skip to Main Content
Panther Outside Of The Pitt Union In The Snow.

5 Things to Do Over Winter Recess to Prepare for Spring Classes

As we head into the winter recess, the start of the spring semester looms on the horizon. For those of you who didn’t teach in the fall and are in the midst of planning how you will tackle the challenges and complexities of teaching in our current learning environment, the Flex@Pitt model may be still somewhat mysterious. Here are some things you can do over the winter break to prepare for the start of classes in January, whether you taught in the fall or not.

  1. Get to know the technology that supports online learning.
    • Canvas: The university migrated away from CourseWeb/Blackboard in the fall and has fully transitioned to Canvas as the University’s LMS.  There are a number of resources available to you to help you get up-to-speed with Canvas.
      1. Visit the Teaching Center’s Canvas@Pitt-Resources page to explore a number of
      2. The Teaching Center offers a series of Introduction to Canvas Webinars – Part 1: Getting Started, Part 2: Modules and Files, and Part 3: Quizzes and Grading.  You can watch a recorded version of these webinars or register for a live virtual sessions in the new year.
    • Panopto: Consider using Panopto to record course or unit introductions or create short video lectures, tutorials or demonstrations.  You can use these in all operational postures and they help you move to beyond text-based content, and they can help build a sense of social presence in your online classroom.
  2. Visit the Flex@Pitt Playbook.  Spend some time with the Flex@Pitt Playbook. This Canvas-based resource provides a broad range of information related to the implementation of the Flex@Pitt model. The Playbook provides an overview of the Flex@Pitt model, identifies ways to engage students in the remote environment, provides pointers to technology resources and contains a helpful FAQ, which addresses a number of common concerns and questions.
  3. Plan your approach.  Where and how you teach will depend on the University’s current operational posture, the capacity of the classroom you have been assigned, and your own comfort with being on in the classroom. As you plan for the spring semester, determine what activities can most effectively be delivered asynchronously (e.g., short lecture videos, online discussion forums, online comprehension checks, etc.), what activities lend themselves to synchronous online sessions (real-time discussions, online office hours, online question and answer sessions, online problem solving sessions, etc.), and what content is best delivered in-class (when possible).
  4. Create a communication plan. Since the natural and organic communication that happens in the classroom will change as we move to online methods, it is important to be more intentional and deliberate with what, when, and how we communicate with our students. Consider making a communication plan that identifies when and how you will communicate announcements, updates, important course information, feedback, etc.  In addition, creating opportunities to meet your students, such as scheduling office hours or informal meetings, can enhance communication and engagement.
  5. Administer a mid-term course evaluation. Think about administering a mid-term course evaluation.  This will help you identify problems or issues before the end of the semester, while you have time to address and remedy them.  The Office of Measurement and Evaluation of Teaching offers opt-in automated midterm course evaluations.

For more questions or to schedule a consultation, reach out to us when the Teaching Center resumes full service on Jan. 4, 2021.

Back To Top