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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:

  1. Has my paperwork been sent to Human Resources? [The reason this is important: you cannot log in to the portal at https://my.ucf.edu/ until your paperwork is done and a Network ID (NID) is created for you.]
  2. Who in our department is responsible for PeopleSoft permissions? [You may need their help accessing myUCF and the class roster.]
  3. If my NID isn’t active yet, who can print out my rosters for me?
  4. What is the login information for the instructor’s computer in the classroom where I will be teaching? (You may have to call OIR at 823-2571 to find out).
  5. How many office hours per week should I hold?
  6. Does our department provide office or cubicle space for me to hold office hours? (if not, ask what your chair recommends)
  7. Will I be issued keys for our department or building?
  8. What are the departmental policies regarding overrides to fill a class beyond its standard enrollment cap?
  9. How can I make photocopies for class?
  10. Does our department or college provide instructional supplies like dry-erase markers?
  11. 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 service)?
  12. Will our department request an Outlook account for me, or should I use my “external” (Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL, etc.) email address?
  13. 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.]
  14. Will I “inherit” a syllabus for my class, or perhaps several previous examples? Is it preferred that I customize the syllabus or leave it alone?
  15. Are there particular policies that should be in every syllabus in our department (i.e., about use of technology, or www.turnitin.com, etc). [See http://www.fctl.ucf.edu/teaching-resources/course-design/syllabus/ for several examples of standardized policy statements.] Is there a departmental attendance policy that needs to be on the syllabus?
  16. Am I required in this department or program to use plus/minus grading, or alternately “flat” grading, or is the choice up to me?
  17. Is there a standard breakdown in our department of each grade level (i.e., at what percentage an A- turns into an A)?
  18. When are department faculty meetings? Am I expected/encouraged/discouraged to attend?
  19. Who does the textbook ordering for our department? What are our internal deadlines?
  20. Will I receive an inbox/mailbox in the department?

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: https://www.facultyenlight.com/
  • Request a “coursepack” of photocopied material that you want students to buy with their books, if desired.
  • Request a webcourses account, if desired. Webcourses@UCF is a “course management software”; in essence, a way for every instructor to have a webpage without needing to learn HTML (you may hear other faculty refer to this system by its older name, WebCT). Some instructors use it only to host the syllabus online, while others integrate website activities (online quizzes, message boards, learning modules, grade reporting to students) more deeply into their course. Go to http://cdl.ucf.edu/teach-online/ to get started (select “Where Do I Begin”).
  • 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 (it can be mailed or picked up in person at the South Parking Garage, but it must be ordered online).
  • Peruse the Faculty Handbook on the Provost’s website for further info on the UCF organizational structure, employment information, and pedagogical resources: http://facultyexcellence.ucf.edu/files/2016/10/Faculty-Handbook_9-111.pdf
  • Place materials on Course Reserve at the Library, if desired.

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; click here for the campus map: http://map.ucf.edu/
  • Obtain your faculty ID (this is purely optional for adjuncts) at the UCF Card Office, also in the John T. Washington Center.
  • Bring your faculty ID to the Library and activate it as your library card at the checkout desk, if desired (this is not required).
  • 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 retreats 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. Note: some instructors set up electronic gradebooks in Excel as soon as they have their rosters. For complicated reasons, it’s better to wait until the second week of class to create an electronic gradebook.
  • 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 on the campus map.
  • Preview your classroom(s). How will you use the classroom space? Will you need to bring equipment, like a laptop projector, or lapel microphone? Will you need dry erase markers, or chalk? What about evacuation procedures?

First day of class:

See our section on ideas for the first day of class.

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.

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.
  • 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 will arrive in your inbox from your college or department. These are to administered at some point in the final two weeks of class. There will be directions attached, but three important points to remember are that students must have the chance to fill these out (you don’t have the option of not giving these to students), you’ll need to be out of the room when they are filled out (you elect a proctor from the students), and these should be administered in the first fifteen minutes of a given class.
  • Look up the date and time for the final exam: http://www.registrar.ucf.edu/calendar/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 fill out a “Final Grade Roster” (a bubble form) that is delivered to your department and comes with detailed instructions. Note that in some departments, there will 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. Withdrawals are preprinted as W on the grade sheet and cannot be hand-written on.
  • 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.

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 pens or chalk 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 srsecure@ucf.edu.

Note that myUCF may require you to configure your browser to accept popups and to add my.ucf.edu as a “trusted site.”

Note: some instructors set up electronic gradebooks in Excel as soon as they have their rosters. To avoid complications from late adds and drops, we suggest waiting until the second week of class to create an electronic gradebook.

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:

  1. Sign in to Webcourses at webcourses.ucf.edu.
  2. Click “Account” on the left-hand side of the screen and choose “Settings”.
  3. On the left-hand navigation menu, select “Class Photos”.
  4. Choose the class from your roster for which you would like to print photos.
  5. Select “Print” at the top of the photo grid.