Mask Mandate

The mask mandate at the University of Winnipeg has been extended until August 16. At that time, the University will reassess and determine if the mandate should continue.

Full details of the mandate are accessible online: https://www.uwinnipeg.ca/covid-19/docs/uwinnipeg-mask-mandate-2021-08-24-epp-approved.pdf

In brief, everyone is required to wear masks in University spaces: hallways, lunchrooms, offices, and CLASSROOMS.

When actively engaged in teaching, and being at least two meters away, instructors can remove their masks. When finished lecturing, ie. during group work, breaks, etc., instructors return to wearing a mask.

Students wear their masks at all times. As with instructors, if students are doing peer teaching and are two meters away from others, they could remove their masks. Sitting at desks and break out spaces, students should be wearing masks.

As with any University policy, this is not optional, instructor may not tell students the mask mandate is not applicable in their classroom. Policies such as Respectful Workplace and Learning, Smoking, Academic Misconduct, etc., are applicable in all classrooms.

Instructors should remind the entire class at the start of the day on the requirement to wear masks. After, if individual students do not have a mask out, call them by name and say “please remember to wear your mask”. If students do not have a mask, masks are available at the security stations at the entrances. If students continue not to put on a mask, contact your program manager or the academic program manager. You can ask the student to leave the room if they continue not to wear a mask; if they refuse, escalate to the program manager.

Course Evaluations – Full Time Programs

At the end of every course, students are asked to complete course evaluations. Over the past two years, teaching remotely, course evaluations in full time programs had extremely reduced response rates. Now that we have returned to the classroom there are things instructors can do to increase those responses.

On the last day of your course, build time in to have students complete the evaluations. Ideally, not before a break, lunch, or end of the day. Instead, plan for it when students return from a break or lunch.

Evaluations are completed online; the days of paper course evaluations are long past. Students have a link in Nexus from their program site (not the course site, but the Content tab of the program site).

Since the evaluations are online, no need to leave the room. In fact, if you do, students will not complete them. Plan for 10 – 15 minutes to complete them; busy yourself with another task.

Many students are concerned about completing evaluations knowing that the final grades are not in yet. As you ask students to complete the course evaluations, take the time to remind students that the evaluations are anonymous and are shared with instructors only after grades are finalized.

Course evaluations are not the sole component to looking at instructor performance, but they are an invaluable piece for PACE to look at the most critical part of our ‘product’, teaching our students.

(Course evaluations in part time courses are handled delivery. Instructors should still encourage students to complete them!)

Course Reviews

At the end of most courses, it’s common to do a course review. Making that review interesting and interactive can be a challenge. Here’s some ideas to make the experience engaging and even a little fun:

-Kahoot: Kahoot is an online quiz game (Kahoot.com). If you are of a certain age you may recall trivia games on the bar, questions on the tv screen, answering on a console. Kahoot works the same. Questions appear on the screen controlled by the instructor, students answer on their device (Smartphone, computer, etc.). PACE has a licence to Kahoot, so no cost to the instructor, reach out if you want to use it.

-Jeopardy: a common theme, there are downloadable PowerPoint decks that use the Jeopardy game format to run. The instructor designs the ‘boards’ and students answer aloud. If you have a Smart board in the classroom, you can combine that with a buzzer system to see who is going to answer first.

-Bingo: there are online bingo card generators. You can input the answers to questions to appear on the cards, randomizing and changing the bingo card. In the class room, you read out a question and students have to find the answer by checking their card.

-Family Feud: similar to Jeopardy, you can design a question format and have teams work to answer questions and earn points.

Course reviews don’t have to be boring! Have some fun!

What ideas do you have on how to run a review session? Post your answer in the chat below!

Nexus Tip: URLs

Did you know you can share the URL of a page in Nexus? When reporting an issue or concern with your Nexus course site, it’s helpful to the PACE team if you include the URL for your course, or the particular item, to aid us in knowing what course to look at.

Back in the classroom? Things to touch on

Last week I was back teaching in the face to face classroom for the first time in two years. Part way through welcoming everyone and laying out our plan for the day, I realized I was missing all those parts that need to be talked about after being on Zoom for so long!

On Zoom we talk about raising hands, using the chat, etc.. Now in person, we need to remind students how we feel about:

cell phones: remind students to put their phones on silent, to avoid texting and phone calls.

-late entry: PACE has a policy of no late entry to rooms, wait for break time. In some classrooms, this has to be strictly followed, students coming late have to walk through the instructor’s work area, over their classmates and into a seat; other rooms have two doors and a student could enter and sit at the back. Tell students what you expect as we adjust to the physical space.

-raising hands: so this is just like Zoom, but to manage a class conversation, students should put up their hands.

-side conversations: this was a big thing for me, the volume and amount of side conversations while I was teaching last week or while students were presenting. Being on Zoom, I think students got used to being able to talk and text with friends, instructors will have to remind students to stop.

-missing class: while attendance is not mandatory, just like being at work, students should notify the ‘boss’ if they are going to miss class; an email to the instructor is appreciated and should be mentioned in class one as a good practice

-masks: unit the policy changes, masks are required by everyone in the University’s buildings. There are times when the mask can be removed, but sitting in class is NOT one of them. Remind students, be polite and ensure they are wearing masks.

-academic integrity: in day one or at the first assignment (or both!) remind students about the expectations on individual work, group assignments, and meeting integrity expectations. Help students to understand what is expected for the assignments to avoid issues later.

Lots of challenges as we return to the class! Many of them are just reminders of what we did before 😉

Do I have to follow the mask mandate?

We are back with in person classes in our full time programs, and with that comes many issues and questions. How to use the audio visual equipment is a common question, and easily overcome. But the most common question from instructors has been “Do I really have to follow the mask mandate?”.

The answer is simple: yes. The mask mandate has been extended until at least June 30, 2022. At that time, the University will reassess the situation and make a further determination. The mandate, like any University policy, needs to be followed; instructors are representatives of the University and should be following all policies and procedures. To ignore, or wink at, the policy is undermines the instructor, the administration, and the University.

No one asks if the no smoking policy has to be followed in the classroom, nor if the respectful workplace policy has to be followed. The mask mandate is part of the operating environment and needs to be followed and respected.

To review the details of the policy, look at the information published by the University here: https://www.uwinnipeg.ca/covid-19/docs/uwinnipeg-mask-mandate-2021-08-24-epp-approved.pdf

Professional Development Opportunity

The Institute for Performance and Learning is a Canadian non profit organization aimed at helping people who work in the learning and performance field. They host several events each year that are free for members. May 18 they have an online session covering how to make your training address the topics of diversity, inclusion, and belonging.

You can find out more about the session by clicking here.

To find out more about the Institute, click here.

O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive!

Sir Walter Scott had no idea just how sophisticated tools would become to help people deceive others in the 21st century! Recently I took in a presentation about ‘text spinning’, a tool / term that I had never heard of before, but now realize some of our students must be aware of it and using it to help plagiarize papers.

Text spinners, or article spinners, are online tools used to take written work and make it appear to be new content by replacing words or phrases. This tool was originally developed for marketers, allowing for social media content to be reworked easily and appear to be fresh and new. The tool has been coopted though for plagiarism by taking academic papers and ‘spinning’ them so that they appear to be different papers on the same topic. Currently these text spinners are able to defeat online plagiarism checkers that look for identical content.

Detecting these types of submissions takes reading the paper (no surprise there, we should already be doing that as instructors!), but now reading also to note things like:

  • change in phrasing or key words
    • look for inconsistency in how key words are used, using the term group dynamics one time and team interactions for example. Or changing proper nouns for synonyms, not recognizing there should be no change (Martin Luther King changed to Martin Luther Prince)
  • loss of student’s voice
    • the paper may not match the level of speaking and consistency of the student you have met in class and in other items of work
  • use of British English
    • for some reason the spinner’s default to use of British terms and grammar, this may not be consistent with Canadian writing, and may also vary between sections if the student is only using a spinner on one part of a paper

If you want to know more, one source shared in the presentation was this one: https://todayslearner.cengage.com/6-ways-to-identify-if-students-are-using-text-spinners-to-plagiarize/

Boundaries

There is an adage that “good fences make good neighbours”; in the classroom good boundaries make good students.  On the first day of the course, instructors should take the time out to set boundaries around communications and other expectations.

The start of any course should include time to review the course outline.  Reviewing both the course topics, the course assignments and due dates, AND academic integrity expectations.  All of that is built into the course outline and is a good time to review it.

Instructors should then go a little further to talk about expectations around communication:

  • remind students to use the contact information listed on the course outline
  • either of the University supplied email addresses
  • give students an idea of your response time
  • I tell students to give me 24 hours to respond
  • set ‘no response times’: instructors do not work full time for PACE, so let students know when you will be responding: will it be during the day or the evening?  Are there times where you do not do school related work? 
  • I tell students I will respond in the evening and that I do not do any emails on Sunday.
  • is there a wait time before contacting the instructor?  
  • For assignment feedback, I tell students to follow the 24 hour rule: before asking a question or challenging a grade, students have to wait 24 hours after getting their feedback

Small things, but intended to make a better experience for students and instructors alike.