Best Practices for Student Success in Academic Courses

Marquette’s Student Success Initiative is designed to help all Marquette students succeed. From faculty to administrators, staff to alumni/ae, we can all play a role in helping our students flourish.  Research shows that the use of the learning management system (LMS), like D2L, allows more impactful and timely feedback and engages students more deeply.  Furthermore, increased LMS usage boosts levels of students’ satisfaction with courses (Naveh et al. 2012). According to Palmer and Holt (2009), satisfaction has positive correlation with quality of learning outcomes. For these reasons, along with providing some element of equitable class organization, we are now communicating the expectations for instructors’ use of D2L to positively impact student achievement and increase instructor efficacy. 

Expected best practices for all academic courses

Expand all   |   Collapse all  

Post/share your syllabus in your D2L course site by uploading it to the Content.

By doing this, students will have access to the document throughout the semester making it easy for you and them to refer to course policies, procedures, and perspective in your course. Access the Adding Content section at the bottom of our D2L Overview webpage for instructions on creating a module and uploading your syllabus document.

Post a welcome message on the D2L course homepage using the News tool.

The homepage is the first thing students will see in their course. Use this opportunity to start creating rapport with your students by posting a warm, welcoming message. Consider creating a welcome video – this will help connect your voice and face, beginning a sense of community building TIP: All news items get saved in your course site. This makes it easy to reuse and make minor tweaks to them each time you teach. Instructions for how to create and post news items.

Model what success looks like in your course from day 1! 

Indicate in the syllabus and orally your expectations and describe what a successful student will be doing in the class: what materials should the student have (e.g., technology), how much and what kind of studying/preparation, are there assumed skills (e.g., Excel, library research skills). For any identified assumed skills, there should be some link to training or next steps for students who may not be confident that they have those assumed skills.

Enter all due dates for graded assignments and assessments in the D2L Calendar.

The D2L Calendar allows faculty to manage due dates and events, and students tell us that it helps keep them organized and requires less time for instructors to have to remind students of things that are due.  Additionally, the D2L Calendar can be synced with Gmail and Microsoft Outlook, making it easy for students and faculty to have information in one place. You could include religious holidays for inclusion and other events on campus. View the instructions for how to use the D2L course calendar.

Enter all student grades in the D2L gradebook.

Provide students their grades on assignments and other assessments in a timely manner and enter the grades in D2L. Students tell us the use of Gradebook helps keep them organized and responsible for their own coursework. Students appreciate it when faculty use the Grades tool in D2L because it allows them to track their progress in the course. You can connect grade items to other tools in D2L, like the Dropbox, and Quizzes, which allows your grading in the course to automatically flow to the gradebook. Using the D2L Gradebook helps students make informed decisions about their progress in the course, such as seeking tutoring, going to office hours, and dropping the course.  View instructions on how to set up and use the D2L Gradebook. 

Assess students early in the course and have a referral/intervention plan for students who need it.

By the end of week four of the semester, students should have a good understanding of their performance in your class via their grades in high and low-stakes assignments, such as essays, homework, lab scores, and participation. The timing of feedback and grades should align with the course structure so that students can apply it to future assignments. A good rule of thumb is for students to receive grades and feedback on assignments within 5-7 days. For students in the D/F range, instructors should have a specific referral/intervention recommendation prepared (e.g., visit to office hours, tutoring, academic coaching).  In addition to individualized feedback, you may implement strategies such as automated feedback for low-stake and practice activities, peer feedback, and group feedback.   

Visit the Student Success website to familiarize yourself with the resources available to students. The website is an excellent resource you can refer students to as needed. 

For questions about D2L, contact Christina Johnson at or submit a ticket to the Department of Digital Learning’s Helpdesk

Want to learn more about strategies to enhance equity in your classroom? Contact the Center for Teaching and Learning for a one-on-one consultation at


Naveh, G., Tubin, D. & Pliskin, N., 2012. Student satisfaction with learning management systems: a lens of critical success factors. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 21(3), pp.337–350.

Palmer, S.R. & Holt, D.M., 2009. Examining student satisfaction with wholly online learning. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 25(2), pp.101–113. Available at: [Accessed February 20, 2014].