Reminders for Fall 2021 Term from eLearning

As we gear up for the new school year, I wanted to remind you of some important information related to eLearning and D2L, both for faculty and students.

For new students logging into D2L for the first time, find out how to Log into D2L, and also check out all our tutorials and student support on our eLearning Tutorials site.

For ALL faculty, new and those who have enjoyed their summers so much that all things D2L have drifted away,  here are some Things for Faculty to know about eLearning and D2LNOTE:  This document contains updated information about how D2L works now with our new Colleague integrations, so make sure to review it!!

And for all students and faculty don’t forget to check out our eLearning Tutorials site, jam packed with D2L, Collaborate, and Kaltura help documents, as well as links to other resources on Accessibility, and online teaching and learning.

Camosun Faculty Story #30: Alexis

Alexis is a faculty member in the English Department at Camosun, teaching academic writing to students coming from a wide range of disciplines.  Alexis, like many others in March 2020, was “overwhelmed and unsure if we were just managing through a brief crisis, or if we would be teaching online for some time.  It soon became apparent it would be for longer, but as an educator, and someone who’s really keen on pedagogy, part of me was really excited.”

Alexis told me that a large part of her classes involve discussion, so she was nervous about how that aspect of her courses would work online.  However, she did see the possibility the online tools offered: “when I got on to Collaborate and saw the breakout groups, I was heartened because I thought they would enable me to place students into small groups to do the work they would have done face-to-face. In the end, I think that was one of the more successful aspects of my teaching this term.”  As the term went on, Alexis felt her use of the online tools improved as she got feedback from students.  “It was really important for me to hear student suggestions about what was or wasn’t working, or to receive suggestions for me to try.  I also ask for feedback at the end of each term, and this year, most of the students commented that they liked the synchronous online experience, that they enjoyed being able to connect with their colleagues.”

As you may have guessed, Alexis, like Maureen, opted for a more synchronous model to support her course discussions, rather than the Discussions tool in D2L at all.  “Learning too many tools at once would make you and your students go crazy, so I decided to be intentional in choosing those tools that would best support my course and my students and learn those tools the best I could.” However, she notes: “I’ve heard many stories from colleagues in English about the rich responses they’re getting from these online discussions. It seems to have revolutionized their teaching, and while I didn’t use them this last year, I would like to investigate them and, perhaps, try them out in the future.”

Working out how to run group discussions online was one challenge for Alexis.  Another challenge she faced, which is not only a challenge for online teaching, was flipping her class, trying “to figure out how to separate groups into those that had completed the flipped element, the online reading for example, and those who hadn’t in a way that didn’t shame students for not completing the work in advance.”  In addition, she found that “the online pivot allowed me to dig into how I was handling the diagnostic elements I do in week one, like getting a sample of a student’s writing. There was no good way to do that in the online environment, but I let it go and redesigned the diagnostic so students completed it on their own time. Moving forward I can expand the diagnostic and include richer questions, in addition to adding a self-assessment component.”

And finally, one other challenge Alexis noted is one we all recognize.  “Everything took more time. The time it took to learn the technology, to make new resources, to think through all the elements of my course, and to be intentional in creating a course that would make sense to me.”  And, of course, missing seeing students “grimacing, or raising their eyebrows, or opening their mouth in surprise – you can’t replicate that in this forum, and I really miss those moments.”

When I asked her about what rewards or memorable moments stuck with her, Alexis told me a wonderful story.  She had “brought in a piece from CBC with three panellists discussing removing John A. McDonald’s name from schools.  Students had to read some articles in advance, and come to class prepared to free-write.  Students then worked in groups and came back to report on the most salient points of the group discussions.  But what happened next, I don’t think would have occurred in an in-person class.  A student who seemed rather shy shared a story with everyone, explaining how our exploration of indigenous rights and attention to discriminatory practices made her think about experiences from her own cultural background.  What came to mind for me was some research that suggests students learn more from their peers than they do from their teachers. I feel like the learning that happened in that moment was so profound, and even if I could have told that story, it wouldn’t have had the emotional impact it had coming from that student at that time. That was one of the most memorable experiences for me last year.”

For faculty moving their courses online, Alexis advises “challenge yourself and challenge your students. Keep exploring, because online tools have a lot to offer, so make the space to keep learning without overwhelming yourself.  Look at your course and outcomes, as well as what you know works for students and what you value, and consider how you would replicate that online and focus on those things. In addition, be intentional with what you want to do but be open to advice from others.”

As I mentioned earlier, moving forward, Alexis is interested in exploring asynchronous discussions in D2L.  This would enable students “to have a record of their discussions that they could draw on for future assignments.  My colleague Kelly said she found it wonderful that students were quoting each other in final exam questions. In Discussions, students could be having academic conversations, drawing on each other’s insights and thoughts in an ongoing fashion. That’s what we want for students as producers of academic work, and the discussion forums can give them more space to really tackle questions and engage with their colleagues in a way that they can’t, perhaps, in live sessions.”

“While last year, I think students were hungry for the immediate contact with me and their peers that the synchronous model provided, in the future, I would like to explore blended options, because you’d potentially have the best of both worlds, face-to-face and online, depending on how the course is built.”  I look forward to talking to Alexis more about this soon!

Camosun Faculty Story #29: Dave

Dave is a Trades instructor teaching Metal Fabrication and Sheet Metal courses at Camosun.  Like many Trades faculty, he had used some of the tools in D2L prior to the pivot to complete online learning in March 2020, but found being completely online a challenge with the hands-on nature of the courses he teaches (as many instructors will relate to).

Dave told me that the transition to online wasn’t too bad for him because he had been using online tools to support his teaching for about 8 years.  What he found challenging, and time consuming, was making videos for demonstrations of various tasks and activities, since students could not come into the classroom for live demonstrations.  “While moving online was easy, the amount of camera work was overwhelming because I had to edit and split and mesh and trim and review the videos for quality.  It was also challenging trying to find quiet times for filming in the shop.  I’d have to film in the morning or later on or a weekend, and if I tried to film during the day, I’d have to ask everybody to be quiet. And that was stressful too because everybody would be watching and listening and waiting for me to finish. But otherwise, everything was pretty good for me moving online.”  In fact, Dave reflected (like other faculty) that “we needed this pandemic to force us to do something a little bit out of our comfort zone.” In addition to creating demonstration videos, Dave pre-recorded all his lessons and made “how-to” videos for all his assignments.  He then was able to use his synchronous classroom time, in Collaborate, to talk to students and answer their questions.

After the initial move to completely-online learning, students were gradually allowed back into the shop for limited contact hours.  “For my next course, for example, I have two weeks of online learning work on the computer, and then I have three weeks in the shop.”  He found blocking like this was much more convenient for students as they didn’t have to travel to the college every day or for long hours.  “It just didn’t make a lot of sense for students to travel for an hour or sometimes two, and pay for parking to do only one or two hours in the shop. I had a lot of students say they appreciated their shop time being blocked together.”

Dave found that the biggest challenge with online learning was students not having laptops or Internet access.  And in addition, even when they had access to computers and Internet, they often couldn’t find a quiet space to work.  “I’ve heard of people using their travel trailer in the driveway as a quiet spot for working on their courses.”

One of the biggest rewards from the past year for Dave was working with the Quizzes tool in D2L.  “We created self-tests of 50 or a 100 questions, for students to review, and we can set them up so students can redo the quizzes, but only those questions they got wrong.”  Dave credits having self-test quizzes available for the higher than expected averages in his classes this last year.  In addition, they had the highest Red Seal average as well.  “It’s not really fair for the person with the best memory to always do the best on the test. What’s important is students are understanding and moving forward.  In addition to being able to do the quizzes over and over again, Dave thinks that another bonus of using the quizzes tool is that students can complete the quizzes when they have time, because they are always open and available.  “Some students wake up at 5:00AM and do all their work by noon. Some students wake up at noon and they’re up till midnight. They perform best when they are ready to perform, so that was a major reward, for them to be able to complete quizzes and assignments at their own convenience.  We’ve heard that a lot from the students: they were really scared of taking an online course, but found it manageable because of the flexibility it offered.”  Dave told me that in the end, 1/3 of the class ended up preferring online learning, 1/3 had no preference and 1/3 preferred the classroom to help them focus on the task at hand.

When I asked him about some of his own takeaways from this past year, Dave said he learned that you really need to understand the various software and online platforms you are going to use, and take the time to set them up right at the beginning for the long term.  In addition, you also need to set students up for success in terms of the technologies and what they can expect.  “Make sure the students are informed coming in, and giving them the chance to experience the technology in advance so they aren’t seeing it for the first time on the first day of class. They need to have a chance to develop some comfort with the tools before they can start studying what they need to know.”

Moving forward, Dave is definitely planning to keep what he created over the past year.  “Having videos will definitely complement what we’re doing in the classroom, so students watch the demonstrations before as well as after for review.”  In addition he will keep the self-test/quizzes both to enhance student learning, and because he has discovered that they also “save me maybe 20 hours per course, which gives me an extra three to four days I can spend with students in the shop.”  Dave also plans on building on what he created, with “more videos, more self-tests, and better content.  And I guess the next thing we’ll do start using the marking rubrics on D2L, so I can have the rubric open and mark their project right there in the shop.”

Even though Dave recognizes that there are still challenges ahead (for example, how to support students with access to technology and the Internet while in the classroom), he says “to go back to the way things were before would just be ludicrous.  It wouldn’t make any sense to throw away everything we’ve developed to go back to paper – that is just not reality in industry right now.”  All I can say is that I am looking forward to seeing where Dave is at in another year!

Camosun Faculty Stories – a Reflection

Well, it’s almost September, and things are almost as confusing now as they were last fall.  Probably it’s safe to say they are more confusing in many ways.  But what is not confusing is reflecting on the stories told to me by Camosun faculty about their experiences moving all their courses online last year.  In this post, I wanted to take a bit of time to remind you about those stories, and to reflect a bit myself on what I heard in these stories.

To say that I am inspired every day by faculty at Camosun is, while perhaps sounding a little cheesy, putting it mildly.  The work I saw faculty do to support their students last year, however, went above and beyond every day, and makes me wonder why we aren’t celebrating them more widely across the institution, as well as across the province.  Because, I am sure that Camosun’s stories are not the only ones of excellence in the face of adversity.  Alas, I am at a loss some days as to how to get the word out more widely.

But, that aside.  I wanted to share here some of the highlights from these stories, as I presented them at last spring’s ETUG workshop.  Note I’ve opened my ETUG PowerPoint presentation for viewing if you want to have a look.  I think, since there is so much to unpack from the stories, I will stick to letting you know the top seven main themes, as I see them, in this post.  I wonder if you will find yourself in any of these themes.

First theme:  Everyone is exhausted.  I said this back in June, and I still say it now, even though many faculty have had some vacation over the summer.  This last year took a lot out of everyone, and it really seemed to hit folks in the Winter 2021 term.  Fall 2020 was about adrenaline, and Winter 2021 was about wanting it to all be over (even if they were enjoying some of what they were doing).

Second theme: Everyone has a metaphor.  Ok, I confess that this was a fun one.  But so many people had vibrant ways to describe what they went through.  Like Debra’s “How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.” Or Deanna and Lynelle’s “this was an opportunity to rip the bandaid off.”  Linda’s “last year was like jumping off a cliff without knowing where the bottom is.”  Chris’s “it was like a tightrope walk over a live volcano.” Diane’s “overnight we were thrown into, not even the deep end of the pool, but into the ocean.” And Chrisa’s “it was like swimming through mud.”

Third theme: Everyone appreciated a chance to reflect.  I don’t know if you have had a chance to talk to anyone about last year, but many of the faculty I talked to had not, and they thanked me for the opportunity to laugh and cry and talk about their fear and triumphs.

Fourth theme: Everyone has learned more about themselves.  As educators, as human beings, the whole gamut.  They’ve learned that it’s ok to not be perfect.  That they are more resilient than they thought (as were their students).  That they don’t have to be afraid to ask for help, even though it’s hard to admit you don’t know something.  And that it’s ok to be vulnerable, to be human, and to take risks.

Fifth theme: Everyone has embraced (mostly) change.  They’ve learned new things, things many said they would never have learned without this shove.  They’ve discovered new things about their teaching, as well as about their assumptions of student learning.  They will all keep something from the past year.  And they all learned it was ok to let things go, and re-evaluate the priorities for their courses.

Sixth theme:  Everyone tried new things they will keep using.  I already said this in the fifth theme, but I think it bears repeating.  Nursing has discovered a new way (and less stressful way for students) to do skills tests.  Many faculty will continue to provide students with video lessons, skills demos, etc.  Some faculty embraced using online quizzes, and many discovered the Assignment dropbox for “paper” assessments.  Online office hours in Collaborate are an option now for students who can’t come to campus for a regular in-person time, and some faculty want to use Collaborate in the classroom to allow for anonymous engagement with the Collaborate Whiteboard.  And the list goes on and on…

Seventh theme:  Everyone put themselves in the shoes of their students.  Faculty overwhelmingly noted that they felt like they were experiencing what their students experience every term, being vulnerable and learning new things, and they discovered that compassion, taking risks, and being vulnerable are things they can be and do face-to-face too.  They discovered that many students like learning online, or at least its flexibility, and while building relationships online can be harder, some found that students felt more connection when they could be more anonymous.  They discovered that access to education is complicated.  Faculty and students experienced challenges with access to the technology (and the understanding of how to use it), but at the same time, moving online opened doors to students who may not have come to face-to-face classes.  Finally, faculty were afforded a rare glimpse into students’ lives, and vice versa, bringing a whole range of possibilities (bringing music and art into the classroom) and privacy implications (other people in homes, personal space) to the classroom.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this short reflection on the stories I’ve collected so far.  There is so much more I want to talk about, but baby steps, right?  Stay tuned for more.  And if you have any questions or want to talk to me about this project, shoot me an email at

Camosun Faculty Story #28: Maureen

Maureen, a faculty member in the English Department at Camosun, had not used many online tools, including D2L, to support her teaching in the past.  So for her, the pivot to online was “from zero to hero, because I really was starting with zero!”  Also, initially Maureen “didn’t have a computer, had no printer, no equipment.”  Luckily, Camosun provided her with that infrastructure very quickly, and then she just had to learn to use it all for her teaching.  Maureen also noted how because everyone had to pivot at the same time, students, faculty, administration, “that synchronization of all of our efforts towards one goal made for as smooth a transition as possible for the students.”

As you can imagine, Maureen faced many challenges as she moved her courses online.  She told me her biggest challenges was her fear “that because of my inexperience, it wouldn’t work, that I wouldn’t be able to connect in an interactive, interesting, stimulating, thought-provoking way with my students the way I did face-to-face. Trying to keep that active learning environment alive was one of my biggest fears and challenge as well. Or maybe the challenge was to overcome that fear.”

She overcame her fears, however, by attending workshops and reviewing CELT resources containing “tips and things to watch out for, as well as other things you could do once the basics were in place. Then I was able to consider what I could reach for, to try that next skill. I really liked the building block approach, which got me started and built my confidence.” In addition, Maureen was able to take a step back and look at her course from a student perspective.  “I realized that certain things would have to go, and worked on the clarity and organization, by always looking at things with a student’s point of view.”

Unlike some of her colleagues in English, Maureen decided to teach synchronously with some D2L support.  “The core material was in D2L: PowerPoints with voice-overs, videos, links to readings, as well weekly instructions.  Then I would have one Collaborate session a week which was very helpful. Students who attended those sessions tended to do better: they were more engaged and more connected with the class. I also used Collaborate for my office hour and individual meetings, which was nice because students could load their documents in Collaborate and then we could look at things together.”  Teaching synchronously, however, doesn’t always mean you see your students.  For Maureen, the day when students started turning on their cameras made her feel “like I had overcome the hurdle of connecting with them. You have to overcome that feeling of being so exposed, and for them to trust the classroom space, as well as me and each other, was really encouraging. I felt like we were all together on this adventure, creating it as we went along.”

Maureen told me that she also appreciated being able to meet students when they needed to meet with her, rather than being bound by specific office hours on-campus.  “Even by appointment, meeting times are dependent on when students are on campus, and when I am on campus. Having the online learning environment available adds some flexibility, and makes for much richer meeting opportunities.  We can see each other face to face, I can look at their work and give feedback. So having roving office hours, being able to quickly help students, I really enjoyed that, and I would like to keep that even when we go back to face to face.”

Maureen’s advice for faculty moving courses online? “Sign up for the workshops, and if you have a question for the e-learning team, ask it. When you have a question, even if it’s small, ask it because it will keep coming up. And another thing I found useful is repetition, doing things over and over again. Like learning anything else, practice makes perfect.”

After teaching online this past year, Maureen has learned some new skills to complement her face-to-face teaching.  “I’ve always used course packs, but now I love the flexibility of being able to just make changes when I need to.  Using online content allows you to be ultra-current, and to be responsive to students’ questions using the Discussion forums.  In addition, Maureen has found having students submit their assignments in D2L has allowed her to give feedback in more ways.  “For every assignment I can change it up so that it looks different, to get them thinking about it in a different way. I will definitely keep online assignment and marking as one option for them.”

As we wrapped up our chat, I asked Maureen if she would teach online again, and her answer made me smile “: I found out that I love both: I love face-to-face, but you know what?  Online was pretty fun too, and I would like to get better at it.”

Reminder: eLearning Workshops for Fall Start-Up

Welcome to the eLearning Team’s virtual workshop offerings to support the start-up of the fall term (note: the first day of classes is September 7, 2021).

These workshops will provide faculty with a basic orientation to Camosun’s core educational technologies:

  • Desire2Learn (D2L) – Learning Management System
  • Blackboard Collaborate Ultra – Web Conferencing
  • Kaltura – Video Streaming Service


  • Since our new Colleague integration, a D2L course shell will be automatically generated for all course sections.
  • Most eLearning workshops are recorded unless otherwise noted.
  • If you are unable to attend the workshops and need assistance, contact and you will be connected with an instructional designer.


For registering into any of our workshops, go to the Library Workshops page.

Workshops for Fall Start-Up

D2L Overview

Description: This workshop will provide you with an overview of the essential teaching tools available in our learning management system, D2L.

Dates & Times

  • Tuesday, August 31, 10:00-11:30am
  • Wednesday, September 8, 1:30-3:00pm

D2L Course Set-up

Description:  This workshop will focus on setting up your course for Day 1. We will demonstrate how to copy course components (from your DEV or MASTER course to your LIVE offering), customize your homepage, apply a course banner, create a welcome news item and streamline your navigation bar.

Date & Time

  • Wednesday, September 1,  10:30am-12:00 pm

Introduction to Blackboard Collaborate Ultra

Description: Collaborate is a web-conferencing tool that integrates with D2L. This session will provide you with a basic overview of the tools and functions within Collaborate as well as provide instructors with tips on how to use this tool to connect with students and facilitate effective learning experiences.

Date & Time

  • Thursday, September 2, 10:30am-12:00pm

Video Basics with Kaltura and D2L

Description: Kaltura is Camosun College’s streaming media service that offers easy-to-use video management and creation tools that integrate directly into D2L. Think of it as Camosun’s own YouTube service. Learn how faculty and students can create and manage their videos from one central location and publish those videos directly into D2L.

Date & Time

  • September 2, 1:30-3:00pm

Additional Suggestions

If there is a workshop topic you are interested in but is not offered, please let us know and we will follow up with you on how to best support your needs.  Email

eLearning Tutorials Site Updates

Good morning all!  As I return from a nice long vacation, the eLearning Tutorials site is calling my name, asking for some overhauls.  Yesterday, thanks to colleague Sue Doner, I got started, revamping the Accessibility tab with new resources created and curated by Sue, so I invite you to have a look.

The four main topic areas you will now find are:

Assistive Technology Tools Available in D2L, where you will find more information on BBAlly, ReadSpeaker, and TextAid, as well as information on how to add these tools to your course.  Tutorials are available for both students and faculty on how you can use these tools to support your teaching and learning.

Tutorials for Making your Digital Content more Accessible is where you will find links to the Open Textbook Accessibility Toolkit (BCcampus) and a variety of Accessibility Checkpoints materials (created by Sue Doner) to help you make your WORD documents, images, audio, and video files more accessible for your students.  There is also information for you on how to use BBAlly (in D2L) to support you in fixing accessibility issues you might have in your Content files.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Projects at Camosun is where you can find information on some of the UDL work people at the college are working on.  We would like to keep adding projects to this page, so if you are also working on a UDL project (or working on ways to support your students using UDL principles) and would like to share that with us, email Sue Doner at

Finally, Academic Accommodations at Camosun is where you will find information and tutorials around accessing and implementing academic accommodations through the Centre for Accessible Learning at the college.

If you have any questions about the information or tutorials on these Accessibility pages, please send me (Emily Schudel, or Sue Doner ( and email.  We hope you find the resources useful!

Updated Whiteboard in Collaborate!

Over the summer, the Whiteboard in Collaborate was updated.  Here is our new tutorial on how to use the Whiteboard in Collaborate (also available on our Tutorials site).

This tutorial is designed for faculty who have previous experience using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra.  For further information, please contact for assistance.


This tutorial will cover how to use the Whiteboard in your Collaborate session.


  1. Click the Collaborate link on your Navbar, and click on a Collaborate session link to enter the session.
  2. Open the Collaborate panel (the bottom right icon).

    Open the Collaborate panel

  3. Click the Share Content icon.

    Click Share Content

  4. Click Share Blank Whiteboard. The Whiteboard will open in the main session area.

    Click Share Blank Whiteboard

  5. There are two panels above the whiteboard. The one on left contains:Pan Mode (the hand).  Pan Mode allows you to select an object.  Once it’s selected, you can then move it around, add a note to it, delete it (by clicking the Delete key), or duplicate it.

    Zoom Out (a magnifying glass with a minus sign) and Zoom In (a magnifying glasses with a plus sign).

    Fit Page (click the down arrow to select Fit Page or Fit Width).

    Note that the Zoom and Fit functions are user-dependent, meaning that participants will need to Zoom in on a Whiteboard (or PPT) for themselves – you can’t do that for them.

    Top left whiteboard panel

  1. The panel on the right side contains the drawing functions. These are:Drawing (pen icon) allows you to draw, or select Brush or Eraser (acts like a pencil eraser).  We will look at these functions more in Step 7.

    Text (the T icon) allows you to add text.  We will look more at this function in Step 8.

    Line (the diagonal line) allows you to draw Lines, Arrows, Rectangles, Ellipses, Polygons, and Polylines.  We will look more at this function in Step 9.

    Clear Annotations (the trash can) clears everything.  You will be given a warning that this will delete everything on the whiteboard, and it cannot be undone.  Only Moderators and Presenters have this ability.

    Stop Sharing (the square) stops the Whiteboard.

    Top right whiteboard panel

  2. Drawing Both the Drawing and Brush functions allow for:Changing the Colour (the paintbrush)

    Adding a Fill Colour around the drawing (the bucket)

    Changing the Opacity (the two overlapping squares), which makes the object lighter or darker

    Changing the Thickness (the set of three lines)

    Adding Blend Mode (the two overlapping squares at the far right) which allows you to manipulate the colour and saturation of an object by drawing over it.

    Drawing functions

  1. Text The Text function allows for:Changing the Colour (the T with the square behind it)

    Adding a Fill Colour around the drawing (the bucket)

    Changing the Opacity (the two overlapping squares), which makes the object lighter or darker

    Changing the Font (the set of three lines) which give you the option to change the font type, the font size, the alignment (left, centre, right), and the placement (top, middle, bottom of the text box)

    Text functions

  1. Line The Line function allows for:Changing the Colour (the paintbrush)

    Adding a Fill Colour around the drawing (the bucket)

    Changing the Opacity (the two overlapping squares), which makes the object lighter or darker

    Changing the Thickness (the set of three lines)

    Changing the Line Style (the dotted curved arrow).  This give many options to change a plain line to various kinds of arrows (you could use this as a pointer for a presentation by moving it around on the whiteboard) pointing in both directions from the line, and various kinds of dotted lines.

    Line functions

  1. Click the Stop icon (top right of the slide in the main window) to stop sharing the Whiteboard. The Whiteboard will be saved in the session, meaning that when you launch it again in the session, the annotations will persist.

    Click Stop

Things to Remember

While the Whiteboard annotations persist during a session (unless you delete them), you can’t save a Whiteboard from a session to your device.  If you want to keep a copy of a Whiteboard, you can either use the screen printing option on your computer, or right-mouse click on the whiteboard, to save an image of the Whiteboard to your computer.

You can’t add an image (picture, graphic, etc.) to the Whiteboard.  To present and work with an image in the main session area, you need to use Share Files.