Writing Assignment Instructions

There are some basic parts that should be in any assignment instructions to ensure that students’ questions are answered:

  • Assignment title
    • Keep this the same as what is used on the course outline and the Nexus drop box so that it is clear which instructions go which item of work
  • Assignment due date
    • Seems straight forward when we are using the Nexus drop box feature but at least one person will come back and ask ‘when is this due?’
  • Assignment value of final grade
    • Makes it clear to students what the value of this item of work is
  • Length of expected submission
    • Students always ask ‘how long should be answer be?’.  A word of caution, if you do not put a maximum page or word count, students will write a multi-volume encyclopedia!  
  • Format for submission
    • What type of electronic file do you want?  Word?  Pages?  Adobe?  If there are multiple parts students will want to know if there should be multiple documents submitted or an ‘all in one’ approach

Some best practices to address:

  • Use PACE templated document
    • PACE has templated pages available in the Nexus Instructor Portal.  Using the templates can help when looking on essay writing sites to locate PACE materials
    • Look in the portal under Content – Getting Started with a Course – PACE Templates
  • Include mention of following citation and referencing
    • While citations and referencing are a requirement at PACE, it is a good habit to remind students so that there is no question later of what the requirements were
  • Post the instructions as an Adobe Acrobat document
  • Follow the PACE Nexus set up
    • Be sure to follow the PACE course design for consistency in posting instructions 

I didn’t know you could that in Zoom…

As we continue to deliver our courses through Zoom this month, there are some small tips or tricks that you may not be aware of:

Waiting room can be turned off: it is possible to turn off the waiting room. This is beneficial as you, the instructor, are no longer distracted trying to manage the entrance of participants while speaking. Particularly at the start of the class or after breaks this can be beneficial when students are joining late.

Chat can be disabled: during a meeting the host can change the chat settings so that participants can not chat at all, or can only chat with the host. This is beneficial where you have a large group and want to better manage the conversation, or where inappropriate chat is going on (let’s hope that doesn’t happen!)

Polls have reports: if you are using a Zoom poll, when you set it up it is possible to change the settings to record who is responding and what answers are recorded. These reports can be downloaded later from the Zoom website to see who participated in the poll and what responses were given.

Share an app, not your screen: Zoom has different options with what you want to share, a whiteboard, an app, or your computer desktop. If you share your computer desktop, be aware that participants are seeing your whole desktop. If a notification pops up, participants will see that. By sharing only an application, like your PowerPoint slides, students are seeing only that item.

Participants can be muted: useful when there is background sound in a participants location, the host has the ability to mute all or just mute an individual.

Self view can be turned off: once you have checked how you appear on screen, you can turn off your self view so that you are not distracted by watching yourself and have more space to see participants – useful in a large class!

Size of the gallery view can be changed: there are different settings to see your participants, and the size of the ‘view’ can be changed when sharing screen to get a better view of your attendees.

Sharing videos needs to share audio: if you are sharing any video that has sound, you need to enable sound sharing as well. If not, no one can hear the audio!

Academic Integrity

Dealing with academic integrity is a constant part of teaching in higher education. If you are looking for some resources or tips, the University of Manitoba has a publicly available website on the topic: https://umanitoba.ca/centre-advancement-teaching-learning/integrity

Of course policies and procedures will be different, but there are still ideas there for instructors anywhere to consider in designing courses, assignments, or tests.

Making the most of guest speakers

Watching one my children go through university, I picked up on how her instructors were using guest speakers as part of the course methods of assessment.  The guests were not just there to fill time and hope students were listening, but the guests’ presentations were built into the assessments.

The instructor had designed the course so that after each guest speaker students had to write a reflection paper on that presentation.  These papers were short, less than a page long, with students tasked to answer questions such as:

  • How does the speaker’s presentation connect to our course topic?
    • Sometimes that prompt would be very specific, with students directed to reflect on how a specific topic was encapsulated by the guest speaker
  • How does the speaker’s story reflect your experience with the topic?
  • What further questions would you ask the guest?

I found the last task particularly useful for our students.  Part of our program goal is to get students prepared to enter the job market.  Many employment interviews end with the question “what would you like to ask us?” or something similar; getting students used to asking follow-up questions to a guest speaker can help strengthen that skill. 

Using guest speakers within the course assessments does take planning to ensure availability.  One way around that is to pre-record those guest speaker presentations.  Zoom is an easy way to meet with a speaker and record the interview.  The instructor can then control the conversation to help tie it to the course topic.  Students can pre-submit questions that are used in the interview, or the follow up questions could be responded to later with either a second recording or written response.  

When we return to in-class delivery, guest speakers could even appear on Zoom rather than driving to campus.  That could help increase availability and make delivery easier for many guests.

Guest speakers present the opportunity to bring in other perspectives to course topics.  With some pre-planning, those perspectives and lessons can be tied into assessments and help build a broader understanding of the topic for students. 

2022 Winter Term Start – Remote Delivery

By now I’m sure everyone saw the news that January will start with remote delivery. For many instructors, this will be familiar; for some instructors, this is going to be a whole new experience! In either case, there are some common questions coming up that I want to try and answer:

Does PACE have resources to prepare classes?

Absolutely! Over the past year, we have run training sessions about Zoom specifically and remote teaching in general. The recordings from those session are available on Nexus in the PACE Instructor Communication Portal. Look under the Content tab. Under Content, there is a folder on COVID19 response and another on PD Sessions. In those we have shared resources and training materials.

Additionally, our blog has some posts on the topic:

What are some general lessons learned?

Since we have gone online in March, 2021, there have been some growing pains. But those have taught us some valuable lessons about teaching on camera.

First off, have a plan. Not just planning your topic, but plan your activities, plan what you will say to the class, and especially plan when you will have the class do something. This includes planning for asking questions, planning for using the chat feature, planning for breakout rooms.

What advice do you have for teaching remotely?

The best advice I can give around teaching on Zoom (or Teams) is threefold. First, make lots of use of the chat feature. Every 5 – 7 minutes ask the class a question directing them to respond in the chat feature. See who is answering, read out the best responses, correct misconceptions. Think of this as asking for a question and getting hands raised in the classroom, except you can have everyone answer instead of just selecting a few students. Secondly, every 10 – 12 minutes ask a question that requires a longer response. Have students raise their hands and select someone to speak. This helps keep students engaged and talking about the lesson, not just being mute and being lectured to. Thirdly, plan for ‘camera on’ time. I start the day with no shared screen, 5 – 10 minutes of talking about what was learned the week before; after break, cameras on, check in on how we are doing; before and after lunch, end of day, cameras on, no shared screen, to wrap up where we are at. Students need to connect with the instructor and each other, having ‘mandatory’ camera on time can build into that.

What hours will class be live?

Class is live for the full slotted period of the course. This will be a change for those teaching in the past year; we have been prepping students for some time now. If your class is schedule for 6 hours, it is live for 6 hours (with coffee break and lunch break). As the instructor, plan for your class as you would in the physically classroom, with 6 hours of teaching.

How will classroom activities work in remote delivery?

Most of the activities we use in the classroom work on line. Zoom and Teams both have breakout rooms for small group discussions; this can be anything from pairs to groups of any size. Students can raise their hands to ask and answer questions, the chat feature can used for quick points, even sharing links to further information.

The one part I have found different (and needs to be planned for) is around student collaboration on documents. The University Zoom account does not allow for a shared whiteboard. However, there are lots of ways around this: Google Slides, Google Docs, Padlet, etc..

What do I do with students saying they cannot attend class?

As with missing in-person class, students should be cautioned that it will impact their performance. Students will responsible to get any notes from classmates and to catch up on their own; just as we would do if students miss an in-person class.

The changes to teach remotely are not large, but THE IMPORTANT PART IS TO PLAN YOUR CLASS!

Nexus Tip of the Month: Instructor Portal

Did you know that PACE maintains a site on Nexus just for instructors? The PACE Instructor Communication Portal houses our instructor handbook and PD materials. The handbook covers everything from getting started on your first course to how to export grades and submit your invoice (two hot topics right now as courses wrap up!). The PD material is recordings of the lunch and learns we held over Zoom over the past year and a half.

If you are teaching in the Winter 2022 term there is a news item on the Instructor Communication Portal homepage that shows one classroom each group is in, AND what AV equipment you’ll find in your classroom!

Check it out!

Winter Term Classrooms

Teaching in person in the winter term? Wondering what classroom you are in? Check out the Nexus PACE Instructor Communication Portal. An announcement was added to the home page showing what room each program intake is using and what A/V equipment is in the room.

If you are teaching in person, be sure that you have requested your university ID card!

Open House for Winter Term Instructors

Invitations are going out today for in person Winter Term instructors to attend an open house on December 9. Mark your calendar for this come and go event!

Besides being able to see the classrooms space and A/V equipment, Winter Term instructors can also pick up their ID cards and get the vaccination confirmation stickers at the event.

BUT you must order your card in advance! Cannot stress that enough, check your emails for instructions and apply online to get your card; then come to the event and pick it up!

Teaching in winter term?

Are you teaching a course in the PACE full time programs in the winter term? You should have received an email with instructions on how to obtain your university ID card and vaccination confirmation. If you did not receive the email, and you are sure you are teaching in the full time program, reach out and we will get the email sent to you.

If you do not have a university ID card marked with confirmation of your vaccination status, you will not be able to enter the university complex in January. So, get your card!

Common questions that are coming up include:

Will I need to wear a mask when I actively teach?

The answer is ‘no’ IF you are behind a barrier or are at least 2-metres away from the nearest person. You will need a mask to enter the buildings and in all common areas (examples hallways, washrooms). Want to know more on that? Look here for the University’s Mask Mandate.

Will my in person class still be split into ‘lecture’ and ‘independent’ class time?

No. Full time courses returning to the classroom will return to the pre-pandemic format of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with lunch and coffee breaks. Students have been instructed to prepare for this, and instructors should also plan the day accordingly.

My course starts online in December, will it transition to in person come January?

No, classes that are starting in December, in the remote format, will remain online for the duration of the course, including any testing (if applicable).

I teach in the part time program, will I be required to deliver my course in person at the university?

No, part time courses will remain in the online or blended format.

I have never been inside the PACE classrooms, what can I expect?

All PACE classrooms have a computer workstation and projector for the instructor. The computers use Windows and are equipped with MS Office, they are connected to the internet; no log in is required. All classrooms have whiteboards, with flip charts available upon request. Some classrooms are equipped with Smartboards. As we continue to plan for our transition to the classroom, for those interested, we will arrange for you to be able to see the classrooms in advance, and show you how to use the computer and Smartboard (if applicable).

We hope that the new year sees us continue down the path to return to ‘normal’, whatever new format that may look like. As all of us are transitioning into this changed classroom delivery, there will be questions and concern. Be sure to bring those forward and we will work with you to make your course a success!

Contract Cheating

Contract cheating, the hiring of someone to produce academic papers, has come up in a few courses at PACE. The Manitoba Academic Integrity Network hosted a presentation by Dr. Sarah Eaton from the University of Calgary on this topic. The session was recorded and if you want to see the recording, go to the PACE Nexus Instructor Communication Portal announcement page to get the link to the recording. Don’t have access to the Portal? Reach out to the PACE instructor support team to get that set up.