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March 12, 2015

Injecting Agile into Group Projects (part 1)

Image by touchstone What is it about group work that drives so many students batty? Let me share some of my thoughts on the subject by way of a case study. I teach an Intro to Business course whose mandatory project component requires that teams of 4-5 students work together to submit weekly assignments. We started with the whole group charter thing, defining norms, expectations, etc. But by week # 6, one week before mid-term exams, four of the five groups were almost at blows. Some members were not participating (or even showing up). The quality of submissions was, to be kind, spotty. The stronger students were upset with the group marking, feeling they were (as usual) doing most of the work. Weaker students were by and large disengaged. In short, nobody was happy (myself included). That’s when I hit the brakes, vented a bit, and told everybody that group work was suspended until after exams. Something had to change. Read More →

“Agile” Instructional Design

March 9, 2015

Scrum Diagram

By Mountain Goat Software (Mountain Goat Software) [CC BY 2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

There is a growing interest in all things “Agile”, including in the learning design space. Purists reserve the Agile label for a set of lean project management methodologies and tools (e.g. scrum), while the instructional design community often expresses agility in other terms. Courses and workshops that apply Agile principles to instructional design are still scarce, but the discussion in eLearning circles is vibrant and should result in a broader suite of offerings over the next couple of years. One good example is the Masie Learning Consortium’s  On-the-Job Learning (OJL) LAB & Seminar led by Bob Mosher & Conrad Gottfredson. Though by no means mutually exclusive, they are nonetheless different perspectives on agility, nicely summarized by Megan Torrence in her post, All Around Agility, which I expand upon below.

Read More →

Using Templates in LEARN

February 25, 2015

LEARN Templates are an easy way to give your course content a unified and professional look and feel. You don’t need any design or programming knowledge, all you need to do is copy and paste!

Templates are a great way to not only make your course content look good but also to give it a consistent look and feel between pages and topics. When course content has a consistent and professional look, it is easy to read and follow for students and helps them focus on the important information in your course without potentially clumsy and distracting formatting.

The look of a page done in Microsoft Word before and after template formatting. Read More →

Four Levels of Learning Management System Usage

February 17, 2015

For years I have been talking about doing some deep analytics on RRC’s usage of its LMS. This information is valuable to the College and the Teaching Learning Technology Centre in many ways:

  • It helps us identify and learn from excellent usage of technology
  • It helps us identify and learn from poor use of technology
  • It gives us focus and targets for training – where are we in the use of certain tools?
  • It informs us on the depth of our students’ experience with educational technology at RRC
  • It can give us incredible insights into the nature of courses through analyzing gradebooks and assessments
  • On an active basis it can allow us to identify students who may be at risk of attrition and direct them towards remedial resources

Fundamentally it allows us to learn from our successes and failures and use that information to embark on new paths. Read More →


February 5, 2015

Respondus is a powerful tool for creating and managing exams

Respondus is a tool that helps you create and manage exams that can be printed to paper or published directly to LEARN. Exams can be created offline using a familiar Windows environment, or moved from one eLearning system to another. Whether you are a veteran of online testing or relatively new to it, Respondus will save you hours on each project.

If you have your quizzes already in Word or some other document format, we’ve developed a guide to Respondus Formatting For Importing Questions.

Check out our how-to video section for step by step video tutorials on how to use Respondus.

RRC has a site license for Respondus, which means that you can have it installed on your work computer. Click here for the Respondus download and for the Respondus license. If you don’t have permission to install Respondus on your machine, put in a caselog with ITS to request installation.


How Do I Install Respondus?

The Respondus installer can be accessed here. You will be prompted for your admin\account, once done follow the directions located within.

If you require ADMIN access to your computer, you will have to write in a caselog in order to have Respondus installed.

Need more information on Respondus? 

• Respondus Package
Respondus How-to-Videos


MathType: Convert MS Word Equations to LEARN Code

February 3, 2015

The TLTC frequently assesses new software. We post parts of our internal reviews on our blog, but we do not necessarily endorse the technologies presented here. Please use this post for information only.

Attention, users of Microsoft Word’s Equation Tools! MathType is conversion software which can quickly convert math equations made in older versions of Word to a LEARN-friendly format.

As an instructor, you may wish to convert math exercises created in Microsoft Word to an online format using LEARN, where answers can be automatically graded and students can receive instant feedback. LEARN is able to display properly typeset math equations, so instead of students seeing an equation displayed inline as “2 7/16 + 3 1/2 + 5 5/8 + 10 3/4 =”, they can be shown as:


Far more complex equations are also supported.

However, if your document was created with Word 2003 or older, the process of transferring the equations into LEARN can be tedious. Due to an incompatibility between LEARN and older versions of Word’s math tool, known as Equation Editor 3.0, equations cannot be simply pasted into LEARN as they can from newer versions of the program. Enter MathType’s math utilities to help “translate” older equations into LEARN’s MathML or LaTeX coding protocols.

equation editor 3.0

Editing an equation in Equation Editor 3.0.

Using MathType

Converting a Word document to either MathML or LaTeX protocol is as easy as clicking a button on the MathType toolbar.

To start, download a 30-day trial or purchase a copy of MathType from Installing MathType adds a new MathType tab to Word’s ribbon.

mathtype toolbar

 Converting Word Equations:

    1. Click “Convert Equations” on the MathType tab to open an options window. Choose to convert equations to “Text using MathType translator:”. On the drop-down list, choose “Desire2Learn:LaTeX” or “Desire2Learn:MathML” as shown below.
    2. MathType automatically converts the equations to code which can then be pasted into LEARN. The converted file will be in the native .DOC file format. IMPORTANT: Use Save As to create a new copy of the file; otherwise, your original file will be lost when you hit Save.
    3. The code that is generated can be daunting at first glance, but individual questions can be easily made out as the original numbering is maintained in the document. For example, the code shown below is for question b. Copy the code for an individual question and you are ready for the next step, pasting into LEARN.

generated code

Pasting Into LEARN:

Pasting the code generated by MathType into LEARN is much faster than typing equations manually. Simply copy the code for an individual question from the Word document and paste it into your LEARN quiz.

  1. First, add a new quiz question to your LEARN quiz; either multiple choice or fill in the blank works the best for math. This will take you to the question editing screen.
  2. Your equation will go in the “Text:” box on the editing screen, but don’t paste your code just yet. To insert your code, click the “Show All Components” button (…) to see a larger list of buttons.insert equation
  3. Click “Graphical Equation”, and then either “MathML equation” or “LaTeX equation”, depending on which language you converted your Word document to. The “Insert Equation” box opens up.
  4. For LaTeX code, simply paste it into the LaTeX equation box.
    For MathML, paste your code between the angle brackets as shown below.
    mathml equation boxClick “Generate a preview” at the bottom of the window to see what your code will look like; if it isn’t displayed correctly, try deleting some of the characters at the beginning or end of your code such as brackets or slashes until just the equation remains in the preview.
  5. Press “Insert” to add your equation to the question, and you’re done! Add your answers, save your question, and repeat these steps as necessary.

Mediocrity and Artistry

January 22, 2015

Have you ever read the The Telling Room? It’s a novel about the power of the narrative and it’s a story about a cheese, a very good cheese. This book was passed along to me by a couple (okay, my parents, both of whom were lifelong educators) who encourage writing comments in the columns and passing the book on later — a good practice, but not one I can ever seem to adopt as I tend to get so wrapped up in what I’m reading. I’ve been savouring this book, a few pages at a time, and this morning I read this passage:

He also knew, or assumed that the workers — he would never dignify them with a sobriquet “cheesemakers,” those who had replaced his happy brood at the factory — were clock punchers, like everyone these days, there to do their time and collect a paycheck. How could such automatons make something remarkable, let alone create a delirious, sublime cheese of memory and strength? They, too, were thieves, if unconscious ones, afflicted with the disease of mediocrity. After all, why were you put on this earth, to serve humanity or the jefe’s bottom line? Read More →

NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!

January 13, 2015

Myth # 237: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

I’ll admit it. I tend to lean on old familiar ways when it comes to Instructional Design (ID). But last week a bright young colleague reminded this old dog of one not-so-new trick, tangential learning. That mere engagement can transform our minds into sponges that soak up peripheral knowledge is a wondrous phenomenon.  Ah, memories of Pavlov and Cardinal Ximenez.

My young colleague (we’ll call her Katherine) had brought the Timeline card game to the office.  Read More →

LEARN Crosslisting Courses

January 6, 2015

Crosslisting Overview

Crosslisting is when we combine multiple sections in LEARN so that you can teach with one course. This will allow you to organize your class better and allow you grade multiple sections in one course offering.

There are two types of Crosslisting:

•  Crosslisting in Colleague

•  Crosslisting after the section has been created and no previous crosslisting has occured.

Crosslisting in Colleague

When the section is crosslisted in Colleague, it will appear in LEARN as crosslisted. This can also happen after the section has been created in LEARN and crosslisting occurs after the the course has already been created in LEARN.

Crosslisting in LEARN

The second kind of crosslisting is when no crosslisting has occurred in Colleague. We will need the following information granted that all sections have been flagged for d2l in Colleague:

•  Parent Shell section ID #: This is the shell that will hold all children sections plus the Parent section

•  Children section ID#(s): All of the children section #’s that need to be Merged into the Parent

All children sections will be inactivated once the crosslisting happens. This means any data or content in the child sections are not accessible and that the data/content does not copy over to the parent. The parent section is untouched and will house all content and data.

Wrong Section Crosslisted

There are a few instances where we get requests to change sections in a crosslisted course. We try our best to double check with the people requesting a crosslisting to make sure they know exactly what needs to be merged. If an error happens the process will take a day to complete as it will run past two script intervals. This must emailed to LEARN support at to fix. Please provide the following information:

The correct crosslisting request:

•  Parent Shell section ID #: This is the shell that will hold all children sections plus the Parent section

•  Children section ID#(s): All of the children section #’s that need to be Merged into the Parent

To send a LEARN crosslisting request, download the form below and email it to LEARN support at


Referencing and Restoring Deleted or Modified Grades and Grade items in the LEARN Gradebook

December 17, 2014

LEARN keeps track of all changes to the gradebook and in some situations also offers a restore function.

To reference changes to the gradebook you will be looking for the “Event Log” icon. eventlog

Here is a step by step post on how to access the event log in a number of different locations in the Gradebook.  There is a video outlining the process at the end of the post.

Read More →