Ensuring Online Class Availability to Students by Monday 8/23/2021

Dear Faculty,

I wanted to give a quick reminder/heads-up that faculty teaching distance education (online and hybrid) classes are expected to make their classes available by mid-day on the Monday of the week in which they begin. This ensures a minimum of confusion for students, and compliance with student authentication requirements for distance education classes.

This has long been an expectation in practice, and the MiraCosta Online Educators subcommittee of the Academic Senate further clarified and strengthened this expectation last spring. To be clear, this is true for hybrid and scheduled online classes as well. If you have a scheduled meeting with your distance ed class and prefer to “reveal” the class to students during that first meeting, you may keep most components of the class unpublished until then, but the class itself should be published along with basic information such as a syllabus and/or class home page.

If you would like to learn more about the rationale behind this practice, and/or to view some recommendations for good practice in helping your students learn how to get started with your class, please see MiraCosta Distance Education Class Authentication Compliance, Start-of-Term Availability Procedures, and Recommendations.

If you’re looking for last minute help this weekend, remember that we have 24×7 phone and chat support from Canvas (click Tech Help at the bottom left of Canvas). And if you’d like more than just Canvas support, our MiraCosta peer faculty helpers are ready for you to contact them – see their details here!

Best wishes for a great start to the semester!

Jim Julius, Ed.D.
Faculty Director, Online Education

MiraCosta Online Support for Students

Did you know? It’s now a requirement for MiraCosta faculty to “Help students in a DE course section to be aware of MiraCosta College support services and resources, especially those available online.”(MiraCosta Online Class Quality Guidelines)

While there are lots of ways you may do this, here are some important ones to consider adding to your syllabus, your Canvas home page, and/or your introductory week discussions with students:

Student Support Hub

Point your students to the Student Support Hub in Canvas. Share the link and direct them to the Student Support button on the left in Canvas for quick access to online support, including live help, online appointments, and access to key resources from:

  • Library
  • STEM & Math Learning Center
  • Tutoring & Academic Support Center
  • Writing Center
  • Academic Counseling
  • Career Center
  • CARE (including technology device requests)
  • Health Services (including virtual physical and mental health appointments)
  • Open computer lab staff
  • Student Help Desk

Online Help Hut

The Help Hut on the MiraCosta website is a quick way for current and prospective students to connect online with student support areas including Financial Aid, Admissions & Records, Academic Counseling, and the Student Help Desk.

Tech Help in Canvas

The Tech Help button at bottom left in Canvas provides students (and faculty) with quick access to 24s7 phone and chat support from Canvas, as well as local technology support from the Student Help Desk.

Student Orientation to Online Learning Workshops

In collaboration with the library, I’ll be again offering about two dozen Student Orientation to Online Learning workshops this fall – see all dates and times on the TASC site and in Canvas announcements. These workshops help to familiarize students with these great online resources, to become more comfortable with Zoom, and Canvas, and to consider time management strategies. Encourage your students to attend and, if you like, find out which of your students participated in order to incentivize their attendance.

Please let me know if you have questions about any of these great resources!

Jim Julius, Ed.D.
Faculty Director, Online Education

MiraCosta Online Ed Flex Workshops & Faculty Support

Welcome back to fall semester! I’m excited to share Flex workshops and other resources for your professional learning as you prepare for another semester of mostly or entirely online teaching!

Flex Week starts tomorrow with a Friday the 13th full of online ed workshops!

But this is a day of good luck! You can see all of these workshops listed on a handy 1-page schedule; they are also included with full descriptions on the complete Flex workshop schedule. Please note that there are a number of other superb-sounding online ed-related offerings later in Flex week, too.

Online Ed Workshop Recordings

We’ve been offering online workshops and recording them for years! Explore what’s available in the Online Education workshop archives page, including the fantastic sessions from our Equity Online day last April. If you’re looking for inspiration with a tool or online teaching topic that’s not on this fall’s Flex schedule, you can probably find a recording that’s just what you need. And viewing those recordings is, of course, Flex-eligible.

Return of the MiraCosta Online Mentors!

Many of you met with a MiraCosta peer faculty helper last year for support with your online course preparation and teaching. Happily, this program will continue this fall! More information on this will be coming soon, but if you can’t wait to get connected with a peer, feel free to reply to me.

Completely Updated: MiraCosta Online Class Quality Guidelines

Last year, the MiraCosta Online Educators committee undertook a major revision of the MiraCosta Online Class Quality Guidelines to place a greater emphasis on equity and to reflect updated regulations. Check out the document, which is intended “to help faculty develop and redesign online classes and foster conversation in departments about effective and equity-minded teaching practices in online education.”

Professional Learning Opportunities through @ONE

Many MiraCosta faculty looking for deeper professional learning about online education have let me know how important the @ONE program has been to them. Some events and classes are free while extended, facilitated classes typically have a fee. If you’re interested in having my office cover a fee for an @ONE class just reach out to me!

Save the Date: InstructureCon (the Canvas annual conference) is online and free – October 7  

You can learn more and register now!

Happy online teaching!

Jim Julius, Ed.D.
Faculty Director, Online Education

Preparing for Summer 2021 Online Student Success

To all faculty teaching this summer – please take advantage of and share these important resources and opportunities for you and your students!

Support for You

  • Instructional Design help – To request online teaching and course design support from our instructional designer, please fill out our request form. We’ll get you connected! (This is only available through June.)
  • Tech Support – Canvas options include 24×7 phone and chat support. Just click the Tech Support button at lower left in Canvas! Zoom tech support for faculty is available through the MiraCosta employee help desk.
  • Our Canvas start-of-term checklist can help you finalize your summer classes.
  • The MiraCosta Online Class Quality Guidelines were significantly updated this spring and approved by the Academic Senate in May. Please review them to learn more about MiraCosta requirements and recommended practices for online instructors.
  • MiraCosta technologies supporting online teaching and learning – please see the last section of this email for an overview, with links to learn more.

Support for Your Students

  • Student Orientation to Online Learning – In collaboration with the library, I’ll be offering eight of these workshops at the start of the summer semester– see all dates and times on the TASC site and in Canvas announcements. These workshops help to familiarize students with the resources MiraCosta provides online to support them, as well as to adopt habits and attitudes of successful online students. Encourage your students to attend and, if you like, find out which of your students participated in order to incentivize their attendance.
  • Online Student Support Access Points – the Student Support Hubin Canvas, accessed via the Student Support button on the left in Canvas gives quick access to online support from the library, STEM & MLC, online tutoring, writing center, counseling, career center, open computer lab staff, student help desk, health services, and more! The Help Hut on the MiraCosta website is also a quick way for students to connect with all kinds of support services including A&R and Financial Aid.
  • Tech Support – Also at lower left in Canvas is a button for students to quickly access Tech Support options, including 24×7 phone and chat support from Canvas, and our local MiraCosta student help desk.
  • Technology Needs? – Be sure to share the CARE form for students to fill out if they need a laptop and/or hotspot to succeed this summer.

MiraCosta’s Online Education Tools

Click the link immediately after each bullet for a detailed MiraCosta-specific overview of each item below. This is not intended as a comprehensive review of all technologies for online teaching supported by the college, but rather a quick look at the essentials. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions about these or other resources.

  • Canvas – of course is the #1 tool for most faculty.
  • Zoom – Make sure you are using MiraCosta’s professional-level Zoom account to get access to the full set of Zoom features.
  • Canvas Studio – This great tool enables faculty and students to create videos while inside Canvas. Faculty can create interactive discussion or quiz activities based on video.
  • Pronto is an incredible mobile-friendly and Canvas-integrated messaging platform that’s ready to use in every course.
  • Pope Tech  helps faculty detect and correct accessibility issues within Canvas. See also Creating Accessible Course Content for tips on ensuring all the content you add to Canvas is fully accessible.
  • Ally automatically converts content you share through Canvas into multiple formats for students, allowing for listening rather than reading and better access to content on mobile devices.
  • PlayPosit – This video interaction tool offers more complexity and options than Studio. Studio is a great place to start, but if you’re looking for more question types to add to your videos, PlayPosit is a great option.
  • Turnitin – Many faculty use Turnitin to help students learn to properly cite sources and avoid plagiarism, as well as to assist with grading and peer review processes for written work.
  • Productivity Software, Hardware, and other resources for working from home – this AIS website includes a number of links to helpful resources for being fully equipped when teaching from your home.

Happy summer teaching!

– Jim

Jim Julius, Ed.D.
Faculty Director, Online Education

FERPA Compliance and Student Interaction in Merged Canvas Course Sections

Please download a PDF or download a Word version of this guide for future reference as you develop and teach merged Canvas courses.

Faculty may request to merge Canvas courses when they are teaching multiple sections of the same course in order to more efficiently share the same content across course sections, freeing up time for other instructional activity. This must be done prior to the start date of the course sections. For detailed steps on how to request combining of course sections, download the Combine your Class sections in SURF for Canvas guide. *NOTE: If instructors combine multiple sections in Canvas, they are not able to offer an Honors Contract in that course.

However, according to Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) regulations, students cannot have access to student information (including the fact of their enrollment) of students in course sections other than their own (with the exception noted below). Because of this requirement, students are not allowed to interact within a Canvas course with students from another course section.

Canvas limits the visibility of students from other sections in a merged Canvas course. However, this does not cover all Canvas tools, so if you request to merge Canvas courses, you’ll need to take additional steps to protect your students’ privacy, as outlined in this document.

NOTE: FERPA restrictions do not apply to a merged Canvas course if students physically meet in the same classroom at the same time (i.e. “true cross-listed courses”). Course sections that meet simultaneously typically are combined in Canvas by default, and this document is not relevant for those merged courses.

What Canvas Does for You

In Canvas courses merged upon faculty request, students are prevented from seeing students in sections other than their own in

  • the full roster view of the People tool,
  • and the Inbox (Conversations).

What You Must Do to Maintain FERPA Compliance in a Merged Canvas Course

Click Settings in your course menu and:

  1. Under the Navigation tab, be sure that the Chat and Conferences items are hidden from students. If they are active (appearing in the top grouping of navigation items), drag them to the lower grouping or click the gear icon at the right of each and click Disable. Be sure to scroll down and click Save at the bottom.
  2. Under the Course Details tab, scroll down and click more options. Make sure that:
    Let students create discussion topics is NOT checked
    Let students organize their own groups
    is NOT checked
    Disable comments on announcements IS checked

    Click the Update Course Details button at bottom.

Ensure that each section has its own separate discussion:

  1. For graded discussions, restrict each discussion to an individual section using the Assign to option. See Canvas guide for details. See further details on section restriction under the What You May Do section below.
  2. For ungraded discussions, use the Post to option (immediately below the discussion description) to select an individual section for the discussion.
  3. Note – if you want each section to engage in discussions about the same topics, simply Duplicate the original discussion and modify it so it is available to a different section of students.

If/when you create Groups

Select the option to Require group members to be in the same section when creating a group set. See Canvas guide for details.

If/when you create Collaborations

Be sure to add students to Collaborations who are enrolled in the same course section. The Collaboration setup screen doesn’t display section information for students, so you will need to refer to the People area.

If/when you send a Canvas Inbox message to students from multiple sections

Select the option to Send an individual message to each recipient. This will send a separate copy to each recipient and hide the names of the recipients in the message header. You may also compose messages addressed to all members of a specific course section.

If/when you offer synchronous (live) online sessions (e.g. use Zoom)

Hold separate synchronous meetings with each section. When you record a synchronous meeting, share the recording only with the section that participated in the meeting.

What You May Do: Setting Calendar Events and Assignment Due Dates by Section

Note: This section is not required for FERPA compliance but may be helpful for managing a merged course if you would like to create differentiated events/activities for different sections.

The following Canvas Guides will help you create Canvas activities/assignments specific to a particular section within a merged course:

(Discussions must be separated by section – see notes in the What You Must Do section above.)

Note that when creating events/activities that are differentiated by section, you will need to select the section name in the Assign to area, which displays only a few options and is not scrollable. If your desired section is not displayed as an option, you will need to type in the section name until it shows up as an option to select.

Section names can be seen if you click Settings in the Course Menu and then the Sections tab. You may also click People in the course menu to see which section each enrolled student is assigned to. Sections with students have names ending in -SURF; to include your test student account in any differentiated activity in a merged course, you would also need to include one of the -OTHER sections available within the merged course.


Portions of this document are adapted from material originally developed by Seattle University and modified by the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College district. Additional portions are adapted from material developed by Indiana University and modified by Cornell University.

Get Support

If you have any question or need assistance with combining courses in SURF for Canvas contact the MiraCosta College Employee Helpdesk at (760) 795-6850 or open a helpdesk ticket in the portal. You may also wish to view additional SURF for Faculty Guides.

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