Getting started in Brightspace

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Caution.JPG REVISION IN PROGRESS: This article contains useful information, but is being revised to reflect recent updates. Direct questions to TLT (

D2L Brightspace, a learning management system, is used at Winona State University to host and deliver courses face to face, online, and in blended deliveries. This article gives an overview of the product and some information on its usage at WSU.

Brightspace overview

Learning Management Systems

A Learning Management System, or LMS, is a software application for creating, delivering, and administering educational courses. LMSs are popular at all levels of education as well as in other forms of training in business, medicine, and more. There are several widely-used LMSs. WSU uses Brightspace by D2L. Brightspace is the preferred LMS at all of the schools in the Minnesota State system.

Using an LMS to conduct a course has several benefits: the course is well contained in single location, the toolset in the LMS supports nearly all of the functions required, content is available to the students for consumption around the clock, it supports interactive learning, and it eliminates the need for making paper copies of content, assignments, or quizzes.

You may ask, "But if I see my students at 9:30 MWF, why would I need an LMS?"

The truth is that using an LMS works very well regardless of whether the course is full face to face, fully online, or something in between. It serves as a place to hold all of the components of the course and can easily be organized in ways that make it straightforward for both you and your students. An LMS can save you work and make your students more successful.

What can my students and I do in my course?

As the Instructor, you have permissions to create and edit content of all sorts, assess student success and supply appropriate feedback, and administer your courses before, during, and after the semester. That administration includes the ability to control access to content by date or by individual user.

Students in your course can view any course content you allow them to see, submit their work to the course as you permit, and view their own feedback and grades as you publish them. Except for some types of group work, students cannot see feedback or grades received but their classmates.

There are additional roles that may be of interest to you as the instructor.

  • Teaching Assistant - TAs can access the content of the course and have the permissions to make changes to the content.
  • Grading Assistant - GAs are able to evaluate student submissions and record grades in the gradebook.
  • Tutor - Tutors are only able to read the contents of the course.
  • Tutor with Announcements - Tutors with announcements are able to read the course content and post announcements on the course homepage.

By default, most courses begin with an instructor and a set of students. You can add any additional individuals to your course by following the instructions in the Enroll assistants in Brightspace courses article.

How is Brightspace used at WSU?

Winona State enjoys one of the highest use rates for Brightspace in the Minnesota State system. Typically, instructors use Brightspace to deliver content, conduct discussions, make assignments, provide feedback, announce course-related information, and post grades. How you use Brightspace is up to you. Later in this article we will look at the tools available in your course and how they work. (Don't try to do everything the first time you use Brightspace. Pick the tools that will get the job done and add more functionality next time you teach the course.)

With the possible exception of incoming freshmen and transfers, your students will be familiar with Brightspace. They will have used it in other courses as a place to find course materials, post their work, discuss with classmates, and find their grades.

A couple more things

All data in Brightspace is secure and supports all FERPA requirements. Brightspace has been vetted at several levels and, when used in the prescribed manner, is secure. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact Teaching, Learning, and Technology (TLT).

And speaking of TLT, should you need help at any time with Brightspace or general course design, feel free to make the call. Here is how you can reach TLT:

  • The TLT offices are located in Maxwell Hall, room 130. Walk-ins are fine, but getting an appointment ahead of time ensure prompt service.
  • Call TLT at (507) 457-5240, option 3.
  • Visit the TLT Zoom room at

Brightspace tools

The following information recaps two major sets of tools available to you as the instructor of the course: native tools in Brightspace and tools made available from third parties that integrate into Brightspace to increase the functionality.

Some good tools to start with

Brightspace offers many tools, too many to incorporate into a new course by a new instructor. Here are a few that we have found particularly good for a first cut at a course:

  • Assignments
    You use Assignments to create dropbox folders to hold student papers, presentations, and other submissions. You can associate the folder with a grade item and a rubric to make assessment easy.
  • Classlist
    The Classlist is automatically populated with the students that have registered for your course. Others, like teaching assistants and tutors, can be added to the course as well. You can also email your enrollees through the Classlist tool.
  • Content
    The Content tool is where you post the materials for the course. It also works as a place to organize quizzes, assignments, and more to simplify the students' world.
  • Discussion
  • Grades
  • Quizzes

Third party

  • Electronic Textbooks

Add these tools after you get comfortable

  • Calendar
  • Checklist
  • Class Progress
  • Email
  • Groups
  • Rubrics
  • Surveys

Third party

  • Interactive content (H5P)
  • Integrating fieldwork (Tevera)
  • Test banks
  • Third-party content (LiL)

And these tools later

  • Awards
  • Seating Chart

Where do I start?

Before you author your first course

Logging into and navigating Brightspace – finding your courses

Merging – co-teaching

Sandboxes - Sandbox Instructor role

Good ideas – intro video, café, course organization, syllabus

Authoring your course

Creating content – HTML Editor, uploading files, publisher content

Shared content (How do we talk about this without people thinking they automatically have access to other’s intellectual property?)

Organizing the content

Other things to know

Communicating with your students – email, feedback, announcements, …

Starting small

Controlling student access to the course

More information

Other things you should know

Here are a few resources that might come in handy one day:

  • From time to time, a student may want to add or drop your course.
    • If a student needs your permission to add your course (maybe your class is full or it is the second day of the semester), go to Click on the Forms I Can Submit tab and click on the Registration Override form.
    • If a student wants to drop your course, they can do it by visiting the Warrior Hub on the second floor of Maxwell Hall.
  • If the case ever occurs where a question on a quiz needs to be regraded in your course, refer to the Regrading Quiz Questions article for instructions.
  • Your Brightspace gradebook will include a final grade column. Here are two things you need to know:
    • The final grade in the gradebook is not visible to students by default. If you wish to release the grade (which can be configured to recalculate itself automatically), follow the instructions in this article.
    • The actual final grade is not stored in Brightspace but instead is stored in the Minnesota State system. There is a lot more information in the Post official course grades online article.
  • If you post your final grades but then to update the final grade for one of your students, you can change the final grade at Click on the Forms I Can Submit tab and click on the Change of Grade form.

Additional resources

If you want to see the full list of articles in the wiki regarding Brightspace and its uses, check out this list.

As a WSU employee, you have a license to use LinkedIn Learning. In LiL, you will find an entire course that will help you learn the ins and outs of Brightspace. Check it out here. (If you have not yet activated your WSU LinkedIn Learning account, here are the instructions.

New employee information

Here are a few additional articles that will provide you with more information regarding Winona State and being an employee.


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