UW Continuum College Instructor Resources

Policies and Procedures for Self-Paced Online Instructors

Career Accelerator Online Self-Paced Format

This guide is designed to help instructors understand their role in administering a self-paced course. This guide is meant to go alongside the Instructional Guide for Career Accelerator Self-Paced Courses.

After you have been added to payroll and have created your UW NetID, please complete the following steps. Your Program Manager is responsible for facilitating these steps with you, so please contact them with any questions.

  1. Complete the Teaching at UW PCE online training course.
  2. Access the Open edX Learning Management System (LMS)
    • Click Sign In, and then scroll down and click Create an Account.
    • Enter your information and click Create your Account.
    • Check your inbox – you will be getting an email with instructions for activating your account.
    • Activate your account and sign into UW Start Learning.
    • Notify your Program Manager when your account is created, who will in turn notify ctnmhelp@uw.edu to get you “staff” level access. Email ctnmhelp@uw.edu if you have any problems logging in after your access has been granted.
  1. Sign up for Open edX training via the training page on the Instructor Resources Website.
  2. Review this Teaching Guide.
  3. Review the Instructional Guide for Career Accelerator Self-Paced Courses
  4. Review the Instructor Resources website and bookmark for later reference.
  5. Review the course content and instructor notes in Open edX and on the course OneDrive account, as explained later in this document.
  6. With your Program Manager, review the reports that will be used to track students.


Self-paced courses do not follow a specified schedule. Instead, students may enroll at any time and have four months from that enrollment date to complete coursework, going at their own pace.  Learning content is written and developed in advance, so the instructional team in self-paced formats serve in more of a support and assessment role. There are no required office hours in the self-paced format, though instructors can choose to hold office hours at their discretion via Zoom.


General responsibilities for instructors include:

  • Serving as the lead and central point of communication among the instructional team.
  • Establishing a visible presence in the course by guiding and facilitating instruction through discussion boards and answering emails escalated by the instructional assistant.
  • Providing feedback on student work in a timely manner.
  • Following a defined process to document and submit student grades.

Instructional Assistant (IA)

General responsibilities for IAs include:

  • Serving as the primary responder to student emails about content and assignments.
  • Deciding on when to escalate student questions to the instructor.
  • Checking with students to support progress and addressing any concerns or barriers to completion.
  • Sending a standard set of emails to students to keep them on track.
  • Coordinating with the instructor to ensure curriculum continuity.

Assessor (not all courses have an assessor)

General responsibilities for assessors include:

  • Providing feedback on student work within 2-7 days.
  • Keeping records of patterns of struggle in student work.

See the Instructional Guide for CA Self-Paced Courses for specific responsibilities around instruction.


Communication between students and the instructional team is one of the most important factors in having a successful learning experience. The sections below provide details about the platforms available for various types of communications.

Discussion Boards in Open edX LMS

Discussion boards have been built into different modules of Open edX with discussion prompts. The instructional team can monitor and participate in these discussion boards. If a question comes in via email that is relevant to all students, the instructor can paste the question and respond into the appropriate discussion board. Instructors should not create new discussion boards – if you would like to have one added, please contact your Program Manager. Please note that you will have to subscribe to each discussion thread separately in order to see new posts.

Discussion board posts are one of the ways students can have direct interaction with the instructor and other students. See the Instructional Guide for CA Self-Paced Courses for tips about how to use them effectively and expected response times.

More information about discussion boards in Open edX can be found in the Assign Discussion Administration Roles section of the Open edX support documentation.

Bulk Email in the LMS

If a time-sensitive announcement needs to be sent to all students via email, the bulk email tool in the LMS may be used but this will push an email to all students who have ever been active in this course shell, even if they are now expired. Students cannot reply to this email, so please put “do not reply” somewhere in the body of your email.

Course Outlook Email Account

To help facilitate individual communication with students, each course has a dedicated Office 365 account, which includes an Outlook email account, a calendar and OneDrive shared space, which will be used to help instructional team members communicate with each other.

To access this O365 account, members of the instructional team can log into the O365 login page with the course-specific NetID and password, which they will get from their Program Manager. If you have any questions about this process, please contact your Program Manager or ctnmhelp@uw.edu.

If you prefer to log into Outlook with your personal UW NetID and view the course email box from within your personal UW Outlook account, your Program Manager must provide IT staff with your personal UW NetID. Once you have been given access to the account, you will have to go through the following steps to view it from your personal Outlook inbox.

  1. Open the File Menu, then click on the Account Settings button and choose Account Settings from the menu that is displayed.
  2. In the Account Settings window that opens, select New.
  3. Fill in the Your Name and E-Mail Address fields with the name and email address of the @uw.edu shared account you are adding. Leave the password fields blank and click Next.
  4. A Windows Security box will pop up. Under More choices, click Use a different account. In the User name box, type netid\ followed by your NetID. In the password box, type your NetID password. (Note: this is your NetID password, not the NetID password for the shared account or your EXTN password).
  5. A new Windows Security box will pop up. Here, replace the first part of the email address with your NetID, and type in your NetID password again.
  6. Click Finish.
  7. Outlook will now warn you that you need to restart. Before you restart, make sure that you save any draft messages, or reply to any email that you opened as a reminder but have not gotten back to.
  8. Restart Outlook. After Outlook opens, the shared email account will appear on the left-hand side. Just scroll down past your inbox and its list of open folders.

Email Triage

The course account will have two folders set up – one called “instructor” and one called “resolved.” The IA is the owner of the emails in the inbox and needs to check it daily. The IA either answers email or triages as follows:

  • Academic issues that the IA is not confident to answer are escalated to the instructor by dragging the email into the “instructor” folder. The instructor needs to check this folder daily.
  • Technical issues related to the platform should be sent to ctnmhelp@uw.edu. Responses come from outside the course email account and are not captured in the course Outlook account.
  • All other non-academic, non-tech issues, should be sent to startlrn@uw.edu (monitored by PCE Enrollment Services). Responses come from outside the course email account and are not captured in the course Outlook account.
  • The instructor and IA should drag an email into the “resolved” folder when they have handled it. This way, the only emails left in the inbox or instructor folder are ones that still need to be resolved.

To find past communications with a particular student, you can use the search tool and select “all mailboxes” to catch emails in all folders. You may want to use the “Quick Parts” tool to set up responses to very common questions.

Outlook Calendar and Weekly Instructor Team Meetings

You program manager will initiate weekly check-in meetings with the instructional team and the instructional designer. After the first several weeks, the ID will attend only as needed and the meetings may drop to an every-other-week schedule. The course Outlook account contains a calendar. The instructional team may decide to schedule team meetings or other course-related activities using this calendar.

OneDrive for Meeting Agenda/Minutes or Other Shared Documents

The course O365 account also includes a OneDrive collaboration space for the instructional team to use. The OneDrive space is most easily accessed by logging into the account via www.office.com with the course NetID and password and navigating to OneDrive by clicking on the tiles icon in the upper left corner. In OneDrive meeting notes will be saved along with notes for improvements to the curriculum, drafts of revised course artifacts, mid-course evaluations, end-of-course evaluations, the student tracking spreadsheet, email templates, etc.  Your Program Manager should set up an initial folder system in OneDrive to keep things organized.

Teaching Notes in Course LMS and Continuous Improvement

Some of the courses have a place in the course LMS where teaching notes are kept including lesson-specific details, grading tips, etc. These teaching notes will be pre-populated by the course developer and ID. Talk to your program manager about whether this exists in your course. Suggestions for improvements to the course curriculum can be submitted through an issue log, which is a web form in the course LMS. The submissions are reviewed by instructional design staff and are either fixed immediately or kept on file for the next curriculum revision project. Bugs and technical issues should be reported immediately to ctnmhelp@uw.edu.

Cloud Based Services

The IT team understands that cloud services often provide a path for us to innovate and collaborate with our teams, students, and partners. However, we must take extra precautions when using services on platforms UW-IT or UWC² do not provide or control. Therefore, it is extremely important to receive IT approval before using a cloud service to make sure:

  • We are not violating FERPA, HIPAA or other privacy laws and policies.
  • We are not creating any integration or security problems within our infrastructure.
  • We can catalog what services are being used in order to monitor for policy or technological changes that may affect us.

It is especially important to consult with IT before using systems where student communications or sensitive data are involved. For example, after consulting with UW-IT, the Registrar, and the Privacy Office, we found that we need to prohibit the use of Slack for any student/teacher communications due to FERPA.


Grading and giving feedback to students is one of the ways to help them know what they are doing well and where they might improve. While each program and instructional team handles grading differently, it is generally expected that instructors take the lead on assignments where more individualized feedback is necessary.

In general, it is expected that the instructional team respond to student questions in a timely manner as outlined in the Instructional Guide for CA Self-Paced Courses guide.

Tracking Submitted Assignments in the LMS

The most efficient way to see which assignments have been recently submitted and need to be graded is by going to the Instructor Statistics Report, which you get to by clicking on the “instructor statistics” tab in the LMS. From there you will be able to click on each submitted assignment to view and grade it. You can also go into each lesson and view any assignments that are waiting to be graded.

Monitoring Student Progress

The Instructor Statistics Report mentioned above will show you who is active in the course at a given time, how many weeks they have until their 4-month expiration date and whether they are pacing themselves effectively.

The IA will be responsible for sending out a standard set of emails to students at specified time intervals. The emails remind students of how many weeks they have left and encourage them to keep up with the work. Your program manager will provide you with the email templates, which should be saved in the OneDrive account. The IA will use the Student Tracking Spreadsheet in OneDrive to track the emails.

Students who may be at risk of failing are those nearing the end of their four months with many assignments left to complete, those who have not had any activity for several weeks, or those who are doing poorly on assignments. IAs are encouraged to reach out individually to these students to see if they need help with anything in particular and to remind them that the instructors are available to do 1:1 Zoom meetings.

The student tracking spreadsheet in the OneDrive account will be developed in the following manner:

  1. The UWC2 program operations staff will pull a report from EOS that shows the date a student enrolled and their expiration date in the course.
  2. Program staff will fill in the student name, email, start and end date into a spreadsheet in the program’s OneDrive account.
  3. Program staff will update the spreadsheet twice a week as new students show up in EOS.
  4. The instructional team will use this spreadsheet to track the standardized emails.


About Final Grades

  • If a student completes the stated passing requirements for the course, they will earn a successful completion (SC).
  • If a student does not meet the passing requirements, they will earn an unsuccessful completion (USC).
    • If a student is getting a USC, the instructor should let them know via email. Otherwise, student will hear this news in the mailed grade report they receive from UWC² Records. The email to students should include the following language, “If you would like to discuss options, please reach out to your Student Support Specialist at startlrn@uw.edu.”
  • The instructor may grant a student an incomplete (I), which gives the student more time to complete their coursework.
    • An instructor may grant an incomplete only if the student has requested it and they have 80% of the coursework completed. The incomplete gives students two more weeks to finish the course. We have temporarily changed the incomplete policy during the COVID pandemic to allow any student, regardless of how much work they have completed so far, to request a one-month extension. The instructor must submit the “I” grade to UWC2 within one week after the initial expiration date. The instructor then has one week after the student’s new expiration deadline to submit the final grade.
    • If the “I” has not been updated two weeks after the extended deadline, then Records will change the grade to a USC.

How to Submit Final Grades

Within one week of a student completing the course or their expiration date, the instructor must submit final grades. The process for recording final grades is as follows:

Step 1: Record Grades in Instructor Statistics Report in Open edX

  • Enter student final grades in the last column of the report and confirm.
  • If you entered an “incomplete,” you need to modify the student expiration date. When the extension is over, you will click on the incomplete button in the Grade column to enter the student’s final grade.

Step 2: Record Grades in Student Tracking Spreadsheet in OneDrive

  • Enter the student’s final grade in this spreadsheet so the IA knows each student’s status

Next Steps if Submitting Grades to UWC² for a Batch of Students

Download Report

  • Export Grades
  • Save the download file to include: course abbreviation_number_section_term_year.

Submit Grades

Next Steps if Submitting or Changing Grade for a Single Student

To submit a grade for an individual student, convert an incomplete or make a correction to an existing grade:

  • Go to UWC² Records site: https://uwnetid.sharepoint.com/sites/UWC2Records.
  • Sign in with your UW NetID and password.
  • Fill out the Individual Student form ‐ submission reason, course information, student information, and grade.
  • Select Submit
  • Receive message that your response was submitted.

Final Step for both Batched and Individual Submissions

If you enter a SC or USC, the Grade column in the Instructor Statistics Report in Open edX shows the grade and a check box.  Check the box once you submit final grades to the UWC² Records site.  After the box is checked, the student will disappear from the Instructor Statistics Report and will only appear in the exported .csv file.

UWC2 Enrollment Services (ES) will review grades on a weekly basis and will send students an email about how to enroll in their next course (if applicable). Students receive no email from ES if they get a USC or if they have just completed the final course in program. ES un-enrolls USC students from Open EdX. Students receive a paper grade report from UWC² Records in the mail a few weeks after their grade has been submitted.


If a student is unable to complete a course because of physical or mental debilitation or other circumstances beyond their control, they may petition for a refund OR up to four more months to complete the course without having to pay again.  Students should email their request to Registration Services at c2reg@uw.edu. If requesting an extension, the student needs to indicate how much extra time (up to four months) beyond their existing end date they are requesting. Students are generally required to provide documentation (doctor’s note, employer letter, etc.) to substantiate their claim.

If a refund is approved, Registration withdraws the student from the course and provides a tuition refund. If the extension is granted, Registration updates the student’s end date in EOS with a note and the PM notifies the instructional team and asks that they update the student’s end date in the Student Tracking Spreadsheet and the Instructor Statistics Report. Hardship extensions are available one time per self-paced program.


Students will have the opportunity to provide feedback to the course through the Mid-Course and End-of-Course Evaluations. The link to this survey is embedded into Open edX at the appropriate point. Your Program Manager will pull the responses that have come in and provide them to you on a quarterly basis.


Below are descriptions and links to additional instructional resources.

Instructional Guide for Career Accelerator Self-Paced Courses

The Instructional Guide for CA Self-Paced Courses guide describes a standard set of instructional best practices recommended to successfully run courses in this format. It addresses reviewing assignments, managing discussion boards, conducting office hours, communicating with students and facilitating continuous improvement of the course. This document also contains a rubric that UWPCE staff will use to evaluate the instructional practices used in the course.

Teaching at UW PCE course

The Teaching at UW PCE course is a seven-unit training designed to ensure that both new and veteran instructors in non-credit courses and certificates have consistent information about the logistics and policies of teaching in our organization, as well as good practices designing, delivering and assessing their courses for teaching adult learners.

Instructor Resources website

The Instructor Resources website provides additional general resources to answer your questions about teaching and learning at UW PCE across all formats, and to support you in engaging more thoroughly with your students. Specific topics addressed include:

  • Assessment and Grading Techniques
  • Engaging Adult Students
  • Library Resources
  • Structuring Individual Class Sessions
  • Teaching the First Day of Class