Academic Director’s January Update – Starting Second Semester

Happy New Year! Are you ready for winter semester term 2? 

I hope you and your family had a wonderful holiday season and return to work more rested and ready for the second winter semester. Although not quite as hectic as the busy times during the start of the academic year, the start of the second semester has similar challenges for an instructor.  

Students may be adjusting their class schedules to optimize their timetables or secure spots in previously full classes. As an instructor, it is essential to acknowledge this dynamic and strategically plan the initial two weeks of your course.  Assessments scheduled during this period might require students who are newly enrolled in the course to request makeup opportunities. Where feasible, avoiding such assessments will alleviate challenges for students and reduce your time spent responding to student requests.  

Various factors contribute to potential student absences at the beginning of the semester. Winter, being the peak season for colds, flu, and COVID, presents health challenges that can affect attendance. Additionally, international students may encounter difficulties returning to UBCO, with flight delays exacerbated by inclement weather. Weather conditions may prompt UBCO administration to cancel classes. It is important to be aware of the weather policy and consult the UBC Okanagan web site for updates. Being aware of these potential hurdles enables instructors to navigate and address attendance challenges with understanding and flexibility.  

Fostering connections with fellow instructors is invaluable for exchanging ideas, exploring opportunities, and navigating common challenges. CTL organizes multiple Communities of Practice (COP) connecting instructors in a variety of areas.  There are communities on Teaching and Educational Leadership, Wellbeing, Digital Assessment, Work-Integrated Learning, and Access, Inclusion, and Place-based Teaching. The cold winter months pass a little faster with colleagues to share experiences with. 

Before classes start, this is a good time to review your syllabus as good planning will help avoid many issues. Consider this simple checklist: 

  • Does your syllabus format follow the guidelines of your department and Faculty? 
  • Have you verified your course time and dates and consulted the academic calendar to be aware of any days with no scheduled classes? Note the last day for change in registration (January 19), midterm break (Feb. 19 to 23), and withdrawal date (March 22). 
  • Have you provided course learning outcomes? Do your assessments evaluate these learning outcomes? 
  • Even if the materials are not yet finalized, have you evaluated if your plan is feasible, and assessments can be completed as planned by the students? 

By proactively addressing these elements before the semester kicks off, you set the foundation for a well-organized course, minimizing potential issues that may arise during the term. Whatever your plan, if you believe it and communicate it clearly to students, then your course is more likely to be successful. 

Have a great start to the semester, 

Ramon Lawrence 

CTL Academic Director