Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

Quarterly Updates for Spring 2021

Posted by | 2 comments

D2L Brightspace

There have been a few improvements to workflow that will reveal themselves in small ways but feel odd to draw a ton of attention to. If you’re curious about them, you can read the past Continuous Delivery notices. Instead, we’ll focus on the most interesting here.

Improved accommodations settings

Providing students with accommodations in quizzes can be a lot of work. With the February release, you can now apply an accommodation from the classlist for a student that will apply to all quizzes! One of the most common accommodations is a time modifier like time and a half for exams. You can now easily apply this to all quizzes for a student in one place.

The accommodations window allows you to add time multipliers for all quizzes at once.

We generally recommend against using the “disable right click” option in quizzes because it conflicts with assistive technology. However, if you do use it, you should also check the “always allow right click” option for students. But really, it’s not a very effective feature.

Assignments improvements

The newer assignment creation interface is still evolving to add back some of the features in the previous assignment interface. In the meantime, here are a couple of the newer updates:

  • Rubrics can now open in a new pop-out window for a full view while assessing students
  • A “Save” button has been added to the assessment workflow so you can save while working. Previously, you could only click on the “Save and close” button.
  • Copying assignments now creates the new assignment in “inactive” mode so students don’t immediately see it.
Pulse updates (student focused)

Pulse is the D2L mobile app for students. It creates a simplified interface to help students focus on what they find the most important – due dates, grade updates, and announcements. It also provides access to course content. There are a few updates available for pulse that are worth noting.

  • Access to course materials via Pulse are now included in the classlist access information. Previously, you could not see if a student was interacting with course material via Pulse.
  • Dark mode – You can have Pulse use your devices “dark mode” settings. This changes the interface to be, well, dark instead of blinding bright.
  • Students received notifications 2 days before the due date on a quiz or assignment that they haven’t yet submitted. If there is no due date, it sends a notification 2 days before the end date on the quiz or assignment.

Zoom has kept up a frantic pace of updates with too many features and fixes to list. Instead, we’ll highlight just a few that we think are worth noting.

Blurred background and other video filters

With the 5.5.0 release and later, you can now blur your background in addition to using virtual backgrounds. This update also comes with a filter studio that lets you do things like touch up your eyebrows (I made mine green) that may be of limited instructional use.

The blur option is now available in Zoom 5.5.0 and later.

Error: The image above does not have Alt Text
Automatic Transcription

You can now enable live automatic transcription in your Zoom meetings with just two clicks! Live transcription converts what the speaker is saying into a text caption in the meeting. This is an incredibly powerful feature for everyone and is used heavily by students. We’re encouraging you to use it in your meetings and class sessions all the time.

Here’s how you turn it on. In the Zoom app:

  1. Click on the Live Transcription button at the bottom of the app

  2. Click the Enable Auto-Transcription button
    Zoom's auto transcription feature is easy to enable.


Voicethread’s new Assignments tool is getting great feedback from early adopters. It allows you to create engaging assignments where students can comment or reply to a board you’ve created, or you can have students create their own voicethread. With the Assignments integration, the score from the thread gets saved in the Brightspace gradebook.



About Andy Freed

I'm the Manager of Online Learning Technology & Student Success in Online Learning, where I oversee our infrastructure, technical support, and online student services teams. I've been with the College since 2001 and have worked in sever... more »

Poppe with speech bubble


There are 2 comment for this article. If you see something that doesn't belong, please click the x and report it.

x by Anon 5 months ago

Wow! The “Edit Accommodations” for the quizzes is a lifesaver! What a great tool, thank you for sharing!

x by Cynthia K. 5 months ago

I have to echo “Anon”, the bulk accommodation editing is awesome! Thank you.

Add to the discussion

PCC offers this limited open forum as an extension of the respectful, well-reasoned discourse we expect in our classroom discussions. As such, we welcome all viewpoints, but monitor comments to be sure they stick to the topic and contribute to the conversation. We will remove them if they contain or link to abusive material, personal attacks, profanity, off-topic items, or spam. This is the same behavior we require in our hallways and classrooms. Our online spaces are no different.