Change to Mask Mandate & Access

Effective August 17, 2022, the University will make the wearing of masks optional. Please be respectful of people’s choices; if instructors wish to wear a mask they can certainly do so. Masks will be available in selected locations throughout the university complex.

The University will also return to an open campus on August 17. Passwords will no longer be checked for entry. PACE’s AnX class area continues to be a secure zone, please use the doorbell to ring for entry.

Group Projects: Tips for Instructors

Every term since I’ve started this position an issue comes up in a group project and I get asked for advice on how to handle it.  The most basic thing I can say is this: address issues in group projects when you plan your course!  The more that can be done up front, the less likely you are to encounter issues.

At the outset, when planning a group project for a course, ensure there is a valid reason. What learning outcomes are addressed by the group project that cannot be addressed as individual work? What is the purpose being fulfilled?

Once you have that answered satisfactorily, move into the issues directly related to a group project?

PLAN THE PROJECT:

The first part of a successful group project is planning.  Plan that there is enough work for each member of the group.  The work should be of roughly equal size and complexity.  You don’t want one student to end up being “the PowerPoint person”, the work should be divided around course topics so students are furthering their learning in a way that relates the course outcomes.

Part of the planning for the projects should also look at how students will share their ideas and knowledge with each member of their group.  Students should not just be learning the one isolated part they covered but should have a good understanding of the work the other team members are doing as well. 

CREATE THE TEAMS:

Next thing to think about is how you will establish the groups and stick to your plan.  If you want the groups to be randomized, the PACE team can assist with this (there is a tool in Nexus for setting this up).  When randomizing groups, be prepared for the push back of “I don’t want to work with that person”.  If you let students pick their own groups, be prepared for the person that ends up without a team, you will have to make the groups of equal size. 

If you let students pick, or you are assigning teams, reach out to the PACE team to have group assignment dropboxes created. 

BUILD IN CLASS TIME:

During the course, after the group project has been introduced, build in time for the groups to meet, discuss, and do some work on their group project each class.  Students should still have work to do independently, having time during the course allows the time members to meet and check on progress.  

CHECK IN WITH GROUPS:

As the instructor use this group work time as your opportunity to check in with the groups.  Each class you MUST meet with the teams and get a briefing. 

I recommend giving the teams a template for that meeting, be explicit on what you want to know.  What work was accomplished so far?  What work is outstanding?  What areas are having difficulty?  What questions are there?  Try to make each group member speak up so that no one can hide out and not speak about their progress.  It would be worth considering having each member chair the meeting in turn; students get an opportunity to practice being the chair and using their oral communications skills. 

PLAN FOR BREAKDOWNS:

A big issue, the one that sees my inbox light up, is what to do when group members do not contribute.  This is a regular problem, one of the team members stops contributing.  Plan how you will handle this, make it clear to the class when the groups should reach out: the night before the due date is not the time to be asking for help! 

In my courses, I have built into the group project instructions wording that the assigned mark may be adjusted up or down based on an individual student’s contributions.  That is only good for after the fact.  When the project is running, tell groups when they should reach out and when the cut off for asking for help from the instructor is.

Group projects can be valuable, but they do require the instructor to think about them in advance and look at how the project will play out in the course.

Nexus Tip of the Month: Content Settings

Did you know instructors can control when content becomes visible? It is possible to hide materials from students until you are ready to reveal it.

When placing items onto the Content page, once the item is created or uploaded, click on the icon beside the name to get the dropdown menu, select HIDE FROM USERS to make the item invisible. When ready, click UNHIDE to make the item visible.

This feature can also be used for submodules (or folders), when the submodule is created, click the icon beside the name for the same choices as content.

New PACE Team Member!

We are very excited to announce that Ivy C. is joining the PACE administrative team in the role of Academic Support Specialist.

In her position, Ivy will be the contact person for academic misconduct.  Ken will continue in his role of working with instructors on teaching and classroom issues.

Log into the Nexus Instructor Communication Portal to see more about Ivy and her contact info on the homepage.

Nexus Tips: Group or Individual Assignment Dropbox? 

Did you know that Nexus has a feature to allow group assignment drop boxes?  These allow for all members of a group to submit work, see each other’s work, and for everyone in the group to be graded at the same time!

When created, group assignments are distinguished in Nexus with a special icon:

The bottom drop box is a group assignment, with the icon that looks like a group showing that it is set for group submissions.

When submitting information for your course outline, assignments should be labeled as group or individual.  This allows students to know what work to expect in the course, and it allows the drop boxes to be set up appropriately.

Nexus even has a feature for creating groups, either randomly or assigned.  The PACE team can work with you to set up groups in a course.  Just reach out and ask, ideally before the course gets going! 

PACE Developed Course

During the pandemic, PACE made a move to standardize a number of courses by supplying assessments, rubrics, and teaching materials.  If you are now using PACE materials, I’d like to offer a few suggestions / tips:

#1 – Own the course!

As an instructor, you are a part of the PACE team.  This is not someone else’s material, this is your material.  In speaking to the class, speak as the owner.

#2 – Know the material

While the materials are developed, instructors should be familiar with all parts of the course.  Read the materials, watch the videos, and know the sequencing of materials. This will allow the classroom delivery to be smooth and well connected to all aspects. Make sure you review and refer back to the Instructor Resource area in the course – it has many critical elements that you will need to know.

#3 – Make it yours

As you look over the material and prep for interactions with the class, think of personal examples to add, how to gain engagement over the topics, and how to manage movement between the topics.  Yes, that goes back to point #1 😉 Give the course a heartbeat!

#4 – Flag any issues

If there are any questions, any issues, or misses, flag us immediately so we can review and if needed adjust the master course template.  This will help prevent issues from being perpetuated across programs.  If something comes up in class, (a personal ask here) don’t throw PACE under the bus.  This has happened a couple of times and to be candid, it gives the students the impression that it is PACE Vs. the instructors; we are a team, we all own the material, we all work for the betterment of the students.

While these courses are developed, it’s a team effort to have them delivered well!

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.