both of Principle #2’s guidelines for “Physical Action” and “Executive Functions” by:

  1. Optimizing access for assistive technologies by allowing/supporting use of interactive web tools [that have been designed to meet accessibility standards] and supporting problem-solving using variety of strategies;
  2. Using multiple tools for problem-solving by using web-based applications [that meet accessibility standards];
  3. Supporting planning and strategy development by embedding prompts to “stop & think before doing”;
  4. Enhancing capacity for monitoring progress by prompting learners to identify the type of feedback they are seeking and asking questions to guide self-monitoring and reflection.

Learners differ in the ways that they navigate a learning environment and express what they know. There isn’t one means of action and expression that will be optimal for ALL learners; providing options is essential.

UDL Principle #3: Provide Multiple Means of Engagement

Dan’s approach and use of the Poll Everywhere tool also supports Principle #3’s guideline for “Recruiting Interest” by:

  1. Increasing individual choice and autonomy by providing choices in tools used for info gathering and production;
  2. Optimizing relevance and authenticity by providing tasks that allow for active participation;
  3. Minimizing threats and distractions by varying the “social demands” required of the learner (e.g. requirements for public display & evaluation).

Learners differ in the ways in which they can be engaged or motivated to learn. Some learners are highly engaged by spontaneity and novelty while other are disengaged, even frightened, by those aspects, preferring strict routine. Some learners might like to work alone, while others prefer to work with their peers. There isn’t one means of engagement that will be optimal for ALL learners; providing is essential.

How do I make sure files I add to a Module are saved in the right place in Manage Files?

Here’s a topic from the Getting the Most out of the Content Tool in D2L workshop:  Did you know that you can set a Module in Content so that any file you upload to it automatically is saved in the same folder in the Manage Files area?

Yes.  You can set a Module so that all files uploaded to that Module are automatically saved in a specific folder in Manage Files.  Why is this important? Well, managing your files in D2L is important to ensuring that you can find files that you upload and link in Content.  So, in this post we will look at the steps involved when you wish to set a Default Path to a specific Manage Files folder for a Module in the Content tool.


  1. Go to the Content tool in your course.
  2. In the Table of Contents box, click on the title of the Module you want to work with.

    Click on the title of the Module

  3. Click on the down arrow next to the title of the Module and select Set Default Path.

    Select Set Default Path

  4. In the pop-up box, click on Change Path. You will then see a list of the folders you have available in the Manage Files area.

    Click Change Path

  5. Select the title of the folder you want to connect to your Module. If you don’t see the folder you want, either use the + signs to open the folders to check for sub-folders, or click on New Folder at the tops to create a new folder.

    Select Folder Titld

  6. Once you have selected a folder, click Select Path.

    Click Select Path

  7. Then click Save. All files you upload to the Module will now be automatically saved in the folder you selected.

    Click Save

Things to Remember

Remember to set up your Default Paths at the same time as you create your Modules. This will save you from having to reorganize your files in Manage Files later.

Want to know more? Contact desupport@camosun.ca to book an appointment with an instructional designer!