Lindsay Shipman has worked as a part-time instructor at a Canadian college for the last four years. She teaches courses in grammar, writing and critical thinking to a wide demographic of students: those just out of high school, just starting college as well as mature students.
D2L: Hi Lindsay. We’re happy to have you here at Fusion. Can you share your favorite Brightspace tip or trick?
LS: There’s a lot that I’m really excited about in Brightspace, but one of the things that I find the most useful to me when I’m teaching in an online or blended environment is using release conditions. When I use them, it means that I can personalize my learning. My students see specific features of the course that are relevant to them, which means that it eliminates some of that noise from seeing too much of the course and things that might not matter as much to them.
D2L: Can you give us a peek at what that looks like?
LS: Yeah, I’d love to. Starting from content, I will simply click to create new and I’ll add in a checklist. What I’m doing here is creating a checklist that will provide my students with assignment options. From there, I’ve got the opportunity to include a description. Sometimes this is a good place to put an image or put a video or something that draws students’ attention to it and tells them a little bit about it. Because one of the things that’s important is if you’re going to make a choice, it’s got to be the right one for you, right? I like to take that time to explain what their assignment options are. Then I will just create an insert and from here, I’m going to make that checklist visible to my students and I’ll go ahead and open it and I will add in some options for them.
I’m going to create a new category, [it’s important to] always start with that. Sometimes there’s opportunities to provide more than one choice based on different things that we’re thinking about that term, different assessment criteria that I’m considering as we move through it.
So here I’m just going to put in their major project. And again, I’ve got that opportunity to add a description if I want. I’m going to click save and then I will create an item, and that item goes into the category. In this case, the first item that I create is going to be an oral presentation. And again, there is an opportunity for me to add a description. If I want to be really clear about exactly what that assignment entails, I’ll take the opportunity to do it there and I’ll [click] save and new. The other item that I am going to put is an essay, so my students have that opportunity to either write an essay for me or do that oral presentation. And I will click to save.
Now I’ve got a checklist with two options. What I’m going to do next is navigate to my assignments and I will … edit this one to make it nice and easy. So for this assignment, I’ll amend it slightly to be called an oral assignment.
Then I’m going to go to our availability dates and conditions. From here, I’m just going to [click] add a release condition and I’ll create a new one. So what we’re doing is we’re providing choice for students based on what they checked off in that checklist. I’ve already given them that option: Are you doing that oral assignment or that essay?
I will navigate to my checklist options and I have a completed checklist item. So, I am looking at that assignment choice. I am looking at those assignment options and then the checklist item that I want this one to be attached to is the oral presentation. And that’s it.
What this means is that when my students navigate through my course, they’re going to encounter an essay. And when they select an oral assignment or an essay, it’s only going to pull up the content that is specifically relevant to them. They’re not having that extra information cloud anything that they’re trying to get through. And it’s a really great way to streamline my course and make things personalized.
D2L: Do you have any advice for educators looking to implement this in their own teaching practice?
LS: I just think the best thing to do is to keep it simple. I always offer at least one opportunity for choice each term, something like choosing what type of assignment you want to do. Choosing whether you’d like to do a group or a partner or individual assignment, that’s a great option. I think the way that we can provide choice to our students can definitely be done with these release conditions.
The other place that you might want to consider using a release condition is to hide your content. You saw those different options come up. The one that I chose was whether you had completed a checklist item, but if one of the things you really want your students to see, for example, is your syllabus, because they have so many questions about it each term, if you ensure that they have to visit that content topic before the next module releases, it’s a really good way to know that they’ve actually spent some time interacting with some important course information before they move on to what’s next.
D2L: What’s been the real-world impact on students after you’ve implemented release conditions?
LS: I think it’s powerful for students to have choice. That is something that they’ll often say, [they] don’t get a lot of choice within their courses. It’s a course outline at the beginning and they have to stick to it in a very rigid fashion.
When they know that they’ve got an assignment and they’ve got that option to show off their strengths, they’re really proud to pick something that works best for their learning choice.
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