First Impressions

There is an old proverb that says “First impressions are the most lasting”.  As May approaches, the opportunity for many of us to make first impressions arrives with the start of new courses and new programs at PACE.  The first class allows for not only the opportunity for you to form an initial impression of your students, but for your students to form that crucial first impression of you.

As you prepare your course materials, take the time to consider what information you’d like to convey over the next 6 weeks? What image do you hope to present to the class?

Here is some basic information  to consider and  include on your first day of teaching:

Introduction: tell the class who you are, your background, why you are teaching them.  Many of our students our interested in knowing the path that has brought you to where you are today.  It’s an opportunity to brag (a little), because you have been selected as a part of the PACE team for a specific reason, tell the class what has driven you to succeed in your career.

Contact: how do you want students to contact you? (I highly recommend using Nexus email for full time classes)  Are there blackout periods?  What will your response time be like?

The subject matter: introduce the topic with a couple of minutes about what the students will be learning.  Tell them why this subject is relevant in their studies, build enthusiasm for the topic.

Week to week outline: let the student’s know how the course will unfold.  It helps them form a picture of what is coming, and feel more comfortable about the course itself.

Assessments: let the students know what the grading component for the course is, pointing out the due dates.  I suggest going a little further though, in that first class, discuss specific and objective ways students can succeed in your course. For example, I talk about the quality of sources in doing a research paper, or the importance of a well laid out / visually appealing document.

Participation: many of our courses at PACE include a participation grade as part of the assessment. This measure is particularly subjective, therefore it is helpful to explain to students what participation means to you as an instructor.  Attendance is certainly a part of it, but what about being late?  In a large class is it reasonable to expect everyone to speak up, how will you regulate that?  In classes where cultural issues hold students back from speaking up, how will you acknowledge and address that?

Cell phones: always a topic with students.  Tell them explicitly in that first class what your expectations are.  For me, I tie it into participation.  If students are texting regularly and frequently, they are not participating in class; I would prefer that they don’t use them at all, but if they choose to, it forms a part of their participation grade.

Class structure: like many people, most of our students enjoy a structure or predictability to their day.  Let the class know how your class will unfold so they can be prepared.

Name cards: do you expect students to bring them? They all receive them from the PACE office.  Some instructors, myself included, look for them to help remember student’s names and be able to call on them in class.

Academic integrity: always remember to address academic integrity (plagiarism & cheating) in that first class, and revisit it with each assignment.  For many PACE students, this concept is new as they adjust to post-secondary education in Canada..  It takes regular reminders and consistently being held to the University of Winnipeg’s standards to effect change.

That first class is truly the set up to your course, and for many, the whole program as students encounter their first set of PACE instructors.  Make that first class count!

What points would you add?  Leave a comment and share with the other instructors!

Professional Development Session: Group Work – Challenges & How to Maximize Effectiveness

Today was part-four of our five-part learning series for instructors: Group Work – Challenges and How to Maximize Effectiveness. Thank you to all who attended. Group work is a common part in courses at PACE.  It is a good idea to always refresh yourself with the underlying concepts, ideas, and issues surrounding group work to ensure that students are getting the best value out of its inclusion in a course.

The slides from the presentation will be available in the Instructor Communication Portal, via Nexus.  If you were not able to attend, you are encouraged to visit the portal and review the presentation as your convenience.

May 9, noon – 1 p.m. is our next and final in the five-part learning series: Exam and Course Development – A Guide to Developing Effective Assessments to Meet Learning Outcomes. We encourage all to attend, if you have not already RSVP’d you may do so by emailing, or sign up through Nexus.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is an issue across all education institutions.  It takes a collective effort of the administration, staff, instructors, and students to curb and hopefully stop. As an instructor, the first time an academic integrity issue arises can be quite daunting, but help is available.

As a part of the University of Winnipeg, PACE follows the same policies and procedures as main campus.  Copies of the documents related to academic integrity are on Nexus, under the Instructor Communication Portal, and also available on the internet on PACE’s website, at:

You will see two documents, the procedures, followed by the policies, at the top of the list.

In short, plagiarism is not acceptable in any PACE courses.  Like any university program, it is not acceptable conduct.  As an instructor, you cannot grade any submission that you feel is plagiarized.

When you encounter suspected plagiarism:

  • refer to the procedures
  • meet with the student and find out what happened
  • if it is a ‘teachable moment’, have the student redo the work
  • if it is misconduct, contact me and I will guide you through the report that is required

As part of all PACE full time programs and by request for part time courses, students have access through Nexus to tutorials, videos, and links to teach them how to cite sources following the APA standard (the required standard at the University of Winnipeg).  Full time students are required to acknowledge having read this information, and the academic misconduct policy.  Students also learn about these topics in the effective writing class.  Additionally, PACE has a full time Student Advisor, Kelly Carpick.  As an instructor, you can direct students to see Kelly, or to any of these resources.

When a report of academic misconduct is brought forward, the assignment is not marked.  This can be frustrating for students and instructors as the process can be lengthy.  A meeting is done between the student and members of the PACE staff, and then the matter is sent to the University Senate’s committee on academic misconduct.

As a part of protecting PACE’s reputation from issues around academic misconduct, remind students in the first class that plagiarism and cheating are not tolerated; this is included in all course outlines, but it pays to reinforce.

Academic misconduct is an unfortunate part of all Canadian universities, and we have to work together to eliminate it.  If you run into any issues at all, please reach out to me.