Getting started with Learn@UW

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is Learn@UW?

Learn@UW is a collection of software tools enabling instructors to create course web sites with state-of-the-art communication, collaboration, content delivery and student assessment capabilities. Learn@UW can be used to develop stand-alone online courses for distance education, or for creating resource rich web sites to supplement campus courses. Students access course materials within Learn@UW via a standard web browser.

Learn@UW course web sites provide students with a customized and personalized online learning experience. Instructors can use a variety of features including the following:

  • A home page and web site for each course
  • Password protection and authentication for enrolled students
  • Online quizzes, surveys and tests
  • Threaded discussions and chat groups
  • Document storage, sharing, and management
  • A course event calendar
  • A grade book
  • Integration with My UW-Madison

Course Management and Administration Tools

Learn@UW also includes a variety of course management tools for faculty and instructional staff. These include utilities for student enrollment, grade submissions, and course integration with student and campus information systems. The course authoring environment also has a repository for storing learning objects such as FLASH movies, images, and media files. These can be shared between courses and between instructional staff.

Learn@UW is UW-Madison’s name for the suite of tools for learning. Most prominently, it includes the Desire2Learn learning management system under a UW-System contract.

Why should I use Learn@UW?

  • Students want course information, materials and lectures available online, 24 hours per day, seven days a week.
  • Learn@UW provides an alternative learning format to supplement lectures and discussions.
  • It allows instructors to securely provide restricted resources to their students.
  • Students want to track their progress in a course and Learn@UW provides an easy platform to do that.
  • Students expect it.

How do I create a course for next semester?

In most cases, you do not need to! If you are teaching a University Timetable course, your Learn@UW course is created automatically - simply log on to Learn@UW to access it. However, a course must be activated for students to see it. For more information on viewing and activating a Learn@UW timetable course, please see Activating a current semester course. For non-timetable Learn@UW courses, please complete the course request form to have a Learn@UW course created for you. For additional information, please see "Getting Started".

What happens to my course in Learn@UW once the class is over? Will I still be able to access it?

Instructors and course owners have access to their Learn@UW courses even after the course ends. Very old courses are occasionally purged from Learn@UW, but you will be notified prior to your course’s potential deletion and will be given the opportunity to keep these older courses.

Where can I go for assistance with how to best use Learn@UW?

The first place to start is Learn@UW’s home page, which provides articles, videos and links to help instructors best utilize the Learn@UW platform.  Additionally, DoIT's Learning Technology Consultants provide help with course design and can help you get started with Learn@UW. They can show you the most efficient ways to use Learn@UW, whether you would like to add a syllabus or design an entire course. Learning Technology consultants can be reached by calling 262-5667 or emailing You might also have technology staff that support Learn@UW within your own department or school. To find out if you have local support available, please see the “Departmental and School/College Support" list.

Where can I get help when I have a problem with the Learn@UW software?

If you need help with passwords, specific functionality or would like to check on the status of the Learn@UW service, please contact the DoIT Help Desk. There are many ways to contact the helpdesk.

Online help is also available at the Learn@UW knowledge base at

What type of student support will I need to provide for my course? Will students know how to use it?

Unless you decide to highly customize the look and feel of your Learn@UW course, it’s safe to assume most students will be very familiar with how to navigate your course. Students can contact the DoIT Help Desk with questions about using Learn@UW, so it’s not necessary for instructors to provide support or detailed instructions.

I am a student. How do I find out how to use Learn@UW?

You hopefully will find Learn@UW quite easy to use. Listen to your instructors and peers for information on how they use the tool. There are also videos and helpdesk documentation available specifically for students.

Where can I find information about Learn@UW training classes?

Refer to the Learn@UW Skill Session schedule for class descriptions and a full itinerary. Classes are free to UW-Madison faculty and instructional staff using Learn@UW to teach UW-Madison students, or for academic collaboration purposes. Additional group training can be arranged by calling 262-5667 or emailing

If you are not UW Madison faculty/instructional staff, or wish to use Learn@UW for administrative or business purposes, please see thecontact Professional Technical Education at 608-262-3605.

Are online resources available to assist me with Learn@UW?

In addition to the Knowledgebase, this “Getting Started with Desire2Learn” tutorial will show you the basics of setting up a Learn@UW course.

Are there costs associated with Learn@UW?

UW faculty, staff and students are licensed to use Learn@UW at no charge for academic or related purposes. In addition, free access to scheduled training classes, one-on-one or group consulting, and help desk services is provided to eligible instructors and their staff.

If you are not UW faculty/staff, or wish to use Learn@UW for administrative or business purposes, there might be costs associated with use of Learn@UW, Learn@UW training and support.

Any course development DoIT Academic Technology does for you will have associated costs which we will discuss with you prior to starting any project. If you have any questions about eligibility or fees, please call 262-5667 or email

Where can I find someone to create my Learn@UW course for me?

DoIT's instructional designers and developers can create your course, or any portion of your course, for a fee. We can help you find any available funding if we work on your project. We can also help you find development resources within your department or school, if available. Please call 262-5667 or email for more information.

Is there someone who can help me find funds to support my innovative idea for using Learn@UW?

DoIT Grants and Awards provides an opportunity for faculty to build technology-based presentations for instruction through monetary support. For information regarding grants please call 262-5667 or email

What is the history and satisfaction of Learn@UW?

2008 Milestone review executive summary

In 2003, UW-Madison implemented Learn@UW, based on the Desire2Learn Learning Environment software, as its centrally supported course management system. In the past five years, usage of Learn@UW has steadily increased, making it one of the most frequently used enterprise applications at the institution.

This Milestone Review incorporated data from surveys, personal interviews with faculty, and records from various service teams to assess the current state of Learn@UW at UW-Madison.

Awareness and usage of the Learn@UW service among the faculty, staff, and students have risen significantly over time. In 2007, more than 80% of current students and more than 60% of faculty reported having used Learn@UW. About 30,000 unique users access Learn@UW each semester.

Use of Learn@UW to support timetable course instruction continues to rise steadily each semester, as does the number of total enrollments in all active Learn@UW courses. Learn@UW is used to a varying extent in all schools and colleges at UW-Madison.

Satisfaction is high

Overall satisfaction with Learn@UW is relatively high and has risen steadily over the years.
Seventy-seven percent of students report having a positive experience with Learn@UW.
Seventy-three percent of faculty members report a positive experience.
Learn@UW's impact on learning is less known, as 33% of faculty perceive that use of Learn@UW increases student learning, while 44% are uncertain of its impact on learning.

Instructors primarily use Learn@UW for help with course administration: viewing rosters, delivering course materials, and managing grades.

Students view the Gradebook as the most valuable aspect of Learn@UW. Students want to see more instructors use Learn@UW.

Instructors report problems with Learn@UW's interface and with some features such as the Gradebook and Quiz tools. Instructors have offered many suggestions for improving Learn@UW, mainly regarding these troublesome features.

The demand for Learn@UW support is increasing gradually and at a slower rate than the overall use of Learn@UW. Learn@UW users report a high level of satisfaction with the support they are receiving, though some users report frustration with the process of escalating support cases.

There is some use of other course management systems at UW-Madison, and many are in use to meet specific instructional needs. Other reasons for using other systems include greater local control of the system and greater technical flexibility.

Download the full report (pdf)