Improvements in Populi courses: lessons, discussions, and more

We released a number of improvements to courses, including new design features for lessons, activity tracking in discussions, new assignment types, and better reporting. Here’s a look:


Lessons are now easier to design and give your faculty a lot more options for how to structure their content and control your students’ flow through the course material:

  • Lessons now consist of sections of material—headings, content, assignments, discussions, and files—that can easily be added and re-ordered. The new Lesson design tool works much the same way applications and course evaluations do, letting the instructor assemble various course elements as a sequence. You might add a heading and some content, then require the students to participate in a discussion—after which they’re quizzed on the material the class just covered. You can even create multi-page lessons to better divide and structure the material.
  • You can now set up “gated” lessons using the new availability options. When setting availability, you can keep the lesson closed off from a student until he completes all of the required materials from the previous lesson. There are also options to make the lesson available on the course start date or at a date and time that you specify.
  • The new Student Progress view lets you see how far each individual student has progressed through each lesson.

It’s now a lot easier to keep track of discussion activity.

  • Each comment and reply has a read/unread indicator. A blue dot next to a post indicates unread; as you scroll past they flip to an empty circle indicating read. If you need to come back to a post, you can toggle it back to unread by clicking the circle.
  • Discussions now include a filter to let you see posts by Oldest/Newest, Unread posts, those with Recent activity, or those with the most activity (a comment with a lot of replies, for example).

There are three new assignment types: essaypeer review essay, and peer review file.

  • Essays give your students a WYSIWYG text editor that they can use to produce fully-formatted documents. The essays are auto-saved once every minute, and the student can return to the page at any time up until the due date (or when she submits it).
  • Peer review files and essays let other students weigh in on the student’s work with comments, reviews, and even grades. There are lots of options with these assignment types—peer grades, anonymous comments, among many others—giving faculty the flexibility to set up the peer review process however they like.
Reporting and some miscellany

In addition to the aforementioned Student Progress report in Lessons, we also added more detail to the time-tracking report in Course > Reporting. It breaks out the time students spend on lessons, discussions, other course pages, and playing media files. We also gave it a better filter so you can more easily sift the information.

Students can now see at a glance whether they’ve submitted an assignment by looking at the main Assignments view.

The course calendar has two new settings that let you control:

  • How tests show on the calendar—the entire availability range, first day available, or last day available
  • How many days before an assignment is due should a dashboard alert be shown to students
Moving forward

Save for a few page layout differences, your existing lessons are unaffected by the updates. To begin taking advantage of the new features, have a look at the documentation. Meanwhile, all of your existing discussions have the new read/unread indicators and the activity filter; the new assignment types are ready for you to start using whenever you wish.

We’re really pleased to release these improvements—they’ll make it a lot easier to conduct courses with Populi. As always, if you have any questions about the new features, get ahold of Populi Support.