UW Continuum College Instructor Resources

Instructional Guide for Career Accelerator Self-Paced Courses

October 2018

The self-paced online learning environment presents a unique set of challenges that require some standard instructional practices. The following instructional best practices are recommended to successfully run these programs.

Self-paced instructor team goals

–     Proficient in course content and familiar with instructional platforms and tools

–     Transparent with students in terms of grading rubrics, response time and assignment feedback

–     Monitor student communications regularly and provide timely responses

–     Contribute to the continual update and improvement of the course content

The instructor and the instructional assistant work together for online self -paced modality. Here are some   recommended   standards/ expectations and best practices examples for the   self -paced instructional team to follow:

Access and orientation to course content and platforms

–     Access the course materials and the instructor/teaching notes at least three weeks before starting to teach the course to be familiar with the content.

–     If there are content-related questions, contact your Program Manager (PM), who can connect you with the course developer or prior instructor.

–     Access OpenEdx, course Outlook account and Zoom at least two weeks before starting to teach the course to be familiar with the platforms – functionalities and features.

Assignments and Grading

–     Follow/apply the grading rubrics while grading student assignment submissions. These rubrics are created by the developer and the PCE Instructional Designer (ID) at the time of course development. Rubrics are posted by the ID on the OpenEdx platform for students to view and be aware of the point structure.

–     If the grading rubric seems irrelevant or inappropriate, contact your PM and propose a revision. Meanwhile, develop and use a relevant rubric and post it on the Discussion Board for the students to be aware of.

–     Monitor assignment submissions and grade within 72 hours.

–     Provide constructive feedback to the student on the submission, highlighting areas of strength and improvement in clear and concise language. Encourage re-submission, if needed.

–     Submit the final grades within 5 days after the student’s course end date or final assignment submission. There are three possible grades one can receive at the end of the course – Successful Completion (SC), Unsuccessful Completion (USC) and Incomplete (I). See  Policies and Procedures for Self-Paced Instructors for more details about final grades.

–     The final assignments are due on the student’s course end date. You can give two weeks extension under certain circumstances. Please read the  extension policy here.

Discussion Board (DB)

–     Use the discussion tab under each lesson to post  announcement or questions  so that  the discussions related to each lesson is saved under the same tab and remain available for future reference.

–     Log in to the course on OpenEdx every 48 hours to check on Discussion Board posts from students and respond to the student questions within 48 hours.

–     The Discussion Board can be used in the following ways:

  • Announce issues identified in any lesson or assignment which needs to be communicated to all students. This post goes out preferably with a solution or next steps.
  • Post to the DB the common issues raised by several students via email, for all the students to see and comment on.
  • Post common issues or questions which you anticipate to be potential obstacles around specific lessons and/or assignments based on past experience or complexity of the topic or assignment. Include your comments with possible solutions or next steps.
  • Encourage students to post questions relevant to the lesson in the DB rather than email so that other students can learn from the discussion and eliminate repetitive email exchange on the same topic/lesson.
  • Encourage peer discussion through DB.
  • Make other announcements which need to be communicated to all students.
  • Introduce the instructional team names and email address which the students should use for all sort of communication under the “Introduction” which appears at the beginning before Lesson 1 under the “Discussion” tab.

Office Hours (OH)

–     Initially schedule office hours weekly when course first launches.

–     Due to the nature of the modality, students will be at different levels of the course, therefore, it might be challenging to keep regular office hours for a group of students. Instructors often have to do 1:1 office hours. If there are no or low attendance at weekly office hours, you can change into “on-demand office hours.”

–     Office hours can be set in the following ways:

On-demand group office hours:

  • Use the DB to announce a topic to be discussed during office hours a week in advance and request students to comment if they will be joining. If there is no response, you can cancel the OH and post the cancellation on the DB.
  • Use the DB to ask students to post their questions for OH in advance. Based on the response you can decide to hold them. If there are no responses, cancel the OH and post the cancellation info on the DB.
  • Hold OH on the common issues raised by several students for any particular lesson.
  • Hold OH when you anticipate common issues or questions around specific lessons and/or assignments due to past experience or the complexity of the topic or assignment.

One-on-One Office hours:

  • Hold OH for students who email requesting it. The request should include the lesson number, questions, and 3-4 time slots. If more than one student is looking for help on a similar topic around the same time, change it to a group OH.
  • Instructional team can choose to create an online form (e.g. MS form) instead of email from students to collect the above request. The link to the form can be pasted on the “Office Hour” page in OpenEdx with this note:

If you are looking for a one-on-one office hour, please click on the above link to fill up the relevant information and submit. The instructional team will email you with the time of the office hour.

–     OH requests and attendance increases towards the last 2-3 lessons, especially when the first group who started during the launch week is about to complete the course. Instructors might find that the frequency of office hours might be high during that time.

 

Communication with students

–     Follow the standard response time on Discussion Board posts, assignment grading and final grading as displayed on the course page on OpenEDx.

–     Standard Response Times:

Discussion Board Posts Within 48 hours
Email Within 48 hours
Assignments Grade within 72 hours of submission
Submit final course grade Within 5 days after the student’s course end date
or final assignment submission

–     Log in to the course on OpenEdx every 24-48 hours to check on Discussion Board posts and assignment submissions and respond according to the timelines above (there is no notification/prompt feature in OpenEdx).

–     Give prior notice to the students and the PM if you will be unable to log into the course and if it will take more than standard response time.

–     If you are planning a vacation or extended leave, inform your PM in advance and work with your instructional team and PM to find a substitute. A substitute could be your other instructional team member, another instructor who teaches the same course in another section or other course in the program. Plan for a short online briefing/coaching session for the substitute, if necessary.

–     Use the  course Outlook  account  only  and not  your personal or UW  email for all email communication. The emails can be sent through either mail merge or personalized email (no BCC).

–     Monitor the Course Outlook account and respond to the student emails within 48 hours.

–     IA to create  a  “Resolved”  folder for emails  which he/ she can respond to and create an “Instructor” folder for issues which he /she cannot address.

–     Send the following emails to the students (templates available on your course OneDrive, if not, check with your PM)

  •     Welcome email
  •     7 day nudge email (if enrolled but no activity)
  •     14 day nudge email (if enrolled but no activity)
  •     2 week check-in
  •     1 month check-in
  •     2 month check-in
  •     3 month check-in or 2 month remaining
  •     4 month check-in or 1 month remaining

–     IAs use two documents –  Student Tracking Sheet and Grade Report to compare individual students enrollment period and lesson completion to determine the student progress status and send out the above check-in emails.

–     PCE is working on a platform to send out the student check-in emails and generate progress reports automatically. Once it is launched, the above two steps might not be required. Your PM will update you about this launch. You might be required to do some initial testing and provide feedback.

Continual improvement of the course

–     Inform your PM about any issues identified by you or by the students and if any changes are made or solutions proposed.

–     Review the third session and course-end student evaluations, which will be provided by your PM and make improvements as required in instructional approach. Do not change the content, but do propose content changes to your PM for the next round of revisions. PMs may request that instructors put proposed changes directly into the course issue log.

–     Participate in the weekly meetings and discuss on what’s working, what’s not and propose solutions.

–     Encourage students to complete the 3rd Week Evaluation and End-of-Course evaluations, which are linked to from the 3rd and final lesson. If you teach the third course, encourage students to complete the End-of-Program Survey, which reflects back on the entire certificate experience.

Instructional Team Rubric

Your PM will review the Instructional Team Rubric with you 3 months after you start teaching/assisting the course and thereafter once a year. Your PM and a member of the PCE Academic Excellence team will review the first course using the rubric below. They will confer on their observations before the PM shares the results with you. The PM will do the subsequent courses on their own. This review will happen during one of the course weekly meetings and your PM will inform you in advance.

** Please note – this rubric is meant to evaluate the entire Instructional Team, including Instructors and Instructional Assistants. Please substitute “Instructional Team” for “Instructor” when applicable in the below rubric. **

Assignment Rubrics and Instructions

Does not meet expectations

Some assignments are missing grading rubrics and the Program Manager has not been notified (the Instructional Designer builds rubrics, but instructor should notify them if it isn’t there).

Satisfactory

All assignments have grading rubrics that are visible to students.

Exellent

All assignments have detailed grading rubrics and instructor has added examples or further clarification of what student success looks like.

Grading

Does not meet expectations

  • Instructor does not monitor assignment submissions and grade within 72 hours or less and/or doesn’t use the rubric to provide some feedback.
  • Final grades are not made available 5 days after final submission or by the student enrollment expiration date.

Satisfactory

  • Instructor monitors assignment submissions and grades within 72 hours or less, and uses the rubric to provide some feedback.
  • Final course grade is made available 5 days after final submission or by the student enrollment expiration date.

Excellent

  • Instructor monitors assignment submissions and grades within 72 hours or less.
  • Instructor uses the rubric and provides constructive feedback to the student on the submission, highlighting areas of strength and improvement, if any, in clear and concise language. Instructor encourages re-submission, if needed.
  • Final course grade is made available 5 days after final submission or by the student enrollment expiration date.

Discussion Boards

Does not meet expectations

  • Instructor does not respond to student questions within 48 hours.
  • Instructors leaves very few, if any comments, and they are not constructive.

Satisfactory

  • Instructor responds to student questions within 48 hours.
  • Instructor leaves comments that offer insight and thoughtfulness, fostering student learning and furthering discussion.

Excellent

  • Instructor responds to student questions within 48 hours.
  • Instructor leaves comments that are rich in content, thoughtful and insightful.
  • Instructor often anticipates common issues or questions and uses the DB to clarify.
  • Peer discussion is encouraged. Each student is asked more than once to comment or elaborate on their initial posts.
  • Additional resources are shared with students to help them make connections to previous sessions and/ or real life situations.

Communication with Students (email, discussion board, announcements, office hours)

Does not meet expectations

Policies regarding the type and frequency of communication are not made available to students on the course site, or are not followed.

Example:  “Discussion boards are for topics like…”, “Please email me with questions pertaining to…”, “I will respond to posts within 48 hours”, “Office hours are available on an on- demand basis”).

Satisfactory

  • Policies regarding the type and frequency of communication are made available to students on the course site and are strictly followed.
  • Instructor gives prior notice to the students and the Program Manager if they will be unable to log into the course or if their response time will be longer than standard.

Excellent

  • Policies regarding the type and frequency of communication are made available to students on the course site and are strictly followed.
  • Instructor gives prior notice to the students and the Program Manager if they will be unable to log into the course or if their response time will be longer than standard.
  • Instructor encourages communication by making regular announcements, updating students on their availability for office hours, etc.

Continual Improvement of the Course

Does not meet expectations

Instructor does not inform the Program Manager about issues they have identified ina timely manner (like at the weekly meeting with PMs).

Satisfactory

  •  Instructor informs the Program Manager about issues they have identified in a timely manner.
  • Instructor reviews evaluations, makes improvements in instructional approach, and proposes content changes for next round of revisions.

Excellent

  • Instructor informs the Program Manager about issues they have identified in a timely manner.
  • Instructor proposes solutions to issues and keeps PM apprised of any changes made.
  • Instructor actively encourages student participation in evaluations.
  • Instructor reviews evaluations, makes improvements in instructional approach, and proposes content changes for next round of revisions.