Managing Your Department’s Teaching
The courses that your unit offers directly impact the success and outcomes of your students as well as your faculty members. As Unit Executive Officer, one of your most important roles is to ensure that your unit routinely offers the courses needed by students and taught by faculty members or qualified instructors. With a range of courses and competing demands from students, faculty members, and your college, managing your unit’s teaching can become unwieldy and a logistical nightmare. Planning and developing clear policies ensures that your unit consistently offers high quality courses that foster effective learning and positive experiences for your students and faculty members.
- Develop clear policies and procedures specifically related to teaching assignments for faculty members.These policies and procedures need to address how required, elective, special topic seminars, and new courses are assigned and matched to faculty members’ interests and expertise. Be respectful of faculty members’ requests about teaching times, especially junior faculty. When possible, poll faculty members for preferred courses to teach across the year. Try to honor their preferences, but the needs of the unit must always take precedence.
- Pay close attention to equitable assignments and the impact of the courses that you assign to your junior faculty members’ overall load. It is important that your policies do not overburden junior faculty members with too many course preparations. When possible, encourage your junior faculty to develop new courses as a way for them to contribute to your unit’s instructional programs.
- Weigh the impact of offering topical seminars and special courses on your unit’s teaching resources. Your unit’s priority should be to offer courses that allow students to fulfill their degree requirements and are taught by faculty members with expertise in those course topics. Assess the value of offering special courses against the real costs to your unit’s resources (e.g., hiring TAs or additional instructors to cover required courses because your faculty members are assigned to teach special seminars/courses). Be sure you obtain “real” course numbers for special topics courses that are taught repeatedly. Students often run up against total credit hour limits on special topic courses that can be counted towards their program requirements.
- Create well-defined procedures related to assigning teaching assistants, hiring additional instructors, and allocating appropriate spaces for each course. Your procedures may include specific considerations such as the required minimum and maximum number for enrollment before a teaching assistant is assigned to a course or the nature of the course when assigning specific spaces for class meetings (e.g., conference room, studios, or iFlex classrooms, etc.). This will also assist you in ensuring that your unit is maximizing the available teaching spaces within and across each day of the week.
- Send confirmation of faculty members’ teaching assignments well in advance of registration. Whether you are sending confirmation to faculty members teaching the course or to a staff assisting with putting the schedule in the campus system, always ask for an acknowledgement or reply to your confirmation message. This practice can help you avoid costly miscommunications.
- Routinely review the overall distribution of course offerings in your unit. It is important to take a bird’s eye view of your course offerings every semester to ensure that students have adequate access to courses that enable them to maintain their full-time status and successfully complete their degrees in a timely manner. Pay attention to how your courses cycle across semesters and years. This has a direct impact on course enrollments if students, their advisors, and faculty members can rely on the predictability of course offerings across semesters and years.
- Watch for courses that may compete for enrollments with other courses. Do not schedule required courses at the same time slot or offered at opposite times of each other. Spread your course offerings throughout the week and do not schedule all your departmental classes on Tuesdays-Thursdays only. Additionally, do not schedule courses that tend to be a big draw among students against similar courses. Consider also when graduate courses are offered to ensure your graduate students’ availability to assist in teaching courses.
- Monitor enrollments during registration. Assist faculty members who are teaching courses with low enrollment in advertising the course to generate interest. Provide support by helping them develop course writeups that attract students. Encourage advisors to make students aware of opportunities. Open additional sections based on enrollment.
- Maintain a syllabus bank of courses. Access to past and current syllabi on courses offered in your department benefits not only your junior faculty members but also any of your faculty members who may be teaching a course for the first time or developing a new course. This can also help students who may require course articulation.
- Monitor course enrollments and student ratings after each semester. Collecting this information allows you to make evidence-based decisions as you plan your unit’s schedule, engage in curriculum redesign, or evaluate your teaching resources. Make a point to routinely share about data trends in class enrollments and ICES ratings with your faculty members.
- Provide incentives to faculty members to engage in course development or redesign. Encourage faculty members to redesign existing courses or develop new courses that offer research or study abroad opportunities to students. Additionally, facilitate ways for your faculty members to design and deliver courses using online technology and offer courses at alternative times such as in the evenings, during winter session, or for half of a semester.
Good to Know!
Illinois’ Office of the Registrar works with departments to implement, support, and uphold academic policies related to class and event scheduling, registration services, enrollment and degree verification, assessment of tuition and fees, grade processing, degree audit configuration, and printing of official academic transcripts and diplomas.
The Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning (CITL) is your department’s resource for flexible classrooms, innovation spaces, teaching technologies and more! CITL’s Instructional Spaces & Technologies group offers programs and services aimed at developing transformative learning experiences across all instructional modalities. Among many of their services, they offer assistance to faculty and TAs who teach in online, face-to-face, or blended instructional spaces.
For further assistance with faculty and career development, call the Office of the Provost at 217-333-6677.