Questions to Ask Your Chair or Department Representative
While many campus policies and procedures are universal, there are sometimes significant differences between departments and programs on campus. For that reason, you may wish to inquire at your department about the following items:
- Has my paperwork been sent to Human Resources? (This is important because you cannot log in to the portal at https://my.ucf.edu/ until your paperwork is done and a Network ID, or NID, is created for you.)
- Who in our department is responsible for PeopleSoft permissions? (You may need their help accessing myUCF and the class roster.)
- If my NID isn’t active yet, who can print out my rosters for me?
- What is the login information for the instructor’s computer in the classroom where I will be teaching? (It is typically your NID and NID password. Check with support personnel on regional campuses for local policies).
- Will I be assigned a faculty mentor? How does our department handle mentoring for new faculty?
- Where can I find our department’s governance documents, annual evaluation standards, and tenure and promotion guidelines?
- What is our department’s procedure for reporting sick leave?
- How many office hours per week should I hold?
- Will I be issued keys for our department offices and/or building?
- What are the departmental policies regarding overrides to fill a class beyond its standard enrollment cap?
- How can I make photocopies for class?
- Does our department or college provide instructional supplies like dry-erase markers?
- Do we use Scantrons in our department? If so, which color? Where do we get or buy them? And how do we grade them (is there a reader in the department, or do we use the Test Scoring Services)?
- Does our department have a document or website explaining how my courses fit into the larger curriculum? You’ll want to pay particular attention to curricular goals and to what extent your class includes prerequisites or instills basic skills needed for courses further in the curriculum.]
- Will I “inherit” a syllabus for my class, or perhaps several previous examples? Is it preferred that I customize the syllabus or leave it as received?
- Are there department-specific policies that should be in every syllabus (e.g., about use of technology, Turnitin, etc.)? (See our syllabus page for several examples of standardized policy statements.)
- Does the department have a recommendation about whether I should use plus/minus grading or flat grading?
- When are department faculty meetings? Am I expected to attend?
- Who does the textbook ordering for our department? What are our internal deadlines?
- Will I receive a physical inbox/mailbox in the department?
- Where can I find information about our department’s travel approval and reimbursement procedures?
- What is our department’s policy regarding teaching at other universities or colleges while teaching at UCF?
Timeline of the Semester: Deadlines, Due Dates, and Preparing for the First Day of Class
As soon as you get hired:
- Print out the list of Questions to Ask Your Department Chair and ask these at the department as soon as you can. These questions are important to ask because departments differ greatly in their requirements and expectations of instructors.
- Sign paperwork in your department (usually there is a hire letter).
- Once paperwork is processed through PeopleSoft (you may have to wait until your department finishes this paperwork), look up your NID (network ID) at the “portal” called myUCF: http://my.ucf.edu
- Sign paperwork in Human Resources, bringing along your Social Security card and driver’s license (or passport).
- Check with your department if there is a central coordinator who orders textbooks. If not, do it yourself now with AIP. Please also refer to the College of Undergraduate Studies’ page on textbook adoption.
- Request a “coursepack” of photocopied material that you want students to buy with their books, if desired.
- Set up the online portions of your courses. Webcourses@UCF is UCF’s implementation of the Canvas learning management system (LMS). Online sections are automatically created 10 days prior to the start of each semester, but can be requested earlier using the Faculty Webcourse Manager. It is also possible to request a “development section” (fake course shell) to build content initially, with the plan to transfer into your official Webcourses sections later. Go to http://cdl.ucf.edu/teach/ to get started with setting up your online courses.
- If you don’t see the courses you expect on the Faculty Webcourse Manager, it’s possible your departmental scheduler has not assigned you to those courses (they are listed as taught by STAFF). Inquire at your department.
- Reverse-engineer any syllabi you inherited from previous instructors, trying to ensure you understand the course objectives and the internal structure/logic of the course. Also, start crafting your own syllabi as needed. Important: consult the syllabus section on our website: https://fctl.ucf.edu/teaching-resources/course-design/syllabus/
- Order a parking permit online: http://parking.ucf.edu – at UCF, your license plate is your permit, and back-in parking is prohibited so that license plates can be read from the street/driving lane.
- Place materials on Course Reserve at the Library, if desired.
60+ Days before the start of classes:
- Textbooks are due 60 days before classes begin per a state requirement. Contact the bookstore about textbook orders with AIP, and refer to the College of Undergraduate Studies’ page on textbook adoption.
- Also visit our Affordable Instructional Materials page for ideas and tips for providing instructional resources to students.
Two weeks before the start of classes:
- Confirm that the books you ordered are in the UCF Bookstore for students to buy. The Bookstore is located in the John T. Washington Center.
- Obtain your faculty ID (this is purely optional for adjuncts) at the UCF Card Office, also in the John T. Washington Center.
- Look for training and orientation opportunities at the Faculty Center: Professors, Visiting Professors, and Instructors are invited to attend the New Faculty Orientation at the start of the Fall Semester; also, adjunct workshops and adjunct learning communities occur just prior to every term.
One week before the start of classes:
- Download your class roster from myUCF: log in to the portal, click on “Faculty/Advisor Self Service” near the top left, and click on “Instructors.” Next, select “View Your Class Schedule.” The three-person icon can be clicked to view the roster, and if you wish to download to Excel, that link is near the top-right of the roster. If a course is listed with “STAFF” as the instructor rather than your name, you may have to ask someone in your department to print the roster for you.
- Take note of your class meeting location: if you exported the roster to Excel, you will only find the student info, and it doesn’t include the class meeting time, day(s) of the week, or room—you must view these while still online using the Class Roster tool on the portal, or ask the person printing your roster from the department to make sure that information is included.
- Look up the location of your classroom by consulting our acronyms list, and then looking for the building on the campus map.
- Preview your classroom(s). How will you use the classroom space? Will you need to bring any equipment that isn’t already in the room, like a slide advancer or lapel microphone? Will you need dry-erase markers? What about evacuation procedures?
- Ensure that you have an academic engagement activity prepared in your Webcourse for the first week of class.
First Day of Class
The first day of class might seem to be a daunting prospect the first time you teach, but staying organized and planning the day well can make the experience a pleasant one. Here are some ideas to make the first day go as smoothly as possible:
- Bring dry-erase markers and erasers with you.
- Be early; set up any technology long before class begins so that you have extra time to fix problems that arise.
- A few minutes before the scheduled start, be available for student questions. If no one approaches you, engage students seated nearby in small talk.
- Start on time to set a good precedent for the rest of the semester.
- Consider not starting by distributing the syllabus and discussing the course policies. We recommend you leave the syllabus discussion for the last part of the class period.
- Introduce yourself and mention how you’d like to be called. Some instructors like to establish their credibility by relating personal stories relevant to the discipline being taught.
- Lay out a good atmosphere and climate. The first day sets the tone for the entire semester, so structure the first day with the climate you prefer, be it formal, relaxed, or humorous. Research suggests that the things students most value in a professor are enthusiasm, objectivity, and a sympathetic attitude toward the problems that students face.
- After introductions and icebreakers, consider starting with your course material directly. That sends a signal that your class is rigorous and the schedule is disciplined.
- Discuss the syllabus at the end of the first class period. Some instructors assign the syllabus as reading for a quiz to ensure it gets read, and others ask their students to sign a paper to signal their receipt of the syllabus. The latter action bolsters the view of the syllabus as a contract with students, which may well be how the syllabus will be treated in questions of disagreement that escalate to department chairs. However, be aware that while stressing the contractual side may elevate student responsibility, it may have undesirable rhetorical side-effects. If the syllabus is perceived as just a contract, students may view education as purely transactional in nature; they become “consumers” paying for their degrees, which can create unwanted grade expectations.
- Encourage students to visit your office hours.
- For more ideas on first day activities, visit: http://teaching.berkeley.edu/what-do-first-day-class
Obtaining Your Class Rosters
Download your class roster from myUCF: log in to the portal, click on “Faculty/Advisor Self Service” near the top left, and click on “Instructors.”
Next, select “View My Teaching Schedule.” The three-person icon can be clicked to view the roster, and if you wish to download to Excel, that link is near the top-right of the roster. You may have to hold the CTRL button on your keyboard as you click the link to download (if that fails, you might have to configure your browser to allow popups at the my.ucf.edu domain).
If your assigned course is listed with “STAFF” as the instructor rather than your name, you may have to ask someone in your department to print the roster for you. You might also request that someone in your department change the database so that you are listed as the instructor of record, and can get your own roster. It may also be necessary to have Computer Services change your permissions in PeopleSoft to the ‘instructor role’ – if so, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note that myUCF may require you to configure your browser to accept popups and to add my.ucf.edu as a “trusted site.”
Printing Photos of Your Students
It is possible to view photos of students registered in your class (the photos come from their student ID cards, which are stored digitally). Some instructors like to print the page(s) of photos and bring them along to class, the better to learn student names. Here is a walkthrough on how to print the photos:
- Sign in to Webcourses at webcourses.ucf.edu.
- Click “Account” on the left-hand side of the screen and choose “Settings”.
- On the left-hand navigation menu, select “Class Photos”.
- Choose the class from your roster for which you would like to print photos.
- Select “Print” at the top of the photo grid.
First two weeks of class:
- Students may freely add and drop classes during the first week. Adds and Drops are not processed after the start of the second week, so your roster will be stabilized at that time. For more information about the academic calendar in any given semester, visit http://calendar.ucf.edu/
- Start holding office hours as specified on your syllabus. Students tend to worry they are disturbing you, so make an effort to put them at ease when they arrive. To avoid misunderstandings, it’s best not to hold office hours in a closed room; at least leave the door partly open.
- Link students to this extensive guide to effective study skills, and stress to them the importance of quizzing themselves on your content multiple times per week.
Throughout the semester:
- The deadline for students to withdraw from the course occurs several weeks after the add/drop week. This process does not need to involve you. Any students still on the roster who have not withdrawn can simply be given failing grades.
- It’s good practice to create your own course evaluations and distribute these to students part way through the semester. Though they are often called “mid-semester evaluations,” they are arguably most effective when given three to five weeks into the term, leaving you enough time to implement any worthwhile ideas. We have a template calling for general comments, and one asking specific questions. You can freely customize, and deliver however you want (on paper, in Webcourses, or via Qualtrics)
- You may also choose to calculate mid-semester grades for each student (this can be done fairly easily in Excel), and provide them to your students using “myUCF grades.”
Ending the semester—final exams, reporting grades:
- Students are given the chance to evaluate the instructor with the “Student Perception of Instruction” form, which takes place through myUCF. Students are prompted when the evaluation period begins (two weeks prior to the final class), and can complete the evaluation at any point before the end of classes. The questions they will be asked can be seen here.
- Look up the date and time for the final exam and communicate it to your students.
- Do not give the “final exam” during the last class session (although a chapter test is fine). UCF requires that all classes do meet during final exam week, even if you don’t take a final test during that session.
- To submit grades to the Registrar, you will use myUCF. Note that in some departments, there may be specialized instructions in addition to the university ones.
- Students with an “F” grade receive special scrutiny from the Registrar, so you will be asked to indicate the last date the student attended your class. If you do not know, write your best guess.
- Some courses and departments allow you to report “NC” (no credit) in place of a “D”. Higher than an “F” and lower than a “C”, this grade is only for courses that have met certain requirements and must be pre-approved. Check with your department chair if in doubt.
- The “I” (incomplete) grade is usually used in the event of a last-second emergency, such as unexpected hospitalization so that a student had to miss the final exam. If no such unexpected event occurs, the “F” grade is more appropriate. Note that “I” grades must be changed later via the grade-change process.
- Withdrawals are preprinted as W on the grade sheet and cannot be manually added.
- If you are using Webcourses or “myUCF Grades,” be sure to download a final backup of the records before the system is reset between semesters.
- Keep your grade records a minimum of three years, though it would be wise to keep them in perpetuity.