Adminstrative Changes at PACE

PACE has introduced two administrative changes, one impacting all courses and one impacting full time courses.

For full time courses, beginning with this Fall’s programs, attendance will be tracked on Nexus. This change is for full time courses only.

It will allow students the benefit to see their attendance live, without needing any assistance, and will allow instructors to see, live, how a student is doing around meeting class commitments as well.

Instructions on how to do attendance  in Nexus are in the Nexus Instructor Communication Portal, under Content – Full Time Programs.

The other change applies to all PACE courses: first class registers are no longer required. Effectively August 25, first class registers are no longer required.


Changes to Nexus

Our online learning management system, Nexus, took on a new look today.  Your log in credentials remain the same.

The visual presentation will strike you as different as soon as you log in; the system has a new colour scheme and different feel.  While all of the functionality remains the same, some portions have moved and a few renamed.

For example:

-course list now uses picture icons instead of hypertext links

-the course drop down list has moved location

-Dropboxes have been renamed to Assignments

Be sure to check it out!

Course Evaluations

Course evaluations are a part of every PACE class. They can be both a valuable insight for instructors, and a source of stress.  Knowing how to look at them takes some forethought and practice.

All instructors are asked to provide time in the last class for students to complete evaluations. In the full time programs, evaluations are completed online.  Students have a link from Nexus to the evaluation page which they can complete for each course in the program.  In part time classes, students complete the evaluations in hardcopy; best practice for these paper forms is to designate one student to collect then and return them to the PACE Registration office or drop box.

To encourage completion, it is best practice not to do them as the last item of the day or before lunch; students tend to just get up and leave. A better practice is to ask students to complete them right after coming back from a break or at the start of class to encourage better completion rates.  It’s also a good idea to remind students that the evaluations are anonymous and shared with instructors only after grades are turned in.

When you go to review course evaluations, it’s is best to ensure that you are in the right frame of mind. If you are unhappy, you are going to fixate on the negative comments, which is unfair to you and your next group of students.  (A tip I picked up listening to the podcast Teaching in Higher Ed, episode 165:

As you review the evaluations, keep in mind the population you are teaching. Some students are going to love you no matter what, some students will hate you no matter what; throw out the top comment and the bottom comment.  You are teaching to the students in the middle, pay attention to what they have to say.

Looking at those comments from the middle, remember why you reading these: to learn and improve yourself. Look at comments that provide some insight beyond just “this was good” or “I liked it”.  In some cases, you may need to remind yourself about why certain points are in the materials.  I have seen comments where students question the material being taught; I always revisit why it is present and confirm that the material is valid.  Students are not necessarily in the best place to judge why material is included, but they can certainly provide insight into how material is being received.

Take the feedback to heart, identify something that you will do differently next time and make notes right away so you don’t forget. No one is perfect, so taking the time to look at small ways to improve our content and our delivery is always a good idea.   With a little bit of practice on how to read them, feedback can be an invaluable part of growing as an instructor.

Teaching Aids

Every presenter uses teaching aids of some sort, using them effectively takes forethought. Teaching aids can cover everything from PowerPoint slides, to overheads, using the whiteboard, having handouts, or physical items.  How you use them becomes the key part of their presence in your teaching.

Selecting teaching aids should be done with the purpose of helping the students to learn the material; hence being called ‘aids’. Learning is done through the senses: seeing, hearing, touching.  The training aid provides that connection beyond just hearing the speaker.  It provides a visual connection, or physical in the case of an item the student holds, that allows other senses to become involved in the learning experience.

Some people may have a preference over how they learn: visual versus auditory. Having an item for students to look at and see helps to appeal to the different learning styles and involve them in the presentation.

Care has to be taken that the training aid does not become a distraction. Whether it is a slide with text that swirls and dances as it comes on the screen, or a hand held item that beeps and flashes, if the teaching aid is distracting, it is not helping.  Selecting the training aid has to be done with the idea that the item will help the students learn, not distract from the learning.

When to use them also becomes a matter for consideration.  Displaying the training aid at the beginning of the class may itself be a distraction as students wonder what the item is and why it is there.  But taking a large or complicated item out during a lecture can be distracting by losing time, which may impact student attention. Similarly, handing an item around the room also takes time.  Do you continue to talk while the item is making it’s way around the class?  Or do you wait?

Overuse can also dull the audience, and care should be taken not to over do the use of any aid. In designing your lecture, think about what aids you want to use and when.  Practice with them and ensure that they work and you know how you want to show them.

During your presentation, ensure that everyone can see your aids. It sounds simple, but don’t stand in front of the slides or white board, write large enough for everyone to see, have enough handouts for everyone, etc..

Incorporating training aids into a presentation takes forethought. Ensure that you know what you want to accomplish by having an aid and then select an aid that adds to your presentation without being distracting. Make your selection with your audience in mind, the goal is always to help the student to learn, understand, and remember the material.