Grading Student Participation

In some courses, PACE allows that student participation can be a graded item for the course assessments. In those courses, there is an expectation that students know how they are being graded for participation from the outset of the course. PACE has a standardized rubric for this topic. Instructors can read it in Nexus by going to the PACE Instructor Communication Portal, then click on Assessments on the ribbon bar and select Rubrics.

Participation and attendance are not synonyms. Participation is about being active and engaged with the course material and the class discussions. This is not to say that a student that comes on time every day is not entitled to participation marks, rather that such a student will not receive top marks. Top grade for participation should be for the student is on time every day, prepared for class, and makes a contributing comment each day.

Nexus Quizzes – Administering

PACE has updated the procedures on administering quizzes.  This includes tips on using the LockDown Browser and troubleshooting the most common issues. Instructors who have quizzes in their courses should log into the Nexus PACE Instructor Communication Portal and review the video from the lunch and learn session along with the written instructions.

Instructors can even take a quiz in the Portal to experience the Lockdown Browser first hand! 

Nexus Tip of the Month: Rubric Grade Adjustment

The rubric tool in Nexus is a great way to quickly score students on assignments. Did you know that you are not limited to the levels set on the rubric? It is possible to overwrite the score and select a number that is in between levels to more accurately reflect student performance.

When grading the assignment, click on the rubric score that is closest to the student’s performance, without going over. Then click on the number that appears just underneath that criteria. Highlight the number, type in the new score:

Don’t forget to add comments in the criteria feedback box too! Students look here to understand why they received the mark they got, combined with the feedback directly in the assignment, it helps students to improve for future submissions.

What does a successful instructor look like? 

Meeting with a new instructor recently, the question of what a successful instructor is came up.  I had to reflect for a moment, the question is simple but the answer is multifaceted.  Is it the course evaluations?  Is it the grades?  Is it the classroom delivery?  Well, in a word ‘yes’.  It’s all the things, but taken in combination.  There is no one thing that makes a successful instructor. 

Course evaluations are the students’ perspectives.  Certainly that plays a part in a successful instructor.  Students should have a positive experience in the classroom.  Instructors should be able to effectively engage a class for the whole session, communicate effectively and in a timely manner outside of class, and provide meaningful feedback on assignments.  All these things are important and play a part in whether an instructor is successful.

This is not the only piece though.  Instructors also need to effectively handle issues with students.  From students arriving late, and disrupting class, to concerns around academic integrity.  This requires instructors to be firm and courteous.  It sometimes happens that evaluations score lower when instructors deal with these things; we know this and recognize that when reviewing evaluations.  Taking the time to address student conduct, and doing so while showing empathy and following the university’s policies and expectations, is critical for a successful instructor. 

When it comes to grades, PACE considers these a part of a successful instructor.  If an instructor has the entire class receiving A+ marks, something is amiss.  If the entire class is receiving a D, something is amiss.  PACE expects students to be graded fairly; that should lead to a distribution of grades.  Some students will always excel, and some will struggle.  Seeing an even distribution, with grades being reflected of work submitted is an indicator of a successful instructor.

There is also how an instructor responds to and interacts with the administrative team.  PACE is dependent on a small team of staff who work hard behind the scenes to put together the student facing part of our courses.  Responding promptly,and keeping to deadlines, these are things that a successful instructor does.  

Communication builds off of that.  Instructors that are in touch with the program managers, coordinators and advisors are those that fit into the successful column.  Instructors are the first to know if students are having a crisis or have concerns.  Being the eyes and ears for PACE is a part of a successful instructor. 

In the classroom, a successful instructor can keep students engaged.  The class has activities that are connected to the learning outcomes.  There is value for students in attending.  It’s not about being an entertainer, but the successful instructor does keep the students entertained while helping the students to understand the course content.

Taken together, the classroom delivery, communication, discipline, grades, evaluations, these pull together to make a successful PACE instructor. 

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:

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:

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! 

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.


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.