About journals

Journals are personal spaces for students to communicate privately with you. Students can also use journals as a self-reflective tool. They can post their opinions, ideas, and concerns about the course, or discuss and analyze course-related materials.

You can create journal assignments that are broad and student-directed. Students can reflect on the learning process and document changes in their perceptions and attitudes. Students can describe the problems faced and how they solved them. You can also create instructor-directed journal entries that are more formal in nature. You can narrow the focus with a list of topics for discussion.

  • Students may make unlimited entries
  • Students and instructors can decide the number of items that appear per page
  • Instructors have a count of graded journals

Image 1. Instructors may select the number of entries displayed per page

Journals: Instructors view to select the number of entries displayed per page

Image 2. Instructor's view of improved page navigation with choice to control the number of entries per page

Journals: Instructors view showing page navigation and control the number of entries per page

Image 3. Instructor's view of the count of graded journals and students filtered for grading

Journals: Instructors view showing graded journals count and students filtered for grading

Use journals for individual projects

Journals are ideal for individual projects. For example, in a creative writing course, each student creates entries and you provide comments. In this manner, a student can refine a section of a writing assignment over a period of time, with your guidance and suggestions. Students can also comment on their own entries to continue the conversation.

Create a journal

On the Course Content page, select the plus sign wherever you want to add a journal. Select Create > Participation and Engagement > Journal. You can also expand or create a folder or learning module and add a journal.

Type a meaningful title to help students find the right journal in the content list. If you don't add a title, "New Journal" and the date appear on the Course Content page.

  1. Add a prompt to set expectations and guidelines. You can use the options in the editor to format text, attach files, and embed multimedia. If you don’t add a prompt, students see a message that you haven’t added instructions for this journal.

    To use your keyboard to jump to the editor toolbar, press ALT + F10. On a Mac, press Fn + ALT + F10. Use the arrow keys to select an option, such as a numbered list.

  2. Show or hide the journal. New journals are hidden by default. Students can't see a journal until you choose to show it. You can create all your content ahead of time and choose what you want students to see based on your schedule. You can also set availability conditions based on date, time, and performance on other items in the course gradebook. On the Course Content page, students can see when you set the journal to show.
  3. Grade a journal's contributions. To motivate students to post insightful contributions, you can make a journal count for a grade. Select the gear icon to open the Journal Settings panel. When you choose to grade a journal, more options appear such as the due date and maximum points. The maximum points apply to one or more entries made by a student. You can also use Ultra's grading tools, like feedback and rubrics, to grade journals. 

    We recommend that you use Ultra journals as you build new courses, but our guidance is to limit teaching and grading usage until additional improvements are completed.

    More on enabling journal grading

Video: Create a Journal

Watch a video about creating journals

The following narrated video provides a visual and auditory representation of some of the information included on this page. For a detailed description of what is portrayed in the video, open the video on YouTube, navigate to More actions, and select Open transcript.

Video: Create a Journal shows how to create student journals.

Open a journal

When someone contributes to a journal, an activity icon appears next to the title on the Course Content page. Select the title to open the journal in a new layer. You can also open a journal from the activity stream.

View and comment on entries

You and your students can use journals for essential interaction, especially in a web-based course. Student entries and your comments can help build rapport and create a healthy intellectual exchange. After you comment, a student can make comments to continue the conversation. You can also start a new thought with a new entry in a student's journal.

Participation and Grades & Participation views

For ungraded journals, the Participation view provides an easy way to view student entries. Graded journals have a Grades & Participation view. Access either view by selecting the journal assignment on the Course Content page. Select either the Participation or Grades & Participation view beside the arrow at the right of the Journal page.

Both views display each of your students’ names in a list, organized alphabetically by surname. You can select how many items you see per page, up to 100.

You can search by a student’s first name or surname in both ungraded and graded journals. Entering a student’s name limits your results to only students matching your search terms.

Use the Student Status menu to see only students who have made no entries, or students who have made an entry. By default, the menu is set to view all student statuses.

Image of the filter fields for a journal, including searching by name, student status, and grading status

Graded journals allow you to sort by grading status through the Grading Status menu. Statuses available are:

  • Needs Grading
  • Needs Posting
  • Completed
  • Nothing to Grade

You can override or post grades from the Grades & Participation view.

Want to know how many times a student participated in a specific journal? Select a name to view only that student's entries.

Entries and comments

After you select a student’s name in the list in either the Participation or the Grades & Participation view, the student's name, number of entries, and entries appear. Any entries you add are also added to the count.

Select the Comment link below an entry to add your feedback.

You and the student can add unlimited entries and comments. You can use the options in the editor to format text, attach files, and embed multimedia. The word count appears below the text box just as it does for students.

Open an entry or comment's menu to access the Edit and Delete functions. If anyone deletes an entry, all comments about the entry are also deleted.

The number of comments appears in a link below each entry. A "New" label appears with a count of new comments. Select the Show Comments link to open the comments section. Select the Hide Comments link to collapse the comments section.

Select another student in the Participants view to view entries and add comments.

If you want to grade the contributions, visit the basic journal grading workflow topic.

Edit and manage journals

At this time, if you edit any content in the journal, students aren't notified that new content appears.

You can change a journal from graded to ungraded as long as there are no entries or comments. Once entries and comments have been submitted, you can't change the journal type.

If you delete a graded journal, the journal is removed from the Course Content page and the gradebook.

Journals conversion and copy

Original Course View journals, prompts, and settings are included in course archives and exports and are converted in the Ultra Course View. Only journals from content areas in Original courses appear in Ultra courses on the Course Content page. At this time, comments and student entries aren’t included when you restore an archive.

The conversion and grading workflows for journals will have additional improvements in the future.

You can also convert journals from an Original course to an Ultra course as part of the Ultra Course Preview.

Copy workflow

Ultra journals are included in the supported content items you can copy from other Ultra courses you teach.

At this time, if you copy only journals from an Original course to an Ultra course, the graded journals only appear in the gradebook, but you can't edit the content or show them to students. Ungraded journals aren't copied. We recommend a course export or archive to convert the journals that appear in Original's content areas to Ultra.