Nexus Tip of the Month: Ask not for whom the bell tolls…

The English poet John Donne was certainly not thinking of Nexus when he wrote his famous line, and yet it is apt as the ‘bell’ in Nexus does indeed toll for thee.

On the top line of Nexus, to the right of centre and left of your avatar when logged in, you may have noticed a bell icon, occasionally with a little orange dot on it:

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That bell is a link to announcements of changes or additions within Nexus, with the dot indicating there is a new alert since you last clicked on the icon.

These alerts indicate an addition or substantial change was made to a course in which you are listed, or that an item of work is coming due (including courses where you are listed as an instructor).  As your course is built, such as by the PACE team adding content folders or creating a drop box or quiz to your course, the alert comes up with the notification to tell you of the change.  

Clicking on the bell shows the details of those changes and includes a hyper link to take you directly to the changed or added content:

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This is particularly worth noting as it includes the Nexus PACE Instructor Communication Portal.  As we make additions or changes to the content there, instructors are notified through the alert system. 

This same alert function works for students as well.  As instructors post content and as items of work come due, students get an alert; there is also a calendar feature in Nexus that has student assignment and quiz dates as well (ie. There are lots of reminders for students that work is coming due!). 

So, don’t ignore the bell, it is tolling for thee! 

Teaching on Zoom: Motivating Students

Looking for tips, resources, and theories on motivating your online students? The University of Winnipeg is promoting a PACE handbook on the topic! Assembled by our team member Stevi, the larger community now has access to this handbook. If you are teaching online, you should definitely check it out:

Nexus Tip of the Month: Course Start Date versus Nexus Start Date

When log into your Nexus home page, you may notice on the list of your courses that an upcoming course has a start date listed with it. This date will appear underneath the course title. Many instructors are surprised at the date as it does not match the date on the teaching contract.

The date visible in Nexus is the date on which students get access to the course site. This is always in advance of the first class day so that students have an opportunity to review course materials in advance.

Running Quizzes in Full Time Classes

From reading PACE’s communications over the summer and fall, instructors should be aware by now of a number of changes to the way PACE delivers quizzes in our courses.

All quizzes are delivered through Nexus. This change requires two things on the part of the student: students must complete a Survey in Nexus that acknowledges academic integrity expectations at PACE; and students must install and use a LockDown Browser to write a Nexus quiz. Both of these have been covered in emails and in other blog posts. For this post, I want to touch on delivering quiz.

In PACE’s full time courses, quizzes are administered during class time. Students must complete the quiz during class hours, with the instructor supervising.

In supervising quizzes, instructors should direct students to put away all books, papers, phones, and other electronic devices. Remind students that quizzes are individual items of work; no talking is allowed, no looking at a classmates computer.

Once everyone has their materials put away, direct students to open Nexus and go to the course quiz page – BUT NOT TO START YET. Move around the room and check that everyone is on the quiz page. While the timer does not start until the ‘start’ button is pushed, having everyone begin at the same time will see students completing at roughly the same time. This prevents students from disturbing each other as they finish, or checking answers while others are writing!

Once you are satisfied everyone is on the quiz page, then have them click the button to launch the LockDown Browser and start. When the LockDown Browser launches, it will ask the student if they want to close all other applications, of course the answer is yes! Once the Browser is launched, then students see the ‘start’ button at the bottom of the page and can begin the quiz.

Standing at the back of the room and moving about from time to time, instructors can keep an eye on students and ensure that no extra materials are used. With the special browser in use, students are not going to be able to access materials on the computer but sadly we still need to watch that notes are not being looked at or that students are not communicating with their seat mates.

If someone is using notes, do not stop the quiz. Take away or photograph the note and allow the student to continue, cautioning them to follow the rules. If a student is looking around or communicating with others, caution them and allow them to continue. Report these incidents to the PACE Academic Review Committee Chair.

Being familiar with quiz delivery will make your class time go smoother. If we all follow the same expectations, students will find it easier to go through their PACE courses.

Using Zoom? Consider Closed Captioning

Zoom has the ability for participants to see closed captions. This can be an asset for students who have hearing impairments or who speak English as an additional language.

Full instructions will be posted on the Nexus PACE Instructor Communication Portal.

In brief, the instructor has to have enabled closed captions in their account settings. That means logging into the Zoom website and adjusting the settings to allow closed captioning.

After doing that, each meeting will have an icon on the bottom of the screen to turn on closed captions. The instructor (or host) enables the closed captioning for that meeting and participants then turn the closed captions on for their personal view.

A huge thanks to our program coordinator Nicky C. for doing the leg work to figure that out!

Teaching in Part Time Courses?

This Fall sees the return to live part time classes for PACE, but with a big change – part time courses will be live on Zoom (unless otherwise noted).  With this big change to our programming, it’s a good time to revisit some common topics for part time instructors:

Class List / Student Logins

The class list for students is added to the Nexus website automatically.  If you notice a student has not logged into your course or come to the Zoom class by the third week, please reach out.  You can contact either the Program Coordinator, the Student Advisor, or a Program Manager and we will check in with the student.

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Lots to say here:

  • The University of Winnipeg’s default for remote teaching is Zoom.  If you do not have access to the University’s Zoom license, reach out and we will set you up.
  • Best practice is to create a recurring meeting for your class.  Posting the details to the Nexus course home page is a must; create an announcement and post the details for students (and PACE staff too).
  • If you do not want to use Zoom, that is okay, just know that the UW cannot support you if you are not using the University license. 
  • The UW Zoom license has some features turned off.  These settings cannot be changed, so make yourself familiar with it in advance.  For example: There is no file sharing in Zoom chat, there is no sharing of the whiteboard control, students have to be co-host to share screen, etc.
  • PACE has no expectation for classes to be recorded.  Running a three-hour class on Zoom, then posting it can be a bit of work!  There is no need to do this, classes are live just as they would be if we were at the building.

Grade Sheet

At the completion of the course, the grade sheet is submitted to PACE for processing and finalizing of grades.  See the PACE Instructor Communication Portal on Nexus for a reminder on how to do that.

Do NOT remove student names from the grade sheet, even if the student has turned in no work or has told you they were withdrawing.  This will be done by PACE staff and is important to confirm that the student has completed the required paperwork for a withdrawal.

New Program Coordinator

PACE has a new Program Coordinator dedicated to part time programming, Lauren B.  Check out the news page on the PACE Instructor Communication Portal on Nexus to see Lauren’s message and contact info.

This Content May Be Disturbing for Some Viewers

Just as television shows, movies, and podcasts warn the audience in advance that content may be disturbing, instructors should be cautious to warn students about unsettling content prior to diving into it.  

For some students, the content may be too personal to sit through, and an opportunity should be provided for students to step out of the classroom or Zoom session, without judgement or comment.  Some students may need time after to collect themselves before continuing on with the class, others may need to debrief either within the class or with an appropriate listener.  

All students at the University of Winnipeg have access to the Wellness Center, which provides counseling and other services.  Some topics have resources available at a local or even national level for anyone.

Instructors should be mindful of when such content is being covered, include a caveat at the start of the class, and be aware of what resources are available, sharing that information with the class. 

Nexus Tip: Quizzes Not Visible

The most common course related statement from students, particularly at the beginning of their studies at PACE, is ‘I can’t see any quizzes in my course’.  Knowing the reason for that statement, and taking steps to address it in advance, can help save instructor’s time in the classroom or answering emails.

For graded quizzes to be visible, students must complete a survey in Nexus asking the student to acknowledge understanding and agreeing to follow the academic integrity expectations at PACE.  That survey is linked from the Nexus (course) Content page, typically from a folder labeled Course Overview (or similar).  It is also found by clicking on Communications on the ribbon bar, then on Surveys.  Without completing that survey, students can only see the practice quizzes. 

That survey must be completed in EACH course that has a quiz.  In the full-time program, students will complete that survey many, many times.  It can be done at any time once the course Nexus site is open.  It only takes a minute to do but can be frustrating to have to pause starting a quiz while students complete it; ask students to complete it on their own time before a quiz comes up.

Related to quizzes is the Respondus Lockdown Browser.  This is the second most common question about quizzes.  This browser must be installed to access the quiz questions.  Every course that uses quizzes has a sample quiz for students to download and test the browser in advance of the first quiz.  Remind students to do this on their own time and try it out.

The Lockdown Browser needs to be installed only once, provided students do not delete it.  When writing a quiz, students go first to the quiz page in Nexus, click on the button to launch the Lockdown Browser, and then start the quiz from inside the Lockdown Browser when told to do so.

In full-time programs, all of this is shared during Orientation Week.  There is lot going on for students, instructors will need to remind students to do the survey and install the Lockdown Browser in advance of the first course quiz.  Instructors can also test out these features by switching to Student View and trying it out for themselves. 

Observation From A First Time Instructor

Recently, I was meeting with a first time instructor on completion of their course. Talking about how the course went and what observations a newbie to the PACE team had, the instructor shared that the biggest lesson learnt was not to be so quick or so easy to agree with students.

Over the duration of the course, the students had convinced the instructor to change due dates, change assignment requirements, adjust quiz timings, and quiz lengths. All this on the premise that this happens all the time and the instructor should just listen to them.

As many of you likely realize, changes to a course are not made because students ask for it. Changes have to be processed and approved, changing something as simple as a due date can impact other courses because of the compressed nature of our programs. Changing course requirements requires adjustments to the course outline.

It’s great to build a relationship with students, to be friendly, to be supportive, and to be helpful. But instructors are always ‘in charge’. When facing challenges from students on any of these topics, or on grade changes, reach out to the program manager or the PACE Instructor Support Specialist for help on dealing with these issues.

Building Relationships With Your Class

Last week, we held our first in person instructor event since the spring. It was great to see many of our team in person and connect without a screen between us. Building connections fosters sharing information and a team atmosphere to our work at PACE. The same is true of working with our students. Building a relationship with the class can help foster the students’ learning, and make the teaching day better for the instructor.

We discussed this topic at our in person event as a part of building engagement. Students need to be engaged in the class, whether on Zoom, in person, or taking a class asynchronously. Instructors need to foster a connection so students feel connected to the materials, the instructor, and each other.

How to do that in our traditional full time class can be tricky. Most of our classes are offered over six full days, that is not a lot of time to build a relationship. It takes a planned effort on the part of the instructor:

-Before the course begins, post an introductory message on Nexus about yourself. What’s your background, your interests? Are there personal information you can share? Small things that help students to understand who you are and what you are bringing into the classroom. Including ‘we’ statements helps to build a connect here by demonstrating a team approach to the course. For example: “We will be learning….” or “I look forward to what we will be sharing in our course…”.

-Arrive early on teaching days, talk to the students that are there. Not about the course per se, just talking with the students can build a relationship. Learn who your students are, their names, interests, and backgrounds. Remember these points, and even build them into the class if you can. If someone’s background lends itself to an example, ask the student to share. Everyone likes to have their details remembered, and connecting past experience to course materials helps with engagement and application.

-Personalize feedback. When marking assignments and giving comments, use the students’ preferred names to address the comments to them. Connect the feedback to the comments in class and personal details if you can.

-Show an interest in students’ goals and objectives. Knowing where students are going post PACE and striving to give feedback and connecting materials to those goals can help students see the instructor as someone interested in them. That helps to build a connection at a personal level, which translates to engagement with the course.

There is no one single thing that will build a relationship with your class. It is an effort that starts before the course and continues throughout and even after the course. That relationship can foster better engagement with the learning materials, the classroom activities and presentations, and ultimately lead to better student performance.