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We have compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions about topics related to teaching remotely. This list is a work in progress and will be updated periodically.

Expandable List

Opportunities for Training:

  • TA Q&A Drop-In Sessions with an Educational Developer: These sessions are an opportunity for TAs to connect with an Educational Developer and ask any teaching-related questions they may have. Early Fall sessions took place September 3rd, 8th, 9th, 11th, and 14th. Three additional sessions are now being offered, on September 28th, September 30th, and October 2nd , each from 12:30-1:30 pm in Zoom. Individuals may register here.
  • Online Workshops Available via the 2020 Teaching & Learning Forum (TLF): The TLF offers TAs, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and sessional instructors information sessions and workshops on various teaching and learning topics. This year the event consists of more than 30 unique workshops (e.g., Teaching Assistant Professionalism and Good Practices, An Overview of McMaster Supported Teaching Technologies, An Introduction to Avenue to Learn, Accessibility and Accommodation, Active Learning, Marking Efficiently and Effectively) and is taking place fully online. The asynchronous workshops (pre-recorded workshops you can complete at any time) are available starting August 20th. A few synchronous online workshops (live online workshops taking place at a set time) will be held on September 10th. As a registrant, there is no limit to the number of online asynchronous workshops that you may complete. However, should you choose to participate in the synchronous online workshops, you may only register for up to two workshops scheduled. Please register here. Registering for the event will give you access to the sessions during the event itself, as well as throughout the duration of the 2020-2021 academic year. If you are being asked to engage in the TLF as part of training for a TA position, please be sure to connect with your employment supervisor prior to the event so you can discuss expectations (i.e., which sessions to attend, number of hours that will be accounted for in your Hours of Work Form). Any mandatory training that you are asked to complete by your employment supervisor should be accounted for in your hours of work. Training deemed to be not mandatory (i.e., optional training) will not be accounted for in your hours of work (i.e., it will not be paid training).
  • Online Training Offered Broadly by the MacPherson Institute: As a TA, you are also welcome to register for any upcoming online workshops noted on the Training tab on MacPherson Institute’s Teaching Remotely website.
  • MacPherson Institute’s Five EDUCATN Courses: The MacPherson Institute is proud to offer Teaching and Learning Certificates of Completion for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Throughout their studies, these individuals may earn one, or both, of two certificates of completion offered. The Teaching and Learning Foundations Certificate of Completion requires completion of EDUCATN 600: Essential Skills in Teaching and Learning I and EDUCATN 650: Peer-Evaluated Teaching Experience. The Teaching and Learning Scholar Certificate of Completion requires these two courses, in addition to three others, namely EDUCATN 700: Essential Skills in Teaching and Learning II, EDUCATN 751: Principles and Practices of University Teaching, and EDUCATN 760: Self-Directed Study. All courses are free, zero-unit, pass/fail, graduate-level courses. Graduate students register in Mosaic, postdoctoral fellows by emailing gibbond@mcmaster.ca and requesting that their name be added to a class list. EDUCATN 600, 650, and 751 are already full for the Fall term, but they, and the other courses, will be offered again in the Winter 2021 term, registration opening on December 1, 2020. Registration is first come, first served. There are no waitlists maintained for the courses.

Online Teaching Development Resources:

  • TA Welcome Package: This Fall 2020 package was developed to highlight and direct TAs to the various supports available to them from the MacPherson Institute, UTS and the Library.
  • Teaching Assistant (TA) Guide for Remote Teaching: This guide provides an overview of important information that any TA should be aware of when fulfilling their role remotely at McMaster. From the questions that TAs should consider asking their supervisor, to information about educational technologies, netiquette, and online teaching development opportunities, the guide will help any TA start off on good footing.
  • McMaster Teaching Assistant Guide: This guide covers the basics, from TA roles and responsibilities at McMaster to how to teach in an accessible and inclusive manner, plan a lesson, engage students in active learning, assess and provide feedback on student learning, and document your teaching effectiveness. One section that TAs tend to find particularly helpful is the section on common TA-related questions and challenges.
  • McMaster’s Inclusive Teaching and Learning Guide: In this guide, you will be introduced to five broad principles for inclusive teaching and see concrete examples of how to put the principles into practice.
  • Forward with FLEXibility: A Teaching and Learning Resource on Accessibility and Inclusion: Modules 1, 2, 3, and 5 are particularly relevant to TAs. They will teach you about the foundational principles of inclusive instruction/accessible education and how to apply those principles in your teaching/TA duties.
  • E-Learning Section of McMaster’s Accessibility Hub: Here, TAs will find accessibility support in developing accessible content for digital media, including Word, PowerPoint, Email, and some presentation techniques for recording presentations accessibly. Additionally, there is accessibility-related information for McMaster’s supported tools, and a remote teaching and captioning guide.
  • The Library Remote Support Hub: Whether you’re teaching, learning, or researching remotely, The Library Remote Support Hub has been designed to help you with your information needs. From accessing books online and connecting to electronic resources remotely, to requesting a research consultation and seeking media creation support, the Library Remote Support Hub can be of assistance.
  • CUPE 3906 Unit 1 Website: The CUPE 3906 Unit 1 website has a wealth of resources that will be of value to you in your role as a TA (e.g., the current collective agreement).

Avenue is hosted by D2L which is located at AWS Montreal. It has redundancies built into the system for this reason. AWS is the backbone of Amazon itself, as well as familiar and reliable services like Netflix. As long as those are up, Avenue should be as well.

It is also important to note that Avenue scales to manage speed etc, so 1000 users or 10,000 users shouldn’t make a difference.  We often see busy times that have over 110,000 logins a day happen without any hiccups.

However, sometimes students will have issues when connecting from home, as those are variable and subject to other people’s activity in the house. Most of the time it’s not Avenue but the end user that is having issues. The idea of computer sanitation is important, and should be top of mind the same day as writing a crucial test at home

Good computer hygiene is suggested for those taking remote tests:

  • Turn off all unnecessary programs, especially: Netflix, YouTube, games like Xbox or PS4, anything that might be downloading or streaming
  • If your house is shared, ask others to refrain from doing those activities during the test
  • If you can, connect to the internet via a wired connection
  • Move close to the wifi hub in your house
  • Restart your computer, 1-2 hours before the exam. IA re-start can be very helpful for a number of computer hiccups.

Is it possible to disable the ability of students to copy the questions if we want to use the quiz questions as a final exam? 

You can disable ‘right click’ which is found as an option within the quiz. However, in reality students can still capture an image of the quiz question. If you are concerned about students ‘copying’ the question, we would recommend not using quiz questions on the final exam.

 

Could we set a timer as to when they must complete the exam and control it by having only one question appear at a time?

You can set a time limit for the entire exam but not for each question.

Can Avenue quizzes be organized so that they’re open to students over several days but within that period students only have 2-3 hours to complete the it?

Yes, instructors can set the start and end date to be wide open but set the duration of the text/exam to 180 minutes. This function can be found within the restrictions tab of the quiz under the heading “Timing”. You will want “Enforced Time Limit”, and to check the box labelled “Prevent the student from making further changes”. This will, for example, leave the text/exam open from April 5-8, but once a student begins, they only have 2 hours to complete it.

How can Avenue question banks be set up? 

If you’re looking for question banks, typically publishers can provide them to you. Ask them for instructions on how to import for Brightspace. Typically, you’ll receive a zip package. Login to Avenue –> go to your course –> Course Admin –> Import/Export/Copy components to import into the course.

 

Is the chat function private? E.g. if a student and prof are talking on chat, can anyone else see that conversation? 

If the chat is accessed from within a course, it is NOT private. Typically, there are only one or two people in the chat at the same time. However, if there’s a concurrent user who enters the chat, anything typed will be visible to everyone within the chat.

There is a chat in the e-mail function which is private. We would strongly suggest using Microsoft Teams, if possible, for this sort of communication.

Groups can mimic the behaviour of sections, so you can create groups of students, and, using the Assignments tool, assign each group a different version of the exam  

We recommend an asynchronous approach first. Recording lectures, posting content and discussion forum prompts in Avenue is a good start. If you determine that synchronous (live) lectures are best, please use WebEx Meetings or Microsoft Teams and record the lecture. Post the recording on your Avenue course shell so that students who are unable to make it are still able to access the recording.

If you are uncertain as to what web conferencing solution you should use, check out our “Web conferencing Comparison” Sheet.

The current policy is that students are not to come to campus which means that assignment submissions should be handled virtually. Assignments can be easily submitted by all students using the Avenue Assignments Tool.

Reweighting is not possible in Avenue. Best to reweight individuals in Excel and indicate that Avenue will not display correct grades. 

However, exemption of a grade is possible (this treats the assignment/grade as if it didn’t exist) 

Click here for Grade Exemption steps

Yes, unless there is a provision to conduct defenses online. Contact Graduate Studies for more information: https://gs.mcmaster.ca/contacts/

As with proctored exams, assessments that require students to access specialized equipment should be modified to use equipment they already have access to, such as a phone or laptop for recording audio, etc. There is a great deal of uncertainty in terms of what services will remain available in the coming weeks for borrowing or renting equipment. Instructors should avoid relying on such services in the case that they are suddenly not available before the end of term. 

You can email your class list through the Faculty Centre on Mosaic. Sign into Mosaic using your MacID. Within the Faculty Centre, click on Class Roster and select the appropriate class. At the bottom of the page there is a “Notify All Students” button, which will populate all of the students’ emails in an email template that will be sent via Outlook.  

Academic integrity is an important consideration for moving assessments online and should be considered on a case by case basis as you would with a traditional course. You’ll likely be able to spot a sudden and unexplained increase to an individual student’s performance even in the online environmentIt’s important to consider that students’ access to resources, including their available time, may have changed significantly with the shift to online learning. Keep in mind that students may have less access to the internet, may be accessing course resources by their phone as their only connected device or may be scrambling to address concerns with their finances or living arrangements during this shift. 

Instructors may lose some of the assurance of academic integrity by moving tests and quizzes online and it’s important to balance this with accessibility and preventing undue hardship, through unnecessarily difficult assessments, on students as they complete the term. Rather than trying to set a “cheat-proof” test, instead deliberately design open-book, open-source or even collaborative exams. After graduation, students will almost never be told to produce work in total isolation. We can design assignments that mirror and prepare students for the “real world”, where they will have books, internet resources and colleagues for help.  

Other good ideas on academic integrity and online testing here: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/career/teaching-intelligence-how-take-your-classes-online#survey-answer 

Considerations for putting your course online, including considerations for assessments, can be found at the following blog post: https://anygoodthing.com/2020/03/12/please-do-a-bad-job-of-putting-your-courses-online/ 

University Technology Services (UTS) has launched a Virtual Desktop service that allows users to access UTS Student Labs anywhere there is internet connectivity.

At this time, the Virtual Desktop service (VMware Horizon Client) has a capacity for 330 simultaneous users to access licensed software. This service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Please see the IT Continuity Tools and Services page for instructions on how to download

If you have any questions or challenges accessing this service, please contact: tuts@mcmaster.ca. 

We currently do not have an institutional tool to support remote, online proctoring for final exams. We strongly advocate consideration of other options for a final assessment (you can find these in our Alternative Assessments tab). Online proctoring presents many issues, including: student privacy (recording student private information, which can be quite sensitive depending on their circumstances); data privacy, as the servers for these remote proctoring services do not reside in Canada; technical roadblocks with access and robust internet connection; software requirements for students who may not have the appropriate device; and finally, evidence that it does very little to prevent cheating.

The Campus Store is committed to student success and has been actively reaching out to instructors to offer assistance in identifying digital resources for the spring & summer term.  The Campus Store has access to a cutting-edge digital distribution platform that contains dynamic content from a large number of Canadian Publishers.  OER content from eCampus Ontario, BC Campus OpenEd and copyright free classics are also loaded into this system and can be adopted by faculty for free distribution to students.  This platform also enables the store to publish and distribute materials digitally while ensuring DRM, copyright management, royalty management and secure transaction processing is in place.  Over the past few years we have worked in partnership with MPS to develop digital e-coursepacks that we distribute through this platform.  These are a great digital alternative to a printed coursepack.

The Campus Store Course Materials team is actively working with content providers to increase the number of digital assets that faculty have access to.  They encourage staff and faculty members reach out to our course materials team by email at d-bktext@mcmaster.ca.  They are here to help with locating a digital resource or finding a suitable digital alternative to print.

Campus Stores across Canada worked with Publishers to get students access to eBooks through April 30th.  The McMaster Campus Store has been using their website as well as their Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook channels to spread the word.  Students just need to log in with their McMaster email address to access the free materials.  Keep in mind that these are flat file etextbooks, they do not have the interactive learning tools that many of the faculty members at McMaster Adopt. This work has been done in partnership with a company called Vital Source in the US.