By KAREN BEAUDWAY
Putting together an exceptional course is not easy. Faculty put a great deal of time and effort into their course design and materials. As you put together your syllabus or Canvas site for your fall classes, remember to include technical details your students will need.
Technical difficulties can easily derail students. It’s a mistake to assume that today’s tech-savvy students can navigate all the services they need without a little guidance. Pitt IT provides the tech they need to succeed, but we need instructors’ help in guiding them to the right place. A few technical notes in your syllabus can go a long way to helping your students have a great experience in your class.
Pitt IT suggests the following items:
Having a well-designed Canvas site is one of the most important resources for your students. Include supplemental course materials/readings, class assignments, test and paper due dates, links to recorded classes/content, and contact information (including office hours or tutoring times) for you and your teaching assistants. If any classes are being held remotely, be sure the Zoom links are prominently located, including on the calendar entry. Then, describe what and where they can find these resources in your syllabus.
Sample syllabus statement: The Canvas course for this class can be found at https://canvas.pitt.edu. (If the class is not visible to you, be sure that you are properly registered or get help from the 24/7 IT Help Desk.) This site includes …
Include information about the software that will be needed to complete your course, especially if any specific apps are required. If students can download the apps before or shortly after the class begins, that will prevent a lot of headaches for you and them.
Sample syllabus statement: You will need the following software for this course: (list software). Download software from the Software Download Center (https://software.pitt.edu) or use it from the physical or virtual Student Computing Labs.
Even if your class will only require basic productivity software, it’s a good idea to tell them where to get those apps, especially if your class has a significant number of first-year students.
Sample Syllabus Statement: You can download/access Microsoft Office from portal.office.com and Adobe Creative Suite from https://accounts.pitt.edu/SoftwareLicense for use in class assignments and projects.
Lastly, Pitt IT recommends that students use Microsoft OneDrive for saving, sharing and collaborating on class-related documents, rather than Google. Google recently limited its free storage to 15 GB, while Pitt’s OneDrive accounts provide 5 TB of storage, so Pitt IT recommends OneDrive for class or work-related documents, and leaving Google for personal files.
Sample Syllabus Statement: Use Microsoft OneDrive (onedrive.live.com) to save, share or collaborate on academic files. (Google is limited to 15 GB, while OneDrive gives you 5 TB, so Google is better for your personal files.)
Instructors should not be expected to provide technical support. But that doesn’t stop many students from contacting you when a technical issue interferes with their ability to complete an assignment or access course materials. Make sure they know where to go for help to reduce frustration on everyone’s part. The Help Desk is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help resolve any technical issues our students, faculty, and staff experience.
Sample Syllabus Statement: If you have any problems accessing Canvas, connecting to Wi-Fi, or using any software needed for this class, contact the 24/7 IT Help Desk (pi.tt/help) or go to Drop-In Support (pi.tt/disd). Also, please notify the Help Desk to report any wi-fi or service disruption so they can promptly resolve the issue.
Financial constraints can make it difficult to obtain a suitable laptop or Wi-Fi for some students. They may not have access to a personal device or may be using a device with minimal computing power or memory. Pitt IT has several services in place to help level the playing field when it comes to technology access.
Students can get a discounted laptop through our partnership with Dell. In addition, the Virtual Computing Lab makes software, and the computing power needed to run it, available in the cloud so it can be used from even the most minimally configured devices, like a Chromebook or tablet. Students also can use the devices and Wi-Fi available on campus.
Sample syllabus statement: If you have financial limitations that impact your access to a reliable laptop or Wi-Fi service, you have several options:
Get a discounted laptop through Pitt’s Dell partnership (pi.tt/buyacomputer).
Access the Virtual Computing Lab (pi.tt/virtuallab) from nearly any internet-capable device.
Karen Beaudway is a blogger for Pitt IT.