When you start using Desire 2 Learn (D2L), you’ll notice that nearly everything looks different than it did in CULearn (probably for the better!).  All of the tools from CULearn exist in D2L, along with a host of new features that can enhance your current teaching and facilitate new ways of teaching and learning.

Nothing to see here!…

All of the fundamental things you’d expect out of a Learning Management System (LMS) are present in D2L, including the ability to:

  • Upload learning artifacts (documents, videos, audio) and link them to associated lessons
  • Quiz or survey your students and analyze the resulting data
  • Receive uploaded assignments in a variety of media
  • Provide announcements and calendar-based events to students and TAs
  • Facilitate and participate in online discussions in a variety of formats
  • View and sort class rosters
  • Grade and comment on assignments

Feature-for-Feature Comparison

If you’re interested in a detailed feature-for-feature comparison, check it out in spreadsheet form (Excel download or Google Document)


If you’d like to check out some screenshots of the new system in action, head over to our screenshot gallery.

…But wait, there’s more….

It may sound like D2L doesn’t provide much of an improvement over CULearn, since it has many  of the same features, but D2L has substantial advantages in terms of flexibility, ease of use, and a familiar interface.

The first thing you’ll notice when navigating around D2L for the first time is that it’s far more intuitive than CULearn. Buttons are labeled logically, and it generally only takes one click to begin editing content on a given page, whether that’s a learning object, an announcement, or a gradebook column.


D2L’s Grades function in particular is far more user-friendly than the CULearn Gradebook. It’s no longer necessary to enter complicated formulae to do grade weighting or to provide a total for a class of scores (such as all quizzes) or to provide the student with a letter grade on a given item. Instead, all of this functionality can be easily built into a single column. As always, you can upload a comma-separated list of grades as well.

grades spreadsheet view

Grades can be viewed in this spreadsheet view, where numbers are visible, or in a standard view, where grades are represented by color, for an at-a-glance way to check your students' grades.

Blogs, Chats, and Discussions

D2L’s blog, chat, and discussion functions act far more like their Web 2.0 namesakes than the features in CULearn ever did, so if you’re already used to using something like WordPress or online forums, you’ll be much more comfortable in D2L, and your students will be as well.

Student Groups

D2L also makes creating groups of students easier, whether your course is all online, all face-to-face, or somewhere in between. Groups can have their own discussion area, dropbox for finished assignments, and “Locker” for sharing files among members. As the instructor, you can determine how many students go into a group or how many groups there should be, and then either include students in a group manually (or randomly), or allow them to choose their own groups.

Group Manager

The Groups feature allows groups of students to have a separated Dropbox, Locker, and Discussion forum.

…Including The Cutting Edge

Once you’ve become comfortable in the standard LMS features that D2L provides, there are some advanced tools that automate administrative and repetitive tasks formerly done by hand, so that you have more time to engage with your students.

Intelligent Agents

One such feature is called “Intelligent Agents.” Essentially, an Intelligent Agent is a set of actions that the LMS performs when a certain set of conditions is met. Since that’s rather abstract, here are a few real-world examples:

  • When the system sees that a student has scored lower than a certain percentage on a quiz, it can send you and/or the student a message alerting you or requesting that the student visit you in office hours.
  • When a student submits an assignment, it can direct that student to work on another assignment (or congratulate that student if he or she completed the assignment early).
  • When a student authors a discussion post, the system can email you to confirm that submission.
  • When a certain time and date are reached, the system can send a message to all students that, though you are on vacation, they should be working on the group projects that are due in a week.
Creating an Intelligent Agent

The plethora of options for an Intelligent Agent (click to view larger image)

Instructional Design Wizard

Another feature, called the “Instructional Design Wizard,” allows an instructor to quickly pull together learning activities, instructional goals, and assessments that they’ve created previously into a coherent online course in a few minutes.

User Progress Reporting

Finally, D2L has a User Progress Reporting function that acts like a website analytics engine but for student progress information. It provides a variety of graphs of performance over time which can be used as a tool to gauge student involvement in a course, and adapt the course to meet student needs during a course. Rather than only receiving this data after a class is over, professors can check as often as they want.

So How and When do I get it?

If you’d like to begin using D2L immediately, check out the information in the introduction to our series on D2L.  Soon, we’ll post resources here on ASSETT’s site, with more detailed information on how to use the various features and what other people are doing in D2L around the country.