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John Thomson's picture

Upload assignments to the dropbox

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Uploading your assignments to the Learn@UW Dropbox is a simple process, similar to attaching a file to an e-mail.  The following 3 minute video will show you both how to upload an assignment, and how to return to the dropbox to see feedback. For those that prefer text, that help is available as well.

One thing the video neglects to mention is that you should receive a receipt of your dropbox upload via e-mail. Hang on to this as proof you completed your assignment.

Instructors who would like to create a dropbox for collecting assignments should refer to this document on creating Dropbox folders.

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John Thomson's picture

Facilitating online discussions

Some students complain about online discussions because it feels more like a public performance than a genuine conversation. The following tips and resources might help you in forming questions more conducive to conversation, as well as in facilitating conversations to keep them moving.

Quick Tips

What works What doesn't
  • Elaborate on questions
    • Students' understanding of the issues to be discussed is not as great as your own. Elaborate a discussion question with potential arguments or counterarguments.
  • Ask higher level or controversial questions
    • Direct students to justify their opinions or to assimilate evidence from multiple sources.
  • Ask questions and encourage students to correct each other's misconceptions
  • Be thoughtful about questions using the strategies below
  • Asking open-ended questions
    • Students need a bit of guidance to know where to take an online conversation
  • Asking questions where discussion will be quickly exhausted
    • Questions that have a single clear or correct answer do not promote dialogue
  • Jumping in the conversation too early or too often
    • Allow students time to correct each other's misconceptions. This will give them ownership over the discussion space, and will help their understanding by forcing them to explain ideas.
  • Rewarding students for the "best response"
    • A best response promotes the idea that there is only one right answer, and creating a competitive environment might not be good for discussion.

Possible Question Types *

  • Focus on Main Topic or Issue (explain the main issue in the lead-up to the question to help student understanding)
  • Series Of Divergent Questions with Expanding Follow-Up (asking multiple or building questions offers students many avenues to respond)
  • Evaluative (have students evaluate an argument, but be sure to support it with evidence)
  • Tie in to current events
  • Quote Contrasting Views (having students evaluate contrasting views might stir up debate)
  • Building on Classmates Posts (find ways to have students return to a subject or to read their classmates responses to prompt a dialogue)


  • Provide examples of good/adequate/poor responses
  • Grade qualitatively when possible. Use a rubric to show students what you are looking for (e.g.: citing evidence, responding to peers).

Presentation Slides

These slides are from the January 2010 brownbag session on facilitating discussion.



* Here is an excellent, more detailed overview of things to consider when formulating questions, as well as facilitating online discussion.
A framework for designing questions for online learning (Muilenburg & Berge, link updated) 

Documents on how to use the discussion board in Learn@UW (aka, D2L, our course management system):

Discussions.ppt2.45 MB
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John Thomson's picture

Edit your course homepage to add course information

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This 7 minute video will show you how to add a "Course Information" box to your course homepage.  This box can include your name, a picture, office hour information, a link to your syllabus, or whatever you can think of.  Additionally, the skills used here can be applied to adding other materials to your course homepage.

The basic process is:

  1. Create a course information "Widget" (box) by copying the provided widget
    1. Under Edit Course > Widgets, use the copy icon near "Course Information."
  2. Edit the copied widget to include your own information
    1. Edit the box content to your liking under the Content tab, remembering to save.
  3. Copy the default course homepage
    1. Under Edit Course > Homepages, use the copy icon to create a custom homepage. If you are already using a custom homepage, you may edit it by clicking its name and the Content/Layout tab.
  4. Edit the copied homepage and "Set" to be visible to students

Useful links:

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John Thomson's picture

Quickly upload many files to a new course

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This 4 minute video describes how you can quickly add multiple files and create content links to a Learn@UW course.  This works especially well on a brand new course, or for new files in a new semester.

The basic process is:

  1. Zip your files on your computer
  2. Upload your files to your course under Edit Course > Manage Files and use the Unzip icon
  3. Click Create Topics
  4. Be sure to create a new Module, if you do not already have a Content Outline, and click Add
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Jeff Bohrer's picture

Old Learn@UW courses to be purged

After 6 years of use, Learn@UW is becoming bloated. UW System has recommended that Learn@UW courses more than two years old are candidates for permanent removal from the system.

Beginning later this spring, Learn@UW courses from the Fall 2005 semester and older will be purged.

Learn@UW technologists will be communicating extensively with affected instructors and the broader campus IT community. Much more information will be coming. For now, many questions can be answered at the following UW System site:


If you have any further questions, feel free to contact me (jbohrer@doit.wisc.edu).

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