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New to UMass    |    Enhancing Your Teaching    |    Enhancing Your Research    |    Enhancing Your Mentoring

Enhancing Your Teaching

This site will provide you with answers to a few important questions about teaching that new faculty often have during the early months of their careers at UMass Amherst.

Click the questions below to view the information.

What resources on campus can help me add a fourth credit to my General Education course?

The CTFD staff offers a range of consultation services related to all phases of course design (e.g., planning, implementation and assessment), including the conversion of a Gen Ed course from 3 to 4 credits. For example, you can meet with a CTFD consultant to discuss how to:

  • Prepare a syllabus;
  • Develop new goals for student learning and the assessment strategies;
  • Incorporate technologies;
  • Design innovative teaching strategies that appropriately address the size of your course;
  • Gather student feedback;
  • Build in opportunities for active learning and group work; and
  • Collect confidential mid-term feedback on the course from students (MAP).
  • Work with a Librarian on integrating information literacy into your course

Faculty may also take advantage of the CTFD’s in-house resource video and print library, which has books on course planning, syllabus design, teaching strategies, and tools for undergraduate teaching. Finally, the CTFD staff can also help you identify and prepare for useful consultations with other support services on campus.

Three to Four Conversion: Guiding Principles of Course Design

A conversion may allow you to extend course content, incorporate new teaching strategies, and/or diversify learning activities and assessment methods. As you plan the conversion of your Gen Ed course from 3 to 4 credits:

  • Focus on how to deepen learning outcome goals;
  • Articulate how changes align with Gen Ed objectives;
  • Consider the coherence of course elements (e.g. learning objectives, activities, and assessments);
  • Incorporate appropriate assessment strategies;
  • Attend to diverse learning styles;
  • Explore the options available in SPARK for online learning; and
  • Communicate regularly with students about your expectations.

Three to Four Conversion: Planning Phase

As you plan your new course design, these questions may help shape your thinking:

  • Are there new learning activities you can deepen or extend as well as add?
  • Are there additional learning objectives that you may have wanted your students to engage in (e.g. small group activities or presentations)?
  • Consider teaching to diverse learning styles, incorporating group work, peer learning opportunities, self-directed learning activities and/or experiential learning through community-based projects.
  • Are there new ways by which you could assess student learning? What new criteria and evidence can be use to demonstrate student learning?
  • Consider how technologies can help you engage students in new ways (e.g. Writing-to-Learn activities)

Consider new roles for TAs. For example:

  • Can TA(s) help with course management tasks?
  • Can TA(s) help facilitate student learning?
  • Can TA(s) help collect feedback from students?

As you communicate your expectations to students:

  • Provide early on the rationale for 4 credits.
  • Be as explicit as you can about how student performance will be assessed.
  • Gather formative feedback from students about their perceptions of the course.
  • Consider a MAP to help collect such feedback from students mid point.

How do I know what to put into a syllabus?

The UMass Amherst Office of Academic Planning & Assessment (OAPA) has created a very handy Syllabus Construction Tool designed to help faculty prepare their syllabi.

What resources on multiculturalism and diversity in teaching does the CTFD provide?

One of the strengths of the CTFD is to provide consultations as well as resources (both print and video) on multiculturalism and diversity in higher education. The CTFD library contains an extensive collection of articles covering topics such as course design, knowing better who our students are, and professional growth and development. For a selection of recommended articles, please see the attached annotated bibliography.

Does the CTFD recommend any resources on online teaching and learning?

Yes. The UMass Amherst Office of Academic Planning & Assessment (OAPA) has created a detailed guide on how best to approach and conduct online learning.

Are there any sample department/course-level TA handbooks here at UMass Amherst?

Yes. For a sample of a very good UMass Amherst TA training tool, please see Dr. John McCarthy’s Linguistics TA Handbook.

What resources are available on campus to help my students with their learning?

The Faculty Guide from the Provost’s Office contains detailed information on all learning support services on campus. Three areas, in particular, that support a large number of students are:

  • The Digital Media Lab is a space on the 3rd floor of the W.E.B. Du Bois Library where students have access to materials to produce high-quality multimedia, from a green screen video room and pro-audio sound recording booths to specialized workstations and collaboration space. Outfitted with 27" iMacs and dual Mac/PC workstations, this space also includes an instruction area where students can take workshops on developing multimedia projects.
  • The Learning Resource Center provides peer tutoring in both study skills and academic subjects.
  • The Learning Commons is a space on the lower level of the W.E.B Du Bois Library that brings together academic, technology, and library support.
  • The Writing Center provides one-on-one consultations to students on their writing projects, providing feedback and strategies at any stage of the writing process. The Writing Center also supports faculty in designing writing assignments and in-class writing activities.

Is there a place I can go to work on my courses, research and writing?

UMass Amherst Teaching Commons, located on the 26th floor of the W.E.B. Du Bois Library is a space for faculty to collaborate or work individually, equipped with computers and presentation equipment, on-site assistance, faculty service referrals, comfortable seating, and a fantastic view. The Teaching Commons is a collaboration between the Center for Teaching & Faculty Development, the Office of Information Technologies/Academic Computing, and the University Libraries.

If I want to use multimedia in my teaching, what resources exist across campus?
  • Instructional technology services are provided by several units on campus, including the following units that may be of immediate interest to new faculty. Academic Computing offers a variety of resources, including:
    • Academic Course Web Sites. Many faculty use web sites to complement their in-class teaching. UMass Amherst supplies the Moodle interface for this purpose. Information on building your course website with Moodle is available online.
    • Instructional Media Lab. The lab provides consultants who will help you utilize web technologies in your teaching, including scanning pictures/slides, using image files, putting video on the web or on DVDs, and creating PDF files.
  • Information on the instructional technology available in classrooms across campus can be found online. In addition, there are 11 computer classrooms. You can reserve one of these classrooms for a single session or a semester. Classrooms get filled far in advance, so make your reservations early.
  • Academic Media Instructional Services (AIMS) provides equipment delivery, technical support, and consultation services for faculty and staff using classrooms and auditoriums on campus.
    • Multimedia equipment (e.g., video/data projectors, DVD/TV combos, overhead projectors) available for faculty and staff to support classroom instruction
    • Installation, repair, and maintenance services for AV equipment in auditoriums & technology-enhanced classrooms
    • Demonstrations, support, and consultations on effective use of AV equipment
  • As of Fall 2011, the UMass Amherst began supporting i>clicker as the campus' main Audience Response System (ARS). For more information about the ARS or to receive a demonstration of the technology, visit the UMass Amherst Information Technology website or email UMass Amherst IT.
  • UMass Amherst also provides an Online Web-based Learning homework system (“OWL”).
  • Both the Center for Teaching & Faculty Development and Academic Computing through the Office of Information Technology offer workshops and one-on-one consulting to support your instructional technology needs.
  • UMass Libraries’ Course Reserve & Media Support Services
    • Place CDs and DVDs on reserve in the W. E. B. Du Bois Library for 3 hour loan.
    • Streaming Reserve offers instructor specified on-demand streaming of library owned media is available for remote access to audio and video materials that are part of the course curriculum.
    • UMass Amherst faculty and staff may book UMass and Five College films, videos, and DVDs in advance, for classroom use or for showing in a library viewing room.

How do I manage my course(s), e.g. roster, schedules, grades, etc.?

The SPIRE system allows you to undertake all of the activities related to managing your courses each semester. You will receive a SPIRE login through your department. If you do not, you can generate a SPIRE login by using the “Forgot My Password” function on the SPIRE logon page. To learn more about managing your class rosters, schedules, grades, and more, please visit the SPIRE Faculty Center.

How do I put course material on reserve?

You can take advantage of either physical or digital curriculum services to reserve library materials for your students:

  • Materials made available on 3 hour loan at the W. E. B. Du Bois Library include: Library-owned and/or instructor personal copies of books, DVDs and CD media (including faculty provided textbooks).
  • Place password protected, digital curriculum materials accessed via the libraries’ e-reserve system including documents, persistent links to library databases and subscription services, streaming audio and video. The library provides scanning and copyright processing for these services.
  • For more information, contact UMass Amherst Libraries Circulation/Reserves Department.

How and when can I put together a course pack for my class?

The University’s Textbook Annex, CopyCat Print Shop, and Collective Copies provide course pack reproduction services. In order to have your pack ready in a timely manner, the Textbook Annex suggests that you allow 4-9 weeks to ensure full copyright approval and sufficient copy time. CopyCat and Collective Copies suggest that you allow a minimum of 3 weeks. Submit 1) a printed, single-sided copy of your course material and 2) a complete bibliography including the name, title, publisher, date of publication, and page numbers to obtain copyright approval (the copy center will do this for you). You may also be asked to sign an indemnification form to assume responsibility for reproducing material in the public domain (without copyright).

Use/reproduction fees are determined by the publisher who controls the copyright, and the fee is included in the total price of the course pack. When considering which material to include in your pack, keep in mind that permission typically will not be given if you plan to reproduce more than 15% of a source. In some cases, publishers do not allow reproduction of a certain text or may charge a prohibitively high use fee.

For more information on issues of copyright and fair use in your teaching materials, contact the University Libraries’ Copyright Specialist.

Contact information for each service provider is listed below.

Collective Copies
71 S. Pleasant St.
Amherst, MA 01002
Phone: 413-256-6425
Amherst Copy & Designworks
37 E. Pleasant St.
Amherst, MA 01002
Phone: 413-549-2854
University of Massachusetts Textbook Annex
360 Campus Center Way
Amherst, MA 01003
Phone: 413-545-3570

How do I get started with using Open Educational Resources?

Open Educational Resources (OER) are educational materials and resources offered freely and openly for anyone to use and under some licenses to re-mix, improve and redistribute. The University Libraries provide a guide to OER, with information for learners, educators and Open Access advocates.

For subject-specific resources, contact your Library Liaison.

How do I establish a text for my course? What are the best bookstores?

In order to establish a text for your course, submit the title, author, publisher and edition to one of the bookstores below as soon as possible to avoid a book shortage. Requests made at least one month prior to the beginning of classes allow the bookstore to acquire more used copies. Typically, book stores are able to acquire free or loaned copies for the Professor, TAs, and to place on reserve. These are sent directly to you.

In choosing where to order your texts, it’s important to seek out the advice of colleagues in your department who teach classes at a similar level (i.e., graduate or undergraduate) and find out where they make their arrangements. In some departments, graduate students may be accustomed to purchasing their books at one store and undergraduates at another.

Contact information for local (on and off-campus) bookstores is listed below.

Amherst Books
8 Main Street
Amherst, MA 01002
Tel: 413-256-1547
Tel: 800-503-5865
  University of Massachusetts Textbook Annex*
360 Campus Center Way
Amherst, MA 01003
Tel: 413-545-3570
*Also submit course number and ISBN code

What is the University’s policy on academic dishonesty? What are my options if I suspect a student has cheated?

If you suspect a student of academic dishonesty, contact the Ombuds Office within 10 days of your suspicion. For a more detailed overview of your options, see the Ombuds Office’s quick reference guide for faculty or the full text of the Academic Honesty Policy.

UMass Amherst also has a subscription to Turnitin, a plagiarism prevention service that detects textual matches between student papers and other documents available in electronic form on the internet, in subscription databases, and in databases of other student papers. For more information on this software, visit the University Libraries’ page on Plagiarism Prevention at UMass Amherst, or contact

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