D2L Semester Pre-check
The purpose of this page is to provide you with a step-by-step list of the foundational tasks to complete prior to the beginning of a course. These steps will get you and your students started on the right trajectory. Once you have access to your course(s), you’ll need to take some time to familiarize yourself with a few of its key components so that you’re ready for the first day of class.
The video will give you an idea of where to get started and what to look for in your new course shell. For more detail on each step, please review each step listed below.
What to Look For
- Link to Syllabus (syllabi.dtcc.edu)
- All current and approved syllabi are on the syllabi.dtcc.edu website. Check to make sure your syllabus is properly linked to the syllabi website.
- Learning objectives (CCPOs & MPOs)
- These will tell you the knowledge and skills that students will be learning in your class. It’s important to review these carefully so you have a clear understanding of what the course is all about.
- Evaluation measures
- The evaluation measures explain how student grades are calculated. Take a look to see where points are distributed and how the assignments are broken down for a student’s grade.
Pay special attention to policies related to…
- Communication methods and response times
- How do you want students to communicate with you? How quickly will you respond to their messages? Do you send email on the weekends? Be sure to consider those policies and decide how you’d like to communicate during the semester.
- Late work and/or make up work
- Review the late policy and make up work policy of the course so that you are prepared to answer student questions and can help manage their expectations.
- Grading standards (rubrics, etc.)
- You can find course rubrics by looking at individual assignments or discussions or by going to the Course Admin section and clicking on the Rubrics link. Review grading standards, rubric descriptions, and any related grading criteria that you can find.
- Expectations for returning grades to students
- Be sure to review the feedback and grade turn around expectations so you can plan ahead and make sure to grade student work in plenty of time to help them on their next assignments.
Familiarize yourself with…
- General course flow and pacing
- How many assignments are due each week? How much instructional time does the course provide each week? Be aware of the general course workflow so you can help your students prioritize their time.
- Structure and organization of content
- Look to see how the content of the course is organized. Are there any learning units? Are the modules organized by theme or topic?
- Due dates for assignments
- Check the due dates on the activities with the dates listed in the course schedule. Are they the same? Is the whole course open on the first day, or do modules release throughout the semester?
Familiarize yourself with…
- Types of instruction (e.g. video, powerpoint, textbook, etc.)
- There should be instructional content each week for students to review. What types of instruction are there? Is it mostly reading? Are there videos or voiced powerpoint presentations? If there are videos or voiced powerpoints, are they closed captioned?
- Amount of instruction each week
- Roughly how much time each week will students need to review all of the instructional materials? Are some weeks heavier than others? Consider giving students a guide to help them manage their time.
- Any additional help available (e.g. remediation)
- Are there any links or additional modules directing students to where they can get extra help on a difficult task or concept?
- Are all links working properly?
- Wherever possible, course content will be compliant with accessibility standards and accommodate the use of assistive technologies (i.e., alt tags for images, closed captioning and/or transcript for multimedia, etc.)
Pay special attention to the…
- Level of assessments (e.g. formative, summative, etc.)
- Are there small-stakes assessments that give students the opportunity to practice new skills and concepts? Are there larger-stakes assignments that evaluate how well students have mastered the CCPOs of the course?
- Type of assessments (e.g. discussion, quiz, essay, exam, worksheet, etc.)
- What kinds of assessments do students participate in each week? Are there opportunities for collaboration? Do students engage the content, the instructor, and their peers each week?
- Number of assessments
- How many assessments are there each week? Does it vary from week to week? How many summative (high-stakes) assessments do the students complete over the course of the semester? Consider alerting students to weeks that are particularly heavy so they can manage their time accordingly.
- Assessments instructions and requirements
- Do the assessments have clear instructions? Are there assessment guidelines or rubrics posted? Think about it from a student’s perspective- what questions might they ask about how to complete an assessments? Consider including that information if it is missing.
- Are all links working properly?
- Assignment groupings and categories
- Are assignments grouped together in a way that makes sense? Are all of the learning activities listed in the gradebook?
- Grade calculation and scoring – Verify the gradebook set-up
- How is the gradebook calculated – points or percentage? Does the calculation match the evaluation measures listed in the syllabus and/or evaluation measures menu? Does the math work, eg. does the gradebook calculate the student’s grade accurately?
- Instructor contact information, including office hours and expected response time for communication (e.g. questions from students, feedback on assignments, grading of assignments).
Communication Plan – Every distance education course must include a communication plan that informs students about the following:
- Your preferred mode of communication when students have questions or need to contact you about the course (e.g. email, phone, office hours). This information can also be listed in your Instructor Information.
- Typical response time for student inquiries. How quickly will you reply to their emails and phone messages? Is your response time different on weekends and holidays? This information can also be listed in your Instructor Information.
- How progress will be communicated. What is the typical turnaround time for you to grade activities? What type of feedback should students expect from you?
- How course changes will be communicated.
- How often should students log in to the course and their DTCC email?
Course Orientation – Every distance education course must include an orientation to the course. It can be written or video and must include these key areas:
- Welcome to the course
- Course overview
- Explanation of course organization (how to navigate and where to find key elements)
- Course expectations
- Where to find key course components
- Explanation of the learning objectives
- How to submit assessments
- Where to go for help
This may be one of the last tasks you accomplish, as it requires the course to be fairly complete, especially if you are using a screen cast of the course.
Distance ed courses must provide links to students for support with learning, other support, and technology.
Taking a few minutes to review each of these components will help ensure that you’re fully prepared to start on your first day of class. If you have additional questions, be sure to reach out to your course lead or department chair for help.