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Teaching Online


Here are some questions that instructors frequently ask. A few of these have been answered on other pages of this site, but this page will serve as a quickly available resource.

1. Does online attract a certain type of student?

An online class usually has more diversity - from those with Master's to the very unskilled - and you have to account for those differences. According to some studies, introverts have better success. For great coverage on this topic, read "Characteristic of Distance Learning Students" in Online versus F2F.

2. What should I do when a student crashes a test?

First of all, do not used "Forced Completion" for tests. This causes crashing difficulties. Time your tests instead as it satisfies the same security concerns. It allows a student to continue the test after a crashing by reopening the browser. The test timer will continue through this.

If a student crashes anyway, you cannot retrieve student answers unless you go into the test and count correct answers and manually record their score in Grade Center. You must reset the test (unlock it via the Grade Center), then you can allow a retake (with a different pool of questions). To avoid rewarding the rare student who crashes a test on purpose when performing badly, set a limit on the number of retakes you will give or deduct 10% from any retakes. And advise students of the following reasons for test crashes: 1) clicking the wrong buttons or keys - e.g., a "back button" when that is prohibited, 2) clicking too fast and not waiting for the screen to refresh (they need to click and wait), 3) having many programs active simultaneously on their computer and switching between them, and 4) bad or lost ISP connection which crashes the timer.

3. How do I avoid excessive student excuses and anger after they have missed a deadline?

First of all, make it your policies on deadlines and makeups very clear in your syllabus and orientation before the course begins (refer to this in any correspondence). Mention that allowing exceptions would not be fair to other students in the class. Make assignments "unavailable" after the deadline date (see Bb assignment "Modify Options" - students seem to understand the finality of this and do not make the same mistake twice. Include "extra-credit" assignments in your course which can be used by anyone for whatever reason: to improve their overall grade, to allow more flexibility in your course, OR to makeup for missed deadlines.

4. What is the best day for weekly student deadlines?

Choose a weekday when there is less Bb traffic which can slow down Bb and Safeassign (Sunday night is the most popular deadline and has the biggest clogups). Choose a midday deadline, so that there will Help Desk availability in case students have problems.

5. How do I prevent students from using Wikipedia as a reference?

Explain in your syllabus and at orientation that Wikipedia is not an legitimate source and can be edited by anyone. State that you will not accept work that includes these as sources or references (giving either a zero for the assignment or returning the work for changes). Or refer students to: MSNBC Wikipedia.

6. How does SafeAssign work?

SafeAssign is a feature of Bb that allows you to check all written work for plagiarism. It can be set up for automatic checking of assignments (with integration into Grade Center) or you can do Direct Submit for any papers. (for a tutorial on SafeAssign see Bb Tutorials)

7. Why can't I read some of the files students send to me?

There can be many reasons for this. Sometimes (rarely) files become corrupted. But the two most common reasons are: 1) Mac users not including a file extension and 2) students saving their file in an unusual format. For the first, you can simply add your own file extension to the file (such as .doc) and open it or you can suggest that Mac users always include the "add file extension" choice when using the "Save as" dialog box. For the second reason, have students always save files to a familiar format such as "rtf." Explain that almost all programs have a drop down list of choices in the "Save as" dialog and give them choice you will accept. Also, be sure to install all file format conversion/compatibility packs in your own copy of word (Also see the sidebar on compatibility in Content)

8. Students think I am rude. Why?

Email is different than F2F conversation. Tone of voice and body language are absent. Sometimes a direct statement can appear rude, robotic, unfeeling. Sarcasm rarely works well online. Use first names in emails, sign your emails, be patient, use humor, be enthusiastic and encouraging - and read your emails, Db posts, and announcements before posting.

9. Students only visit a few areas of my site. How can I change that?

If you title a menu button "assignments," students will tend to go to that area immediately when logging in. You might either rearrange/retitle your buttons or include many references to other areas of your course in Dbs, announcements, assignments, etc.

10. How do I prepare my Bb course for the following semester?

Empty Bb course container shells are automatically created for all new sections in a process called "Snapshot" (you will see these listed in the "My Courses" area of Bb before each semester begins). If you wish to include material or settings from a previous semester, go into the previous course and choose "Copy Course." You can then select the target container (you want to copy to) and what components of the current course you would like copied into that container (for detail on this process see Server). Students for each new section are automatically added into each section by Colleague. If you wish to develop you course early, request a development container (see Server).

11. Why do the Dbs that I copy to a new Bb course container appear as "anonymous?"

This is a glitch ("feature") in Bb and cannot be changed. If you wish to have you name appear as author, you must copy/paste all previous posts into new threads/posts one-by-one.

12. How long should I leave my course online after it is over (and how do I remove the clutter of all these old containers)?

The varies from instructor to instructor - some make it "unavailable" to students immediately (from Bb Control Panel>Settings), others leave it up until the following semester. The course should remain available long enough for students to check their work after receiving their final grades, but longer than that and you increase the risk of students confusing their active online courses or some using your course as a "cheat sheet" for the following semester. Courses will stay on the server for at least two years. You can "hide" old containers from view on your Bb account home page by clicking the pencil icon in the upper right of the "My Courses" box.

13. What is the overall picture of when things are due in online course development?

See The Server.

14. When and how do I drop a student?

Login absence is a good measure of inactivity. To be cautious, you might first make the student "unavailable" (see Bb Control Panel), and then if there is no protesting email, delete the student (and drop formally with Colleague).

15. Do I have to develop a college Web page to teach an online class?

No, but putting information about your online course, how to log in, how to crash the class on a college faculty Web page helps students better decide on whether your course is right for them. (see Orientation sidebar)

16. How do I add a guest or an observer?

See Guest Access or Observer Access in the Bb Control Panel - you can chose which areas are available to either. (also see Outside-In)

17. Do I get double-pay for each new online prep I teach?

No. Both full-time and adjunct faculty get double-pay only for the first online class taught. After that any new online course (new prep or not) pays at the regular rate. And, double-pay does not apply to hybrid/blended courses (for course definitions see the side bar in Hybrid Courses).

Last Updated: 04/04/2016

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