3 Avenue to Learn

Avenue to Learn, a rebranded instance of Desire to Learn’s Brightspace, is McMaster’s institutionally supported, campus-wide learning management system (LMS). While some faculties and/or programs use their own systems, Avenue to Learn (or Avenue) is the system you’ll likely make use of in your teaching. While there is no mandate to use a course site through Avenue or otherwise, it is considered an effective and accessible practice to create and maintain a course site. You can use a course site to post lecture materials and announcements, create online discussions, post grades or even assess students via quizzes or online submissions of course work.

Requesting and Activating a Course Shell

If you plan to utilize Avenue in your teaching, you will need to request a course shell, ideally, well in advance of the start of the course. This can be done by visiting the Avenue to Learn Support page and completing the course request form. It typically takes 24-48 hours after the request has been made to create the course shell. When you create your course shell, the request form will ask you to include details on which course you are teaching so that it can automatically enroll the students on the registrar’s classlist in the shell. For more information, see the Avenue to Learn Support Site.

Commonly Used Tools

Avenue contains a number of excellent tools that you can use to support student learning. If this is your first time preparing a course site in a learning management system, we outline here a few of the most frequently used tools.


The Content section of the course site is where you can post all of the learning materials you intend to share with your students. It allows you to organize your content into folders and you can include virtually any kind of media from PowerPoint slides to documents to web resources and videos. We highly recommend taking time to create a well structured content section to make finding resources easier for students to navigate and you to manage. It’s also important to note that any content you post on Avenue is subject to copyright. You can find out more about use of copyrighted material for educational purposes from the Office of Legal Services website.


The Classlist details all of the students who are enrolled in your course, their student numbers and IDs. You can send Avenue mail (which is a separate tool within Avenue that is distinct from institutional email) to students from the classlist or manually enroll or unenroll students if that is required during the course. If you plan to use Avenue to manage students’ grades, you must make sure that all of the students in your course are enrolled in the course shell or you will not be able to manage their grades in the Grades tool.


The Discussions tool is an online discussion forum where students can be engaged in discussions about course content and respond to each other or ask questions to receive help.


The Assignments tool is a virtual folder that allows students to submit their work electronically. You can manage and grade the students’ work within the system and offer them feedback.


From Grades, instructors are able to create gradebooks for their course and manage grades for individual students. This tool offers flexibility in the way grades are displayed and entered to make grade management as smooth as possible. Grades can be imported/exported as a spreadsheet for management outside of Avenue. A point to note is that some characters are sorted differently in Avenue than they are in Excel. To avoid issues with this, we recommend sorting grade lists by student number whenever possible. Grades can also be imported into Mosaic directly from Avenue.


This tool contains powerful options for creating and administering quizzes. There are options to use quizzes as low-stakes or no-stakes assessments (ungraded) or they can be used for holding online tests for larger courses, if that is appropriate for your teaching context. Quizzes let you import questions from repositories if you maintain your own or utilize a publisher’s assets from a textbook.

Avenue Supports

If you are new to Avenue or Learning Management Systems in general or otherwise require support, you can find a wealth of instructor resources including tool descriptions and how-to videos on our Avenue to Learn Wiki. If you require a demo or would like to speak with someone directly about Avenue support, please visit https://avenue.mcmaster.ca/support/ to submit a help request or call (905) 525-9140 ext. 23757 to speak to a member of the MacPherson Institute’s Learning Technologies Team.


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The New Instructor Handbook by The MacPherson Institute is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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