By Allie Davidson, Educational Technology Development Coordinator, TLS

“When is the assignment due?”

“I missed class because I couldn’t find the Zoom link – where is it?”

“What is my grade for the last assessment? I can’t find the gradebook”

“Why can’t I see the lectures for next week yet?”

Any of these questions sound familiar? Want to nip these types of questions in the bud and help set up students for success the first time you teach in Brightspace? If so, you’re in the right place!

In the winter 2021 term, 27 instructors and over 1,200 students participated in the Brightspace pilot project. Many students from this pilot participated in focus groups or took an online survey to provide feedback on their experience using Brightspace.

One of the most common pieces of feedback we heard from students is that they really appreciated if their professor gave a quick overview of the course layout in Brightspace at the start of the term. While some students looked at the Brightspace Student Support Site, most said that they were much more interested in learning about Brightspace in the context of the course they are enrolled in and hearing directly from the person who designed it: the course instructor!

Providing a Brightspace course overview at the start of term is an excellent strategy to help students find the information they need and to reduce the emails to your inbox. A course overview is a tour of your course layout, organization and structure that points out where critical course tasks are kept, such as the Zoom link, Assignments or PowerPoint slides. You could provide this overview during your first live synchronous session or record a short (three minutes or less ideally) video using Kaltura Capture and post it to your introductory module or as an announcement in your course.

Wondering where to start with a course overview? We’ve created a simple outline you can use to structure your tour.

Brightspace Course Overview Outline


HOT TIP: Before recording video/screen sharing during class, switch your role to “View as learner.”  It is also a good idea to do a full walk-through in learner mode before presenting to students to make sure that everything looks the way you want it to in learner mode (e.g. you can verify that you have set your desired visibility settings on all content and activities).


  1. Start on the Course Homepage
  • Point out the announcements block. Take a moment to describe what your communication plan is for the course (e.g. I will make an announcement at the start of every week with course updates, so be sure to check your emails on Mondays)
  • If you have customized the course homepage, point out the new widgets and information
  1. Go to the Modules and key course content
  • Indicate where to find the course outline
  • If there is weekly link for synchronous sessions, show students where to find this
  • Point out what a typical weekly structure in the course looks like (ideally your weekly structure will be consistent in each module)
  • Indicate where students can find their assessments (ideally you should have “Assignments” or “Assessments” as one of the first modules)
  • If you have an “Ask your instructor forum,” point this out and describe how they should engage with it (e.g. Before posting a question, check the syllabus first. If you can’t find the answer in the syllabus, read the posts in the forum to see if someone already asked your question. If no one has asked your question, post it.)
  1. Explain Course Nav Bar
  • Show them how to find the Gradebook (Progress à Grades)
  • Point out the Tools menu
    • This menu provides a complete list of all assignments, discussions and quizzes (e.g. clicking on assignments will show all of the visible assignments in the course)
    • Point out the calendar and how this can help them keep track of due dates
HOT TIP: Recommend to students that they customize their Brightspace notification settings. Students will receive announcement notification emails by default, however there are several other notifications that they may want to opt in to receive email or SMS notifications (e.g. grades released, due date reminders, Discussion post notifications, etc.)

And that’s it! If you follow this simple outline for your course overview and keep the hot tips in mind, you will create a resource that will be both helpful to your students and reduce emails in your inbox!

As a final note, please always keep in mind that if you have any questions about setting up your course or preparing your overview, you can request a course consultation to meet with a TLS staff member. Additionally, you can review the Brightspace Course Setup Resources. These resources will help you design a course that is well organized and consistent for learners to navigate!