Desire2Learn: Needs Design Overhaul to Make Intuitive, Nightmare to Use
February 02, 2015

Desire2Learn: Needs Design Overhaul to Make Intuitive, Nightmare to Use

Anonymous | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 2 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User

Software Version


Modules Used

  • Course content, grading, etc.

Overall Satisfaction with Desire2Learn

I work at a state university which replaced a limited version of Blackboard with Desire2Learn a few years ago after the university system of over 20+ colleges and universities moved to this system. While a system-wide committee chose Desire2Learn, I am unsure why. Perhaps it was a budgetary issue because Desire2Learn is almost universally condemned among professors here.
  • Desire2Learn can -with great difficulty- work. Professors can construct a course and have students access materials, upload homework, and run an online or hybrid course.
  • Desire2Learn does provide access to a plagiarism-checking module.
  • I formerly used Blackboard which I sometimes found clunky and poorly designed. Desire2Learn, however, is considerably inferior in a number of ways. The largest complaint I encounter and which I regularly hear is that Desire2Learn is not intuitive. To set up an assignment one must create a separate dropbox, grade item, and calendar entry. Editing these requires going between multiple tabs to different locations. The system is extremely challenging to learn and often requires me to make multiple calls to our help center -who in turn often have to search for where one turns on a simple assignment, links it to a grade item, etc. This system seems almost 1990s in design because none of the setup or use of the system is in the background. Instead of a clean, Excel-like spreadsheet for grades, the user must learn the multiple steps to set up grade items.
  • Grading in Desire2Learn is also cumbersome. In Blackboard one can open a student's essay and edit the essay with comments, strike-throughs, red-lettered additions, etc. directly in the system. Desire2Learn requires you to download the student's paper, edit it in Word, and then upload it back into Desire2Learn. One can directly leave a comment and enter a grade in Desire2Learn in a box to the side, but you cannot directly grade/edit the actual essay. There is a feature where you can download all your students' essays to your harddrive, edit in Word, and then wholesale upload them again but I do not know anyone who actually uses this seemingly cumbersome process. Instead a number of colleagues just have their students turn in paper or email copies to grade rather than use Desire2Learn. I just learned there is a new app for the iPad that DOES allow direct grading for Desire2Learn but I have not used yet and thus cannot review the interface.
  • Desire2Learn and the fully featured version of Blackboard are similar, but Desire2Learn is far less intuitive, requires many more hours to set up a course, and is more limited in grading options. It may be that after more years of use with Desire2Learn that I will not find it frustrating. Our new faculty simply find Desire2Learn overwhelming because again it lacks intuitive feel. There are simply too many tabs and fields required to set up a simple assignment or module. The system appears to have the bones to be a quality system, but it desperately needs a complete overhaul by a team specializing in user-focused design. The system currently is cluttered with icons and tabs. To set up a discussion requires setting it up in one place, setting up the grade item associated with it in another, and actually posting a thread in a third. Each one of these areas in turn have 5-20 options, multiple tabs, etc. When you are trying to get your materials ready, taking an average of 2-4 hours per lesson to navigate Desire2Learn becomes a nightmare.
  • I cannot speak to whether this system is less expensive than the more fully featured Blackboard, but employees are far less efficient, frustrated, and require frequent calls to the help center to set up fairly simple course templates.
  • I have been asked to consider teaching courses which will be completely online at my current institution. I have done such online courses several times at other universities, but I have decided Desire2Learn is too frustrating and cumbersome to do so. I am now exploring using Google Drive to teach a course online. Otherwise, I will not teach online until required or I find an alternate system.
Desire2Learn is similar to Blackboard but with less functionality and intuitiveness in terms of use. Grading options are more limited. Desire2Learn uses a cluttered interface with many tabs and options needing to be used to create even basic assignments for upload and grading. When entering grades in Blackboard, changes are instantly saved but Desire2Learn requires you hit a Save button at the bottom of the interface. If you fail to hit save, your grade changes will not be entered.
Desire2Learn would work in an educational setting where professors or educators turned over all their materials to a course designer who was well-trained in the software and its issues. Thus, one technician would handle the problems with the complex system. Such a situation limits the ability of the educator to make easy changes, but it would work. Desire2Learn also becomes easier once a class if fully built, edited, and reloaded each semester without many changes. The worst case scenarios are asking new faculty (or new to Folio) to teach a course using Folio a month or weeks before that class starts...or asking a faculty member with minimal computer experience to work with the system.