How to Use D2L for Online Learning

Online learning provides the flexibility of accessing material at any time, convenience of working from any location and high level of interaction. Online courses offer the same level of difficulty and require the same amount of effort as in-class courses do, and require you to be a self-starter with a high level of discipline. As a student, you need to take initiative and figure out how to navigate through the material on your D2L course shell by yourself.

Here are some tips from Zainab Patel to guide you through D2L and its important functions. Zainab is a recent Business Management graduate (with a major in Real Estate Management and a minor in Finance) who has worked with the Academic Success Centre (ASC) since September 2016.


One feature I found extremely useful is turning on email course notifications on D2L. There is also the option of text messaging notifications. Using this notification function, I received emails informing me when new content items, announcements and grades were released. This helped me stay up to date with the material and follow my schedule.

For example, if additional content was released for the week, having notifications ensured that I knew the content was there and allowed me to plan out additional time in my schedule to work through it. You are responsible for setting up notifications for your courses – the professor will not do that for you. You will still continue to receive any emails that professors send, even if you make changes to your notification settings. Setting up email or text message notifications for your courses on D2L is pretty straightforward.


An important component of online courses is keeping up to date with the material of the course. This can be done through the content and the announcements section of D2L. Details of the announcement section are discussed below. The course outline will be your road map through the course. It provides information regarding professors’ office hours, required textbooks, expectations, weekly breakdown of the material and details of the assessments.

You should be looking at the course outline at least once a week to help you create a weekly plan. The plan should include the time you designate to read and understand the material, create notes, practice questions, engage with your classmates/professor on the discussion board and complete required assessments. Having deadline reminders on your phone will also help keep you on track.

The content section allows students to read documents straight from the D2L course shell. It also provides the option to download the documents onto your device. You can bookmark documents that you find useful for quick access, such as the course outline, which was very useful for me. All it takes is just follow instructions on how to set up these useful functions.


As said above, D2L announcements help with keeping up to date with course material. It provides additional guidance on completing the course requirements successfully. If professors have additional information for course content, discussion posts or assignments, they post it in the announcements for students to see. For example, clarifications of instructions, changes to content or answers to common questions that students ask. This is important to read as it is one of the main forms of communication that professors use to share information with students in a timely manner.


The discussion option under the communication tab on your D2L course shell is a way to keep connected with the class. This is where online courses become very interactive. It can be used to ask questions to your classmates and complete group assignment activities. During one of my online classes, my professor asked students to use the discussion board to find group members for the group assignment. Your professor may also require you to use it for discussion board posts to provide participation marks. 

Discussion board posts require you to post content and reply to your classmates’ content as well. This means you will need to be logging in more than twice a week. Since you will be contributing to discussion posts, completing written assignments and potentially, a written final exam, online courses require a significant amount of writing. Seek help if you have trouble with writing and language. The Ted Rogers School and the SLC provide writing and language support to help you succeed.

Groups and Assessments

The group option under the communication tab of D2L allows you to self enroll into a group once you have decided who your group members are. Your professor may also assign you and the rest of the class into groups, which you can find in this section of D2L. Within the group option, you can add a discussion post to communicate with your group for assignment tasks. I found this function very useful when I did not have my group member’s contact information.

You can also send emails to you group members within the group section. Under the assessment tab in D2L there are various dropdown options. The most relevant options for me were grades, assignments and quizzes. In the assignments option, your professor may post feedback on the assignments that you have submitted which provides helpful tips for the next assessment. 

Extra support

Even though you are completing your course online, you can still ask for help. Feel free to email your professor if you have questions or are struggling to understand a concept. The ASC also provides tutoring and tipsheets for various Ted Rogers School courses.