Beginning of Semester Checklist & New Feature Training

Distance Education Has Moved

We are now located in LL Building

  • Jason Betrue is in LL120
  • Katie Datko is in LL119
  • Susan Roig is in LL121

Phone numbers remain the same. Open House coming soon.


Have a course in CANVAS? Here’s a checklist of things to do to start things up this semester:

All courses have beginnings, middles and endings. Beginnings are filled with excitement, anticipation, and a little anxiety. Here is a six-item checklist good to do in course beginnings. Using these practices helps ensure student satisfaction and effective learning — and makes teaching more enjoyable as well. These practices lay the groundwork for an effective and fun course launch help you accomplish your performance goals for your students.

  1. Let students get to know you. Do you have a “rich” faculty bio?
  2. Use the Announcement section and send a Welcome Letter. Have you welcomed your students here?
  3. Did you create a new “Getting Acquainted” thread discussion?
  4. Do you have plans to “be” at your course every day for the first two weeks? Make sure to drop non-participatory students and for no-shows by the date listed in the schedule of classes and by the drop date for non-participation/insufficient
    participation (also found when you click the CRN for the course) in the classes.
  5. Do you have your syllabus complete with schedule, assignments and required resources? Make sure all dates are current to Fall 2016 Term
  6. Do you have a discussion forum or an assignment focusing on the course performance goals?

Your role as a mentor and instructor includes discerning your learner’s knowledge, their zone of proximal development, and then guiding and channeling their experiences to grow in knowledge and skills, including the awareness of how to effectively get in synch with others, one characteristic of knowledgeable and effective leaders.

Additional Point: It’s a best practice for you to keep your own copy of grades from the CANVAS grade book at the end of each term. To learn how to do this, check out the How do I download scores from the Gradebook? link from the CANVAS guides. View a screencast on exporting your Gradebook here, or check out the End of Semester Checklist TIP Sheet (PDF)


Early in the term – ask for informal feedback on “How is the course going?” and “Do you have any suggestions?” Course evaluations have been called “post mortem” evaluations as they are done after the fact, and nothing can be changed to increase satisfaction or facilitate learning. Early feedback surveys or just informal discussions ask students to provide feedback on what is working well in a course and what might help them have a better course experience. This early feedback is done early in the course so corrections and modifications can be made. It is an easy opening for students who might have comments or suggestions or questions.

Prepare Discussion Posts that Invite Questions, Discussions, Reflections and Responses
Discussions in an online course are the equivalent of class discussions in a face-to-face class. A key difference, of course, is that these discussions are asynchronous, providing time for thought and reflection and requiring written /and or audio responses that become part of a course archive.
Discussions might be designed for one of the following purposes (Painter, et al., 2003; and Goodyear et al 2003, cited in Grogan, 2005):

  • Provide an open question and answer forum
  • Encourage critical or creative thinking
  • Reinforcing domain or procedural processes
  • Achieve social interaction and community building – have the students get to know each other personally and intellectually
  • Validating experiences
  • Supporting students in their own reflections and inquiries

Here are a few hints for discussion postings culled from many conversations with experienced faculty.

Quick One-Liner Hints

  • Create open-ended questions that learners can explore and apply the concepts that they are learning
  • Model good Socratic-type probing and follow-up questions. Why do you think that? What is your reasoning? Is there an alternative strategy? Ask clarifying questions that encourage students to think about what they know and don’t know.
  • Stagger due dates of the responses and consider mid-point summary and /or encouraging comments
  • Provide guidelines and instruction on responding to other students. For example, suggest a two-part response: (1) what you liked or agreed with or what resonated with you, and (2) a follow-up question such as what you are wondering about or curious about, etc.
  • Provide choices and options for students. Providing choices for students in questioning follows the principle of providing options for personalized and customized learning for students and a way of validating and affirming knowledge and skills. Working professionals are often grappling with many issues – providing choices and options makes it possible to link the learning more directly with their work experiences and needs.
  • Don’t post questions soliciting basic facts, or questions for which there is an obvious yes/no response. The reason for this is obvious. Once one student responds, there is not much more to say! Very specific fact-based questions that you want to be sure that you students know are best used in practice quizzes.
  • Reminder: Log in to your course at least 4 times a week – answer email, monitor discussions, post reminders, and hold online office hours.

You may also want to peruse some of the hints about questioning from other ecoaching hints available at (Ten Best Practices for Teaching Online, Quick Guide for Online faculty, J. V. Boettcher, Ph.D.)

11 Instructional Design Truths According to Cat .gifs By Edmond Manning, Senior Instructional Strategist – If the Internet has taught us anything over the last twenty-five years, it’s that every single event in the history of all humanity can somehow be represented by adorable cat videos. Why fight it? We present some common instructional design truths best illustrated by, you got it—those furry little monsters Read More

The Chronicle of Higher Education presents a multi-part series on small changes that faculty can make to their teaching to improve learning in their courses. The second article in the series focuses on four easy strategies for the first five minutes of class and appears in today’s edition of the Chronicle.
The author, James M. Lang is a professor of English and director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption College, in Worcester, MA. His new book, Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons From the Science of Learning, will be published in March of 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @LangOnCourse.

Small Changes in Teaching: The First 5 Minutes of Class
4 quick ways to shift students’ attention from life’s distractions to your course content
By James M. Lang JANUARY 11, 2016
“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”
In a conversation I had with Ken Bain, my longtime mentor and favorite education writer, he cited that quote — the first sentence of Gabriel García Márquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude — as one of the great openings in literary history. It’s hard to disagree: The sentence plunges us immediately into a drama, acquaints us with a character on the brink of death, and yet intrigues us with the reference to his long-forgotten (and curiosity-inducing) memory. That sentence makes us want to keep reading. … Entire Article


Smarter Measure Readiness for Education Indicator is a web-based, diagnostic tool that gives students immediate feedback about their strengths and weaknesses as they relate to online learning.

Make it an assignment in your Online Course – Using SmarterMeasure as an assignment in an online course can be effective means of understanding students before term start and helping student succeed throughout term. Copy the directions below and put into an Announcement or use the tool as an Assignment in your class.

Learn how to do this:

Monday 8/29/16

The SmarterMeasure assessment measures six areas of readiness:

  1. Life Factors
  2. Individual Attributes,
  3. Learning Styles
  4. On-Screen Reading Speed and Comprehension,
  5. Typing Speed and Accuracy, and
  6. Technical Competency Skills

The assessment takes about 25-30 minutes to complete. Students can log out and resume at a later date if they are unable to complete in one sitting.

Using Canvas GradeBook

The Gradebook helps instructors easily input and distribute grades for students. Grades for each assignment can be calculated as points, percentages, complete or incomplete, pass or fail, GPA scale, and letter grades, and assignments can be organized into groups for weighting as well.

Screen capture of Canvas Gradebook with 3 sections blocked out. Title text says History 101 > Grades. In section 1 has the following buttons Individual View, Showing All Sections, All Grading Periods, Import, Export, and settings. There is also a search box. Section 2 is titled "Student Name" with 5 sets of names and History 101 below them. Section 3 is a table with the top row label are labeled as SecondaryID, Introduce Yourself out of 15, Unit 1 Assignment Out of 15, Unit 1 Quiz Out of 10, Unit 2 Discussion Out of 15, Unit 2 Assignment out of 10, Unit 2 Quiz Out of 5, History Assignment #2 Out of 15. A series of numbers are assigned in each column under the different column titles.

Learn More:
LL 118
Tuesday 8/30


Dropout Detective identifies students that are at risk of dropping out of or failing an online course – before it’s too late to help them. Dropout Detective tells you which students need immediate outreach and why they are struggling. This is done by analyzing data on every student’s Canvas grades, missing assignments and course access dates. Done automatically – no manual flagging necessary – and every day. This gives you an easy way to find those struggling students so you can better help them succeed.

ALL online courses automatically have Dropout Detective available to instructors (and instructors only) to use. If there are any hybrid or face-to-face/on-ground instructors who use Canvas and who want to try Drop Out Detective, please contact the Distance Ed. Office and we can create an account for you.

Learn More:

Wednesday 8/31


– A core strength of Portfolium is its ability to support and engage a diverse set of users with a lifelong e-portfolio solution, while simultaneously providing tools to support institutional and educator needs to demonstrate learning, skills and job-placement outcomes. Portfolium uniquely facilitates student to educator, student to peer, student to alumni and student to workforce interaction and relationships that drive adoption and engagement.

Learn how to integrate into Canvas:

Thursday 9/1

Open Forum –

Bring questions about Canvas, Design, Assessments, ePortfolios ANYTHING.

Friday 9/2

Back to School Fun Facts!

Numbers written across dotted lines; 7, 8, 9, 10 and art of an apple. Nostalgic in the style of kindergarden number art.Check out the latest fun facts and figures from the U.S. Census celebrating the return to school …

Back-to-School Shopping

$7.7 billion The amount of money spent on kids clothing and back to school fashion trends in August 2011. Only October, November and December — the holiday shopping season — were sales greater than $5 billion. Similarly, bookstore sales in August 2011 totaled $2.4 billion, an amount not surpassed by any month except January.

Hand drawing with a pencilStudents

72% The percentage of U.S. residents enrolled in schools — from nursery schools to colleges.
56 million The number of students projected to be enrolled in the nation’s elementary and high schools (grades K-12) this fall. That number exceeds the total in 1969 (51.6 million) when the last of the “baby boom” children expanded school enrollments.
1.5 million Number of students who are home-schooled in America. The top reasons most parents give for homeschooling is a desire to give their kids religious or moral instruction along with concerns over the public school environment.
11.8 million The number of school-age children (5 to 17) who speak a language other than English at home. They make up nearly 1-in-5 children in this age group. Most of these children (7.1 million) speak Spanish at home.

Photo of a child at a laptop with teacherTeachers

7.2 million The number of practicing teachers in the United States — from pre-kindergarten to college.
$63,640 Average annual salary paid to public school teachers in California – the highest of any state in the nation. Teachers in South Dakota received the lowest — $35,378. The national average was $50,758.

Technology in the Schools

14.2 million Number of computers available for classroom use in the nation’s 114,700 elementary and secondary schools; that comes down to 1 computer for every 4 students.
100 Percentage of public schools with Internet access. In 1995, the proportion was 50 percent.

The Rising Cost of College

$14,915 Average tuition, room and board (for in-state students) at the nation’s four-year public colleges and universities for an entire academic year, more than double the amount from 1990.
$40,640 Average tuition, room and board at the nation’s four-year private colleges and universities for an entire academic year, more than double the amount from 1990.
graduation cap

Photo of Cap and diplomaThe Rewards of Staying in School

$83,144 Average annual earnings of workers age 18 and older with an advanced degree. This compares with $58,613 a year for those with bachelor’s degrees, $31,283 for those with a high school diploma only and $21,023 for those without a high school diploma.
$75,621 Average starting salary offer to bachelor’s degree candidates in petroleum engineering, among the highest of any field of study. At the other end of the spectrum were those majoring in the social science; they were offered an average of $39,476.

Source: U.S Census Bureau

Last Updated on: November 2, 2016 @ 5:15 pm

Comments are closed.