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New Content Experience (Lessons) FAQ

The New Content Experience, also known as Lessons, offers a clean, minimalist design for educators setting up a course and for learners navigating the materials. The instructors using it say it is more intuitive and easier to view the course setup with color-coded levels of folders. Students using it in these courses have a different view, and generally have not had any questions about navigating the course.

The New Content Experience became available for all MSU faculty and staff in August. 2021. Course Administrators/Editors control the view and they can opt-in or opt-out according to their preference. See some of the limitations below before deciding to turn it on for live semester courses. There are no future dates planned for when D2L Brightspace will switch all courses to the new experience and there should be ample warning before we do have a date.

To turn it on, first go to the Content tab. If it is a new course, you will see a notification automatically drop down, asking if you want to turn on the new experience. After choosing to turn it on or leave it off, look for a small arrow in the upper right corner under the course navbar to re-open the options. You can switch back and forth between experiences without loss of content.

arrow pulldown option in upper right of navbar

The default value is set to off, so no action is needed by the instructor to continue teaching with the normal "Classic" content view. Select Leave it off or collapse the notification. If the instructor chooses to Turn it on it will affect the student's view of Content. It is best not to switch views in the middle of an active semester course. Copy your course to a development site and switch between on and off in order to see what it will look like and to practice creating with the new experience.

NOTE: The instructor view and the student view do not look the same. It is recommended to use the "View as a Student" option, or impersonate the Demo Student from the Classlist, when sharing content with students.

No. Students cannot switch their view of content. It is determined by the instructor's choice of whether or not to turn on the New Content Experience. The student's viewing experience is called the new Learner Experience (LX or LE).

The new experience supports three levels of modules and sub-modules. Top-level modules are called Units (though you can label them any way you wish). The second level sub-modules are called Lessons. Sub-modules within Lessons are called Folders. No more sub-modules can be created deeper than the level of a folder (Unit>Lesson>Folder - content items can be added to any of these three levels). This is consistent with UDL best practices.

Existing fourth-level sub-modules will not display, and a warning message will appear. The sub-module and its content still exist and can be located in the Course Builder tool if you need to move them up a level. You can also opt-out of the New Content Experience to move the sub-module to a different location.

>Date management has been added for most topic types. This includes Units, Lessons, Folders, webpages (new file), uploaded files (e.g., Word, PPT, PDF) and links. Activity properties are usually set in the tool settings for Assignments, Discussions, Quizzes, etc.  Go to the Classlist and impersonate the Demo Student to get a true view of what students will see when restricted dates (start/end) and due dates are added. Dates can be managed in the edit menu for a content topic, or by going to Course Admin > Manage Dates.

Note: Learners cannot see topics, including Assignments and Quizzes, that have a future start date or past end date. Create an HTML document as a placeholder explaining when the items will appear.

The NCE is designed to be a simpler experience and does not include all of the advanced features in the current experience. Some of the gaps are expected to be added in future updates. See the question on giving feedback to indicate which missing items are most important to you.

  • Search Topics, Overview, Bookmarks, Course Schedule, and Bulk Edit Content do not exist in the NCE. Copy any materials from the previous course Overview area to a new unit, or new page, titled Course Overview. Students can view course schedules in the Calendar tool or Brightspace Pulse app.
  • Content Settings are not available. The box to enable HTML Content Templates has been set globally, however there is currently no way to go to content settings to set a template path. When adding a document template, instructors can browse their course offering files for template pages. They just can't set a default path directly to them.
  • Completion Mark options (automatic, manual, none) are not listed as a choice for instructors to determine.
  • Content Item descriptions do not display. Folder descriptions display in full view, but items (such as files, html pages, links, etc.) do not have an area to add or edit descriptions. Descriptions that were there from the previous experience do not appear. Keep in mind that folder descriptions are not course files and will not be counted as items within the folder. You need to copy the material from the folder description into an HTML page in order to include them in the "count" and display content completion marks.
  • The "Notify learners of updated content" checkbox is not available. Use announcements or activity feed to notify students of changes to content.
  • Exempting content is not currently a feature.
  • Create a Video/Audio item is not listed as an option. Create an HTML page and use Insert Stuff, with My Media or Enter Embed Code, to bring in a video. Use My Media if you want to track video usage statistics.
  • Associate a Grade item with an External Learning Tool setting is not always available in the Content area. Usually the associated grade item is created automatically when adding external tools, and will be deleted when removing it from content. D2L has gradually been adding this option for certain tools.
  • The new editor in NCE may automatically set the font different from the current experience. Lato and 19px is the automatic default for description areas.
  • Large files may be difficult to load as the NCE does not wait long enough for the upload to finish.
  • Learners cannot access alternative formats through Spartan Ally (Bb Ally). This is on the roadmap but the date is TBD. Instructors can download alternative formats and provide them to their students when needed.
  • File types that are not supported by the learner view will result in the file downloading automatically.
  • Microsoft OneDrive files do not display inline – users are prompted to open the topic in a new window.
  • Learners cannot bulk download files from the Table of Contents or individual modules.

You might be putting content in the folder descriptions rather than adding files to the folders. Place teaching materials within the folders as HTML pages (use a New File), links, or uploaded files. Teaching from the folder description area removes much of the functionality that students rely on for streamlined navigation, viewing, and printing. Keep unit/lesson/folder descriptions short. Consider adding a decorative photo for visual engagement. Find free photos at, for example.

Note: Printing of PDFs is supported via the Brightspace PDF viewer (or browser view); printing of other types of topics may not be supported but can now be downloaded and viewed in thier original format.

You can set a primary color for the instructor view by using a custom theme (Course Admin > Navigation and Themes). Contact the MSU Service Desk if you would like support with Navigation and Themes. Currently, the student view (new learner experience) only has one color and cannot be changed.

The Standards tool works in conjunction with the New Content Experience and was turned on before the beginning of fall semester, 2022. Currently, only one default Achievement Scale is possible and can only be configured by a D2L admin. You can learn more about the new Standards and Learning Outcomes tool in the self-enrollment course, Instructor D2L Self-directed training, or by searching articles in the Brightspace Community.

When you opt-out, you will be asked why you are switching back. Included is an option for providing feedback that the D2L product managers will receive. You can also send an enhancement request to the MSU IT Service Desk at

The Instructional Technology and Development team from MSU IT held a workshop on the New Content Experience on September 16, 2021. The recording is available in the MSU Tools and Tech (self-enroll D2L site).

Other D2L Brightspace help documentation and videos:

New announcements and materials will be added/updated in the "New Content Experience" module within the Instructor D2L Self-directed training site (seeD2L Help & Academic Technology Training for access).

For other questions and concerns, contact the MSU IT Service Desk.

MSU Documentation