Desire2Learn - Adequate, Stable, but Not Imaginative
February 17, 2014
Desire2Learn - Adequate, Stable, but Not Imaginative
Program Manager in Information TechnologyHigher Education Company, 501-1000 employees
Score 6 out of 10
- Learning Environment
- Grading App
Our organization uses Desire2Learn as our institutional learning management system, across four separate, fully accredited colleges and between 70,000-85,000 users. We rely on Desire2Learn to function as the learning environment for online and hybrid (blended) courses. In addition, nearly 76% of all face-to-face courses use D2L in some fashion. This is typically for dissemination of handouts, lecture notes, grade updates, etc.
- Desire2Learn has scaled well for our organization. We are self-hosted, and have had exceptional stability with the product since switching from the leading LMS about six years ago. The SIS integration with our PeopleSoft platform has worked well, reducing administrative headaches with course creation, populating enrollments, etc.
- Our faculty like using D2L. The product has steadily improved, and along with the stability, faculty like the dropbox receipts and integrations with TurnItIn and Google Apps. Many of our faculty teaching face-to-face courses has begun using D2L because their students have asked for it.
- Desire2Learn provides an organized interface, and is relatively intuitive. Students seem to have fewer issues adjusting than faculty who are late to the game with technology.
- The spreadsheet view in Grades is particularly helpful, as it allows the instructor to enter a lot of grades at once, without having to press submit buttons and wait for server refreshes.
- The calendar has been overhauled and is now much more useful. It includes a calendar feed that does not require authentication and the ability to export events in ics format.
- From the system administration perspective, the system is very granular in its permissions. The creation of different roles is very flexible, and allows for creative use of roles to provide varying levels of access within the system.
- Grading assignments from within the Dropbox tool has been radically improved, and is very useful. Many file types now display inline, allowing comments, rubrics, and grades to be updated all from within one screen. No multiple windows needed!
- Downloading files from the dropbox is a cinch--and files are pre-pended with the students' first and last names. No more reminding students to put their own name in the filename! Comments can be included in the downloaded file, then pushed back up to D2L (if the filename is not changed). This is super handy!
- Trying to use rubrics and competencies is a tremendous headache. Regardless of what the D2L training and support people tell you, they just don't work the way most instructors want them to. We have heard that they are being fixed since version 9.4, but so far -- not worth the pain of trying to use them.
- The checklist tool, which has incredible potential, doesn't connect to anything. Instead, it's just a standalone checklist the instructor can set up. It allows students to check off activities they complete, but there is no data or connection behind it. This is one of the truly forgotten tools in D2L.
- Desire2Learn should develop additional widgets for the course home page. There are very few system widgets that are truly useful. This is a missed opportunity, particularly in today's age of APIs!
- Instructors are not able to print out their grades. While that may sound like an antiquated practice, record keeping laws and college policy often requires the instructor to keep a hard copy version of their gradebook. Desire2learn -- fix this, please!
- D2L has an area where students can upload a photo and update their profile. Unfortunately, those photos show in very few places (Classlist, profile). Why not make the photos more ubiquitous as a way to promote more online engagement and community building? Also, students should have the ability have their preferred profile name display to other users (let them edit their names...this is a frequent problem!)
- Desire2Learn has been a solid choice for our organization on the whole. Efficiency has increased and services to students have improved as more content has shifted from paper-based to online.
- We have found additional uses for our D2L system, which has led to some unexpected efficiencies.
These days, most LMS systems provide somewhat comparable feature sets. We selected Desire2Learn because our organization saw it as a stable product that would scale well, we could manage our own self-hosting hardware and infrastructure, it is a tool that our faculty and students have found to be easy to use, and it was a relatively direct import from our old LMS archive files. Additionally, the history of the company led us to believe that it was unlikely to be absorbed by the major, leading LMS that has a reputation for swallowing up smaller LMS companies. We left that vendor for a reason, and have been much more satisfied with D2L.
Our faculty and students are satisfied with D2L, find its features to be mostly intuitive, and it is sufficient for our needs. After version 10.4, D2L will be going to a continuous incremental release model, which will allow them to innovate more frequently. The introduction of version 10 has been a tremendous improvement over prior versions. D2L has integrated well with our ERP (Peoplesoft) and it has become a core part of our technology suite.
When we migrated from Blackboard, our organization was focused on system stability, scalability, and features ranked third in our criteria. We have found D2L to be a very stable platform, and our users like it. One of the drawbacks, however, has been that the company becomes less responsive once they have made the sale. They also don't tell you during the selection process that they are going to charge you along the way for things that they should provide. This includes customizations to code that they told us would already be built in to the standard learning environment when we signed the agreement. D2L also does very little in terms of customer appreciation and support. For example, when they developed some online self-paced training classes for instructors, they wanted to charge us for access. Why note develop tools to help people love your product, and give them away for free? This is NOT part of their corporate philosophy. Further, their training is abysmal. The user conference (FUSION) is fine as long as none of the workshops you attend are presented by D2L staff, who often do not know their own tools well enough to sensibly answer less than obvious questions.
Desire2Learn is a sales organization, not a support organization. We are self-hosted, but they still need to remote into our systems to perform certain upgrades and other support roles. They perform upgrades on their schedule (little flexibility) and we have experienced upgrades that their technical staff did not execute correctly. When we have problems and open a ticket, D2L is slow to come up with fixes or workarounds. It is a running joke within our internal technical team--we do not like opening support tickets with D2L because often we end up being told, at the end of the process, that the issue is a "known bug" and will be "fixed in the next release." Sigh.
Kept well informed
Difficult to get immediate help
Need to explain problems multiple times
Support doesn't seem to care
Yes - No. Most of the time, bugs are fixed in later releases. If we are lucky, it is addressed in a future maintenance/service pack. However, D2L's internal testing processes frequently lead to undetected bugs that make it into general release. We have had tickets (bug reports) sit for weeks before we can get any kind of real response, most of which are not satisfactory. We have not been happy with the support we have received.
Overall, the learning environment works as expected. However, there are plenty of bugs. For example, for a few versions, trying to print out a PDF from the Content screen in several browsers would produce a blank page. We inform D2L support about these issues, most of which are known issues. However, they are very slow to respond. D2L seems to spend more time selling than actually coding and testing their product. Most of the issues are not major -- however, there have been a few that are unbelievable. In fact, this past week we had a sudden issue where the "Submit" button in quizzes would not appear if users had a certain browser/operating system combination. This is a major problem, if students cannot submit their exams! D2L is slow to respond to these kinds of situations, which do occur more often than I would like.
Like to use
Easy to use
Technical support not required
Quick to learn
Feel confident using
Not well integrated
- Posting news items is a snap. This tool works the way you would expect it to. Students can subscribe to text or e-mai notifications.
- Creating dropbox folders is very straightforward. TurnItIn integration is EASY to use and adds tremendous functionality.
- The Class Progress link is VERY useful. Lets you see what everyone is up to in one screen, with customizable domains (e.g., assignments, login history, discussion participation, grades, etc.) It would be even better if this was available to each student individually, on their Course Home page!
- Grading dropbox assignments is an integrated, pleasurable experience. No un-necesary clicks here, and the documents open inline.
- Setting up a gradebook takes a little bit of explanation. The Manage Grades screen is not intuitive. Most faculty are used to dealing with rows and columns (the Enter Grades screen). Once you get past this, grading is a snap. It just takes people a little explanation before they wrap their minds around it.
- Trying to grade discussions is a real chore. The latest releases do show better statistics (how many posts a student has read, authored, replied to) but once you drill into the screen where you enter the grades, all context is lost. A more integrated experience would be better here.
- Managing the course navigation bar should be easier. The latest versions updates are better than it used to be, but the navigation and themes screens need to be re-thought. How difficult should it be to create a custom link for your navbar?
- We were excited about the activities, rubrics, and competency tools. We have had nothing but frustration with them. Once you publish a rubric, it can never be edited again. You have to completely re-create it to make any changes--even if it has never been used (only published). Further, rubrics aren't available in places you need them -- and they don't show the students what most instructors would expect them to show. We've abandoned these tools until there is a real improvement (not just those promised by our D2L rep).
Yes - Stay away!! The mobile interface for this version of D2L is horrible. The biggest bug is that content which is hidden (either in "draft" status or date restricted) shows to mobile users. This is a known issue for D2L, yet they have not fixed it in the past two versions. It's an antiquated looking mobile interface, and not very useful. The most useful part about it is the link to the full desktop version (which isn't bad to use on a tablet, such as an iPad; painful on a phone, though).