Supports on Digital Pedagogies for North Island College Instructors
Tips for Successful Winter 2021 Term

Tips for Successful Winter 2021 Term

Here are some tips and suggestions as you unfold the first few weeks of your courses and engage in the learning journey for both you and your students. Have a question or want a consultation? Reach out to us at

NEW!  20 Fair, Clear, and Simple Assessment Tips
•  A new resource has been created with 20 top tips for optimal assessment that is fair, clear and keep it simple. Check out this Teach Anywhere page for some helpful ideas around assessment in your courses.


Course Expectations: Clear and Consistent
•  Clearly identify all items in the course outline so students know up front what the expectations are including digital delivery components and new formats
•  Include clear expectations of all assessment items (e.g., weighting, due dates, priorities, delivery methods) along with how and where to undertake, hand in or submit the assessments
•  Set course workload expectations recognizing that your course is just one of many other courses (check out this Course Workload Estimator from Rice University)
•  Provide students with an orientation to the course and Blackboard Learn environment within the first week (e.g., do a video or a summary email)
•  Schedule a Student Technical Services Orientation (to Blackboard Learn, BlueJeans and Kaltura) with either Geoff Marr or Tyler Dean in the first couple of weeks especially if you are going to have any assignments using video or video conferencing environments to demonstrate learning
•  Review all DALS accommodations at the start of the course and identify a plan for supports for your student(s)
•  Provide weekly summaries or overviews of the expectations for students to help ‘signal’ them to key items and due dates while reinforcing workload and learning outcome expectations
•  Maintain a predictable and ongoing presence in your courses so students are assured they have a regularly available avenue to connect with you (especially in asynchronous courses!)
•  Instead of  formal open “office hours” why don’t you have a short 10-minute connection BlueJeans meeting with every student in the first few weeks so they get to know you, you get to know them and then invite them to email or schedule any meetings with you during certain times (initial contact with all will help ensure they build rapport with you and your course expectations)


Course Essentials: Simple and Streamlined
•  Keep your Blackboard Learn course as streamlined, simple and easy to navigate as much as possible (e.g., focus on core learning outcomes, critical readings and essential assessments) while still having meaningful and engaging opportunities for students
•  Don’t include extra or additional readings, videos or activities unless absolutely needed to keep your courses clean and organized so students can easily find required items
•  Ensure all assessment is directly aligned to the course learning outcomes – and the essential learning that is part of those outcomes (core concepts, key learnings) and focus on a few opportunities to understand and apply the new learning before assessing
•  Organize your weeks by key topics or concepts so students can easily follow by the dates and know where to go each week (e.g., file folder that says “Week 1: January X to Y”) – and once they are in that week’s file folder all assignments, quizzes, content, due dates and such are easily found
•  Provide a weekly update for students that recaps the past week and highlights upcoming activities and assessments (this helps keep students focused and knowing what to expect next)
•  If you can, consider alternatives to final exams – particularly flexible formats with multiple days and demonstration options for students to share their learning
•  Provide more than adequate time for students to complete assessments recognizing that students may have technical difficulties, higher than normal workload and other challenges this year (e.g., buffer extra time for the doing and submission of assessments)
•  Consider not doing any sort of assessment of student participation (participation is not equivalent to learning – e.g., showing up, asking questions, turning video on, posting a discussion forum) – as participation is a behaviour and not tied to knowledge or skills
•  Consider alternatives to online discussion forums which can build up and be overly assessed with excessively detailed rubrics (e.g., consider messaging platforms, polling, online engagement activities, reflective summaries, blog posts etc.)


Course Delivery Formats: Reminders About Scheduling
•  DLU – Unscheduled classes mean this is an asynchronous class with no live or synchronous online or in-person engagement (except as scheduled between the instructor and the student for a consultation). There may be the odd ‘optional’ session but it has to be with no expectations of students attend. Students sign up for asynchronous courses to work independently and on their own time through course expectations following course expectations.
•  DLS – Scheduled classes mean that this is a course with up to 3 hours a week for synchronous/live engagement in the digital format. You can use all three of those hours or fewer – but it can’t be rescheduled at another time or date. All live engagements happen only during the scheduled time. Do not force students to turn on their cameras yet find many ways to engage learners during the live sessions (e.g., using that chat, breakout rooms, polling, online quizzing, collaborative document activities, sharing work/screen etc.)
•  B – means blended courses means a percentage of the course (20, 30, 40 or 50%) is entirely online and course content that doesn’t require hands-on learning is undertaken in this manner, and the other portion of the time is on-campus engaged in learning that can only be done in an in-person format


Accessibility and Flexibility: Keeping Courses Fluid and Adaptable
•  Try to make your course as accessible as possible enacting the principles of universal design for learning. This means flexible test start times, alternative forms of assessment, choices for how students access content (e.g., a video, PDF, weblink), choices for students to demonstrate their learning and many ways for them to engage with the content and course components.
•  Carefully consider the range of accessibility barriers students may face in coming to your class during a pandemic – and strive to provide as much flexibility as you can
•  Seek supports from DALS if you have any questions about accommodations for students
•  Ensure students living in different time zones can access your office hours by providing an alternative time when necessary. Anytime you can share materials or items in an asynchronous format it helps all learners.
•  Approach every student question or issue with compassion and care seeking to find a helpful resolution that meets their needs and challenges related to the pandemic


Course Communications: Maintaining a Presence
•  Maintain a presence in the course by communicating to students at least once a week via some format (an email, video summary, post in discussion forum etc.)
•  Promote a respectful class culture by setting communication expectations like these on Learn Anywhere page called Communicating in Digital Courses
•  Provide opportunities for students to interact with one another within the context of the course (e.g., via teams or groupings, online discussion forums, weekly activities etc.)
•  Consider specific contact times where students can interact with you (e.g., scheduled office hours or 10 minute blocks students can sign up for, being on your synchronous live course 10-15 minutes before the class starts and staying afterwards, an optional session you hold every other week with some value-added new content/review but also a chance to ask questions, using an instant messaging system to chat offline when suitable etc.)
•  Build virtual connections between students that may be living in isolation or in different time zones


NIC Teaching and Learning Workshops and Sessions
•  Throughout the term we’ll have some short learning sessions and workshops for faculty on both pedagogy and learning technologies. Feel free to check out this Teach Anywhere page from time to time and reply to for registering.

Have a terrific term!

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