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Brightspace – Organizing Course Content

The three general methods for organizing content described on this page each have benefits and limitations. The goal is find the method that

  1. works best for you and
  2. helps students find things easily,

and use it consistently!

A Note about Brightspace Terminology

In Brightspace, content goes into Modules and Submodules rather than folders. In Blackboard we had “items,” but in Brightspace we can Create a File (essentially a webpage), and it can contain rich content, e.g., text, images, video, and links to external web sites.

General Content Display

Here are three ways to consider organizing your course content. When you go to Content & Activities on the green navbar in your course, you’ll see that the top level is the Table of Contents. Within it you can,

  1. Use a series of modules, (and when necessary submodules) and within them, create files, upload files, add links to URLs or to tools such as Assignments, Discussions, and Quizzes. Students would then navigate through each of these course components in your module using the “Next” arrow.
  2. Use a series of modules, but create a single webpage in each module (by clicking “Create a File”) and place all your content and links into it.
  3. Create a module and add all of your content to a Module’s description field. This displays everything all at once to students when they click on that module.

Decision Guide for Different Methods

Here are each of these strategy’s benefits and limitations. Some of these choices refer to the Brightspace “Completion Tracking” which allows the students (and you) to monitor their own progress through the content. It gives them feedback about how much they’ve done and how much is left to do. If you are not familiar with this feature, reading the Knowledge Base article, Completion Tracking Tool.

Option #1: Upload Separate Items within Modules

Recommended when…

  • You want to use Completion Tracking to help students track what they have seen/not seen.
  • You have multiple items that require different release dates.


  • It provides you with the most clearly sequential way of presenting your content.
  • It allows you to reveal items at different times.
  • Because they are individual items, students can track their progress in Class Progress.
  • You can set it so that students can manually check each element when they’ve completed it.
  • You can provide a more streamlined navigation to course tools, e.g. assignments, discussion, and quizzes.


  • Requires clicking for students to access each item.

Usage Example
Using multiple items in a Module may be good match if you have individual items you wish to group together but want to make them available to students at different times.

Option #2: Create a File (Webpage) within a Module

Recommended when…

  • You have multiple things, i.e., web links, videos, or .pdfs, that you want to associate with a single block of text.
  • It’s important for students to read accompanying text for file or web link.


  • Multiple things can be grouped together without students navigating to a new page/item.
  • You have the option of adding accompanying text above the any embedded link.
  • PDF files and web links can be set to open in new tab.


  • Completion tracking won’t work, because it only tracks when students access the web page itself, not the individual items linked or listed within the web page.

Usage Example
Prior to class, students complete readings and a related quiz to assess their understanding of the material. You can insert readings or quiz links within a Web Page and set a Start Date. Using Start Dates allows you to set up your course at the beginning of the semester. If you are linking out to other tools, remember to set the availability dates on the course tools, as well.

Option #3: Use the Module Description Field

Recommended when…

  • You want high visibility of content.
  • You want all content to display on one page.


  • Students see all content immediately upon arriving at the Table of Contents.
  • Since the description field using the Text editor, you have the same formatting tools and features as a “webpage” (see above).


  • Module descriptions are always visible to students, even when using start and end dates on that module.

Usage Example
You have a Unit 1 Module and post materials related to Unit 1 after each class.  Posting the materials in submodule descriptions, one per class day, would allow your students to easily find notes, files, weblinks, etc. even if they don’t remember the specific class day when it was posted.

Visibility Settings for All Content

Brightspace has two ways to control what content and course tools students see at what time:

  1. Visible/HiddenThis is a manual setting and it is available on virtually all tools and content modules and components.This icon means they cannot see it. Instructors must manually toggle between visibility and hidden to manage what students see when.Note that even if the start date is set to display something ‘now’, if the invisibility icon is showing, they won’t be able to see it.
  2. Start and End DatesThis is an automatic setting for content and course tools. Instructors can release access to parts of course (modules, assignments, quizzes) based on start and end dates.Note, that while students cannot access items in a module or course tool until after the start date, they will see its title and its description (if you used that text field). These dates prevent students from access, and the link titles will be greyed out and cannot be clicked outside of the dates you set. Students will also see the title of course elements after the End Date has passed, but they will not be able to access it.Start and End Date Caveats
    If a module and/or web page includes a link to a course tool, such as a quiz, instructors must set also set start and end dates on that quiz within the course tool area.Each tool functions a bit differently in terms of visibility. For example, some details for quizzes are visible via the Course Tools menu and may be visible in other locations (e.g. Calendar; Course Schedule) if start/end dates have been set.  Assignments start/end dates settings are more flexible. See the Assignment article for more information.

Updated on August 17, 2023

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