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Course Administration and Management

Use the resources below to streamline your course administration and increase your efficiency. The resources on this page cover:

  • Syllabus
  • Office hours
  • Attendance
  • Grading/Gradebook
  • Online Civility & Netiquette
  • Instructor Feedback
  • Time Management

 

Syllabus

Having an organized, approachable, and accessible syllabus helps to set a positive tone for the course and support learners’ confidence in you as the instructor.

  • Syllabus Template - This template includes recommended language as well as the required University-Wide policies.

Your course syllabus serves several purposes, including:

  • An agreement between you and your learners providing a thorough, clearly written, well organized, and readable explanation of your expectations of the learner and the university and departmental policies.
  • A record of teaching and learning, including your learner-centered course outcomes, assessment measures, assignments and grading procedures.
  • A learning tool motivating and encouraging learners to be responsible for their learning, and reinforcing the belief in learners' learning potential, as well as respectfully socializing them to the roles and norms of the class (Habanek, 2005; Sulik & Keys, 2014). Palmer, Bach, and Streifer (2014) developed and validated a rubric for learning-focused syllabi reflecting the importance of learning outcomes and alignment.

By default, your Canvas course shell shows a “Syllabus” page in the course navigation. We recommend uploading your syllabus as a PDF or copy/pasting your syllabus content into the Rich Content Editor. When adding the syllabus as a PDF, you can force the document to expand automatically so the document is visible when the page first loads. For more information on the Canvas Syllabus page, see the “Syllabus and Policies” section of the Canvas Help Index or review How do I use the Syllabus as an Instructor?

Note: All published student activities (e.g. assignments, quizzes, graded discussions) in Canvas will automatically load on the Syllabus page under the Course Summary section. You can hide the Course Summary section altogether if desired.

For Online and Hybrid Courses

Having a complete syllabus at the beginning of the course is important for online learners who tend to have a lower tolerance for ambiguity than learners sitting in your classroom. The online or hybrid course syllabus is similar to a well-structured traditional syllabus with a few modifications. 

You may want to provide an in-person or synchronous video orientation to review the syllabus and address any points of confusion or questions.

Office Hours

Per the Butler University Faculty Handbook, “faculty members are expected to hold at least one office hour for each three hours of scheduled instruction, or instructional equivalent.” All instructors are required to inform learners of the times they will be available for office hours.

You are not expected to be available 24/7, even for online learners. It often is helpful to offer staggered office hours throughout the week rather than using the same time every day (for example 11-1p on Mondays, 9-10a on Tuesdays, and 5-6p on Thursdays). Be sure to include the time zone when specifying times—this is especially important if your learners are non-traditional or live across multiple time zones. 

In addition to stating when you will be available, you may also want to explicitly communicate when you will NOT be available (and why if relevant). For example, if you teach one class from 9-11:30a on TR and another class from 1-2p MWF, let the learners in your MWF class know you will not be available from 9-11:30a on TR (and vice versa). 

Consider offering both individual office hours and optional group review sessions (via Zoom for online or hybrid courses). Make sure to use the scheduler feature of the Canvas Calendar to set these up; view the written instructions or video instructions that walk through this tool. If you record the group session, you can make it available to those unable to attend and possibly alleviate repetitive questions. Finally, avoid giving students your mobile phone number. You can always forward your office phone to your mobile for “nontraditional” hours.

Attendance

In traditional courses, faculty commonly take attendance or allocate points for participation. It's fairly straightforward—learners show up for class, they pay attention, they may speak up in a class discussion or work in a small group and faculty award points as earned. Many times this grade is not determined until the end of the semester. 

Canvas does have an Attendance tool, although this tool does not conform to all attendance policies set by instructors; for more information on the Attendance tool and other options, visit How do I set up my Canvas gradebook to align to the attendance policy in my syllabus?

For Online and Hybrid Courses

"Attendance" is discouraged as a measure in online and hybrid courses. Requiring attendance at X number (or X%) of synchronous online sessions may not be feasible. With learners potentially scattered across the country in different time zones plus bandwidth and technology limitations, requiring attendance for synchronous sessions is currently strongly discouraged. For larger class sizes, it can also become quite onerous to track attendance during synchronous Zoom sessions.

Instead of attendance, we recommend assessing participation. Participation should be embedded within the instructions and rubrics for assignments and instructional activities like discussion forums, group projects, and presentations. When properly integrated within individual assignments, a separate grade for participation is not needed for online or hybrid courses.

Grading/Gradebook

It is important to provide overarching grading policies for your course. These policies should provide encouragement for learners to develop a growth mindset that values learning progress while adhering to academic guidelines from your department. In general, be flexible and understanding while being mindful of factors that can contribute to grade inflation.

Grade all assignments in a timely manner.  We recommend the following:

  • Grades for most assignments should be posted to Canvas within 1 week. 
  • Exam grades should be posted within 48 hours. 
  • Major assessments (i.e. papers) may take longer; just let your learners know.

Posting Grades in Canvas

The default setting in Canvas Gradebook is to automatically post grades. This means as soon as you grade a learner’s exam, they see the grade with any feedback you provide. We recommend changing the grade posting policy within Canvas to Manually Post Grades. This provides you with time to make adjustments to grades (like curving or throwing out exam questions) before learners see grades. The best time to set your grading policy is prior to the start of the semester; use the following instructions to:

Note: Imported or copied assignments retain the posting policy from their source, i.e. the assignment posting policy overrides the course posting policy. For example, if you receive a quiz with an automatic posting policy applied copied from a colleague, quiz grades will post automatically even if your course posting policy is manual.

When you set up your course with a manual posting policy, you must remember to post student grades to make them visible to students. Follow the Canvas instructions to post/hide grades in SpeedGrader or in the Canvas gradebook.

For more information on the Canvas gradebook, visit the “Grades, Grading, and Feedback” section of the Canvas Help Index or the Grades section of the Canvas Instructor Guide.

Assignment Groups and Weights

Assignment Groups improve the organization of your Canvas course. We recommend setting up weighted groups of assignments based on the percentage each assignment group will contribute to the final course grade rather than only using points for all assignments. This allows you to group similar assignments together (e.g. all Quizzes or all Discussion Forums) and set a predetermined percentage of the final grade for the course for each type of assignment. You could also create a ‘Group Project’ assignment group or an ‘Application Assignments’ group to ensure that no matter how many different components are included, the combined total of assignments within that group will not exceed the predetermined percentage. Keep in mind assignments in the same Group will be proportional to their point-values: a 20-point Essay will be double the value of a 10-point Essay. Make sure you've assigned point-values intentionally. Why should I use Canvas Assignment Groups and Weights rather than just assigning points?

Even if you’re not weighting grades, if you have a larger number of assignments, assignment groups can help you organize assignments and make them easier to find in the gradebook using filters.

To get started with assignment groups and weighted grades in Canvas, see:

Late Work

  • Kindness and understanding will go a long way with your learners.
  • Be consistent with the policies of the college, department, or program to which your course is affiliated.
  • Be flexible if there are university-wide technology or power outages (or outages in particular geographic regions). 
  • Canvas will permit learners to submit assignments after the due date (as long as the assignment is still available), but it will then flag the assignment as late.
  • Set your Canvas Gradebook to automatically deduct points for late assignments.
  • Set your Canvas Gradebook to automatically enter zeros for missing assignments. (The gradebook does not factor missing assignments into the total grade; therefore, students may not know how the missing assignments are affecting their grades.)
  • Use Canvas’ New Analytics to send messages to all students with missing or late assignments.

Extra Credit

Extra credit in Canvas can be added in several ways, and the gradebook setup can impact how the extra credit affects the final score. Read How do I add extra credit in Canvas? to pick the best setup for your course.

  • Limit the total extra credit for the course to no more than 3 to 4% of the final course grade. (A weighted extra credit assignment group is an easy way to limit the total percent of extra credit.)
  • Provide enough time and opportunity for all learners to participate in extra credit assignments if they wish.
  • Avoid adding additional extra credit assignments after learners complete/submit the final course assessment (whether that is an exam, paper, or project).

Online Civility / Netiquette

The following YouTube Video (6.13 min) addresses Netiquette and why it is important: https://youtu.be/LntJAhNOSGA

In online or hybrid courses, inappropriate behavior may be harder to spot and harder to combat due to the text-based nature of most communication. Disruptive learners in an online course include those who dominate discussion forums or Zoom meetings. It also includes those who are rude to other learners or use inappropriate language. 

To de-escalate:

  • Be careful of your tone—especially in writing
  • Use “I” statements rather than “You” statements
  • Use clear concise language 

If a learner’s behavior goes beyond simply disruptive or rude behavior and into the realm of bullying, discrimination, or harassment, please contact Butler’s Title IX coordinator.

Instructor Feedback 

Learners tend to achieve more and worry less when they broaden their success from a letter grade to their learning progress. Helping students see success as an ongoing learning experience creates a growth mindset that develops better motivation, persistence, and resilience to failure. Be explicit about the role of feedback in your course and how you expect students to use the information to improve the quality of their learning.

Meaningful feedback helps create an instructor-learner relationship that increases the feeling that the instructor cares about their learners’ success in a way that a letter grade or numeric score can’t convey. Meaningful feedback is constructive, specific, and timely. How do I make my feedback meaningful? 

Tools for Instructor Feedback

Instructor preference often drives the tool used for feedback; CAT supports tools for feedback on mobile devices or laptops, tools that are built into Canvas or add-ons to Canvas, and tools that use text or video feedback.

Canvas also has a tool to hide student names when grading. (Note that any identifying information that is written in the assignment or in the file name will not be hidden; give clear instructions to students on how to format documents and file names to ensure full anonymity.) 

Not all students know where to find instructor feedback (specifically annotated feedback) in Canvas. If you use these tools, we recommend posting the article How do students see instructor annotated feedback on an assignment in Canvas? or walking through these steps using the Test Student.

Time Management

Consider tracking your own time and effort in managing and facilitating your course. Use this Time Monitoring document to help you track your time and improve each time you teach. Customize it to make it work for you.

You could also create a calendar to keep you on target. For example, review the placement of your activities and assessments then mark your calendar for:

  • Dates you will send any activity/project reminders for students. 
  • Dates you will provide feedback on activities and assessments.
  • Dates you may plan to plan to give personalized feedback on course progress for students.
  • Times to periodically check-in with your learners to find out if they are feeling overwhelmed, lacking connection, not understanding what is expected of them, or needing a different kind of feedback. 
  • Dates you plan to publish new material specific to a lesson. 
  • Synchronous vs asynchronous sessions.

If you find that, despite your best efforts, you are having trouble keeping up with grading and interaction, it's alright to stop and re-assess what you are doing and what you are asking your students to do.