The Brightspace Groups tool enables students to work on and submit collaborative group projects, or break into smaller discussions.
You may organize students into groups of a particular size automatically, manually, or allow students to choose their group for a given activity.
Brightspace Groups may be used to facilitate:
- collaborative group projects (groups in conjunction with private discussions, group assignments)
- selective release of course materials and activities (groups in conjunction with release conditions)
- student sign up for presentation topics or times (via a self-enroll group)
Find Groups in the top menu, under Communication.
Before you begin:
Consider how you want the students to be assigned to their groups:
- Automatic enrollment - Brightspace adds the members to the groups
- Manual enrollment - the Instructor or TA adds the members to the groups
- Self-enrollment - the students self-select their groups
*Note that the Instructor can always manually assign or re-assign group members, regardless of the initial method of selecting membership.
No Auto Enrollment (instructor enrolls group members)
Instructors must manually enroll the students into their groups once the groups have been created. See below for more information.
- # of Groups - No auto enrollments You will identify the number of groups to be created.
Single-user, member-specific groups
Brightspace will create a group for each student. These can be great for facilitating individual reflection activities.
Auto enrollment (Brightspace enrolls group members)
Groups will be created by either group size or number of groups. Students will be randomly, automatically, assigned to each group. Instructors will always have the ability to enroll or unenroll students in any group.
- Groups of # - You will identify the size of the group (capacity), Brightspace will determine the number of groups.
- # of Groups - You will identify the number of groups, Brightspace will determine the size of the group.
Self Enrollment options
Students will self-enroll into their preferred groups. They will be able to see the other members of their group once they have enrolled (but not before). Instructors will always have the ability to enroll or unenroll students in any group.
- Groups of # - self enrollment You will identify the size of the group (capacity), Brightspace will determine the number of groups.
- # of Groups - self enrollment You will identify the number of groups, Brightspace will determine the size of the group.
- # Groups, capacity of # - self enrollment You will identify both the number of groups, or the size of the group (capacity)
If your course shell has more than one course section, and you wish to ensure groups are made up only of students from the same section, the 'Restrict Enrollments To" feature may work for you.
Please note that you will need to create a separate group category with this type of restriction for each section. Any groups created within that category will be made up only of students from that one section.
You may have students join the class after your groups have already been created. There is one setting that will help to ensure that new students are added to a group automatically.
Ideally, this should be enabled when you create the groups... but it can be set after the groups have already been created.
There are a few limitations:
- This option is only available for groups where students were automatically enrolled initially ("Groups of #" or "# of Groups").
- This option will only add newly enrolled students to a group. It will not automatically check the existing classlist to see if there are students without a group.
For any cases where this option will not work, please see the instructions below on how to locate students without groups (and add them to groups).
- Go into the Groups tool, and select the appropriate group category from the "View categories" dropdown menu. This will ensure you are looking at the Working Groups category and groups.
- Click the arrow icon next to the appropriate category (above the list of groups), then click "Edit Category".
- In the "Group options" section, check "Auto-enroll new users". This setting will ensure that new students to the course are automatically added to a group in this category.
- Click "Save".
When to use "Create one topic per group"
This is not the default option, but I find it easier for instructors to manage, as long as it isn't being used for a graded discussion*. This option will create a separate discussion topic in the forum for each group.
Considerations when using this option:
- Do not use this option if you plan to enable assessment for this discussion, as you would need to have a separate grade item for each topic created.
When to use "Create one topic with threads separated by group"
If you plan to use the discussion assessment features to grade these discussions, this option is for you! Since you need to enable the topic for grading, you can easily connect this combo topic to one grade item.
Considerations when using this option:
- To the teaching team (Instructors, TAs, facilitators), all of the group discussions will appear in one big topic, which may seem overwhelming. There are tools to filter the threads by group name, however, and you can always see which group the thread comes from.
- Students will only ever see the threads from their own groups - they will never see the others.
Have you been contacted by a student who hasn't been added to a group?
Sometimes it is necessary for the instructor to manually add students to a group. The first step is to figure out which students are without groups, and then to put them into groups.
- Go into the Groups tool, and select the appropriate group category from the "View categories" dropdown menu. This will ensure you are looking at the right category and groups.
- Take a quick look at the membership numbers for the groups, and make note of any groups that have fewer members than the others - you can add the students to these groups first, to ensure balanced numbers.
- Click the arrow icon next to the appropriate category (above the list of groups), but this time click "Enroll Users". Here, you will see a list of all of the students in the class along the left side, and all of the groups along the top.
- Click the "Show search options" link, then uncheck the "Enrolled" box so that only "Not Enrolled" is checked. This will give you a list of only the students who don't yet have a group in this category.
- Click the magnifying glass icon (in the search field near the top) to complete the search.
- You should now see a list of only the students without a group. Simply click the box for the group you want to add each student to. You can ignore the Library demo student account (ds_library), as this is not a real student.
- Click "Save".
Did you know that you can export the group membership from your D2L Brightspace course shell... and then use that information to pre-assign students to Zoom breakout rooms?
There is a workflow on the Digital Media Projects office website to help walk through the process.
Here is an overview of the stages involved:
- Ensure breakout rooms are enabled in your Zoom account
- Enable pre-assign for breakout rooms in your Zoom meeting
- Export the group membership from D2L Brightspace
- Download the breakout room template from Zoom and populate with the Brightspace group membership
- Upload a CSV of the group members to the Zoom meeting
If you are teaching multiple sections of students all in the same Brightspace shell, you may be interested in creating groups that are made up only of students in a particular section.
This is possible by creating section-specific group categories.
This option may work for you if...
- You want to assign groups whose members are all enrolled in the same section.
- The group membership will be used to create Zoom breakout rooms.
This option may not work for you if...
- You need to deliver group assignments and want/need to use the same Brightspace group assignment to deliver it. Group assignments can only be associated with one group category - so you would have to create a separate one for each section.
When creating groups, you always start by creating a "Group Category", which provides the criteria for the groups within.
In this case, you would need to create a group category for each section, and specify that you want to "Restrict Enrollments to..." a specific section of students. As a result, all of the groups in that group category would contain students from that selected section of students.
Here is an example:
Group category 1: Seminar section 011 groups
- Section 011 group 1
- Section 011 group 2
Group category 2: Seminar Section 021 groups
- Section 021 group 1
- Section 021 group 2
Did you know that the Groups tool can be used to help facilitate individual student reflections?
This kind of activity is commonly used in classes to collect students' thoughts and analysis of the week's topics and activities. Often a quick in-class activity (on paper), Brightspace can be used to convert this to a remote learning activity.
Using this workflow, you will create a private group for each student, and create a private discussion topic for each. Once created, the students can find their private topics by going to the Discussions tool. As always, the instructor can access all groups and all discussion topics.
When creating the new group category, use the following settings:
- Enrollment type: choose "Single-user, member-specific groups"
- Additional options: check "Set up discussion areas", then create a new forum with a name like "Individual reflections".
- When prompted to choose the discussion settings on the "Create Restricted Topics" page, select the option to "Create one topic per group". This will ensure the students each get their own private topic in which to post.
If you have created self-enroll groups, there are a few additional features that you can make use of.
- Setting start and end dates for self-enrollment
After clicking on the group membership link, do you get a blank pop-up window? Not to worry - this is a known bug in Brightspace, and there is a workaround.
To start, it may be worth trying a different web browser to see if you have a better experience. Generally, we recommend the use of Google Chrome (especially if you are also using Google Drive in your course, for sharing content and activities). Mozilla Firefox should also work well.
If that doesn't fix the problem, you can try this:
- Move your mouse to the bottom-right corner of the pop-up window and, when the mouse changes to a double-handled arrow, click on the corner and continue to hold the mouse button down.
- Very slowly move the mouse to resize the pop-up window. If the window appears too narrow, move the mouse to the right to make it wider. If it appears oddly long, move the mouse toward the top to make it shorter.
- At some point, text should display inside the window. If this happens, let go of the mouse button.
If you have created a group category that you will not use, it is possible to delete that category.
WARNING: When you delete a group category, all assessments (assignments and discussions) that use that group category will also be deleted. If this is not desired, perhaps because you want to use a different group category, or don't wish to use groups for your assessment, you need to edit that assessment to change or remove the group/group category first. If you neglect to make this change, all student submissions and evaluations will be deleted.
If you want to set up group assignment submission folders, it's important that you first set up groups. You can choose to create the group assignment during the group creation process, or after the groups have already been created.
NOTE: We recommend creating the group assignment using the Assignments tool, after the groups have been created, as you will have easier access to all of the settings.
A group assignment:
- Allows any member of the group to submit on behalf of the group.
- Ensures the instructor only needs to grade one submission per group.
- Provides all group members the same grade and feedback (in both the assignment and any associated grade item).
Group submission folders are marked on the Assignment Submission Folders page with the Group Submissions icon.
If you haven't created an Assignment in D2L Brightspace before, you may want to start by referencing the instructions to create an assignment.
If you are creating new groups and already know you will want a group assignment, it is possible to include it in the group creation process ('though we recommend against using this method. It's better to finish creating groups, then go create the group assignment, as you won't have access to all assignment settings if you use the process below).
Please follow the instructions above to start creating groups, and apply the following settings.
Depending on the settings you chose for your Group Category, if you didn't choose auto-enroll or self-enroll, you may need to enroll students into groups before students can work together on their assignment and submit it.
If your groups already exist, you can create a group assignment by selecting the 'Group submission folder" when first creating the assignment.
The assignment type cannot be changed for a pre-existing assignment.