Writing Better Multiple Choice Questions

Looking for some quick tips on how to write multiple choice questions?  Featured in the Higher Education newsletter, this blog posting offers three quick steps to make your questions better:




Changes to Nexus Full Time Programs

We are making a small change to the set up of courses in the Nexus full time programs.

Starting with the Spring 2018 intake, we will no longer automatically copy over materials from previous courses.  We will continue to set up the shell for all courses, allowing instructors to customize and adopt materials for each intake as they see fit. This will avoid materials appearing in Nexus from different sections, with inaccurate content or due dates.

How Adults Learn

Our partners at Core Strengths did a post on their website about andragogy, how adults learn.  Although they talk about in the context of dealing with clients, the lessons are just as valuable for instructors:


This is the company that produces the material that we use in orientation with the students and try to come back to over the year.  While on their site, poke around a bit and check out the lessons the students are learning about their strengths and dealing with conflict.

Do you like to move it, move it

Keeping students engaged in the classroom takes a lot of different approaches by an instructor.  In some of our larger classrooms, like 2BC55 or 2BC57 or any of the AnX classrooms, being like King Julian from Madagascar, and making a point of ‘move it move it’ during your session can help.

Staying at the front of the larger classroom is great for those students that right there, within a couple of tables of the front.  But for the students at the back of the room, they can loose touch with the instructor and the material.

While too much walking can be a distraction, planning out as part of your lesson when you will walk down the aisle can be a great help to keep everyone involved.  Look for times when the group is engaged on a task, walk down the room and ensure that everyone is working well, find an answer that you can call on someone from the back to answer, so that the whole room feels involved and engaged.

Having a remote from your presentation can help as well, so that you are not stuck at the lectern.

In the larger rooms and larger classes it’s easy to loose a student’s attention.  Being active and moving strategically in the space can help keep everyone engaged and focused.

Textbook Survey Results

A total of 32 instructors completed the survey about textbooks, providing us with invaluable information on the instructor viewpoint on textbooks and their use in PACE classes. Thank you to everyone who participated.   The responses give us an opportunity to look at what we can do better collectively, and to share some information so that we are on a common understanding.

There was a scattering of responses about the question on whether or not textbooks are mandatory, indicating a shortcoming on our part about sharing that information. With the exception of articulated courses, textbooks are optional. Articulated courses, such as Business Fundamentals, require a textbook for the course, however outside of those courses, instructors can choose to have a textbook as required, as optional, or not at all.   (If you’d like to see the full list of articulated courses, click here: http://pace.uwinnipegcourses.ca/pathways-uw-degrees )

When listing a textbook as required, PACE is expecting that 75 to 100% of the textbook will be used in the course. This is to avoid students purchasing a textbook and then not making use of it.  The majority of the survey respondents indicated that they are using 75% or more of the book.  Most are using the text book as reference material for the course, followed by pre-reading, and then for in class exercises.  Making regular and frequent use of the textbook is important to us, as it validates the students’ expense.

A small majority of respondents feel that 75% or more of the students are buying textbooks. To help achieve that, ideas include verbal reminders in class, including talking about the benefits of the textbook, reminding students of different purchasing options (new, used, rental, e-versions), and doing in class exercises that require students to have the textbook.

For our part, PACE will continue to work with students on the messaging of the importance of purchasing textbooks. As instructors, it’s important to plan how to include the textbook in a meaningful way so that the student learning experience benefits from having the textbook.   If you experience frustration about students not purchasing textbooks, reach out to your program manager for a discussion so that we are aware of the issue as it happens and can look at the issues and address them.

Showing a video, consider closed captioning

If you are sharing a video with your PACE class, it’s a good idea to turn on the closed captioning.  Depending on where students are sitting in the room, there are sometimes background sounds that interfere with the speakers.  For students who have learned English as an additional language, there may be words or terms that they are unfamiliar with and seeing them in type is a benefit.  Lastly, for some students with hearing impairment, having the closed captioning on helps them learn the material. ]

Thanks to the 2017 Fall NSD class for bringing this up when I put on a video last month.

Getting more out of the Smartboard

Are you presenting in one of the classrooms equipped with the new Smartboard?  Did you know that you can share the whiteboard with the class?  Students can interact with the board, live,  take their own snapshots of the content, and make notes, all without any software!

To connect to the whiteboard, download Smart Kapp app to your phone or tablet.  Have Bluetooth connecting on, open the app, present the camera to the QR code on the board and now you can share!

I share the link to my email account, then paste it into a  Nexus email that I share with the students from the desktop in the classroom.  Students click on the link on their laptop or tablet (I haven’t tried with a phone yet), and they are connected to the white board through a web link.  No software required!

Students can add to the white board discussion, interact with the work on the board, and save the work directly to their device. It’s a great way to have voting, discussions, comments, brain storming, done live with the students and getting them involved in the creation of the work.


Preventing plagiarism: Changing Assignments

A common problem in many universities is the ‘recycled paper’.  These are assignment submissions that students obtain from previous students and resubmitted in the same course.

To help prevent this, it’s important for instructors to change or vary the assignments in such a way that students cannot do this.  Changes to the assignment should be done around the learning outcome point, so that students attempting to recycle a paper are forced to think about the ‘problem’ in the area of the topic being assessed.

Regularly changing assignments helps take away the temptation for students to resubmit old work.  It’s just one part of many pieces in preventing academic misconduct issues.

A Student’s Perspective

When you plan your day in the classroom, do you ever think of what it’s going to be like for the student?  A recent podcast from Teaching in Higher Education raised that exact issue:


It’s a little different from our students, as it’s about a US college student’s view, but it is a good reminder that the student needs to be considered in planning and carrying out a the day.

Some small tips are there:

-no one likes an instructor who reads PowerPoint slides to the class for an hour

-students like to be involved

-students like to here from their classmates

Food for thought.  I encourage you to click on the link and give a listen.

Using Nexus To Do More

PACE makes use of Nexus as our learning management system.  It provides the ideal way to share information with and communicate with students.  Nexus is in use in all our full time programs, and can easily be set up on request for part time courses.

Beyond the basics of posting course materials and receiving assignments, Nexus offers some other features that can benefit instructors:

Help Files: Nexus has been updated to include a series of tutorials for instructors.  They can be accessed from any page in Nexus by looking for “Help” on the right side of the ribbon bar.  Clicking on Help opens a list of resources, with specific files for instructors under the heading “Instructor – Nexus Tutorials”

Mass communication: Nexus has the ability to create a mass email to your course using the Nexus built in email feature.  When in the pages for any course or program, click on “Classlist” along the ribbon bar.  That will bring you to a list of all students, instructors, and administration staff assigned to the course /program.  To filter to the students, click on the tab marked “Students” just below the heading Classlist, then select all of the students by checking the button that selects all, just above all the first student’s name.  Then click on the word “email”, a new window will open with an email addressed to all the students.  Change the subject line from the default program name to your message title.  Remember that the Nexus email system is self-contained and sends / receives only within the Nexus system.

Audio recording for feedback: Besides tracking student submissions and being able to post files as feedback, Nexus allows instructors to record and add an audio file as feedback (provided your computer is equipped with a microphone).  When in the assignment submission folder, click on the student submission, and when the file opens, scroll down along the right side, under “Evaluation”, to find a button that reads “Record Audio”.  A window will open allowing you to record and add an audio file as feedback.

Calendar to add events: besides automatically filling in a course or program calendar from the assignment folders, events can be added to the calendar for student information.  When inside a course or program, click on “Communication” on the ribbon bar.  Then select “Calendar”, this will open the calendar view and by selecting “Create Event” (in blue, a little down from the ribbon bar), an item can be added to the calendar, which then shows on the course / program main page.

Discussion boards: Nexus has the ability to have an online discussion forum within any course /program.  Once inside any course /program, select “Communication” along the ribbon bar, then “Discussion”.  Like the assignments folder, instructors can then create a discussion by clicking “New”.  Besides giving the board a title, properties can be set to have the discussion board allow anonymous posts, or to have all posts approved before being visible.

Using Nexus is a great benefit to instructors, making use of additional features can enhance instructor / student interactions, improving course delivery.