Teaching Preparation

Things to do in preparation for this semester

There are four important tasks to be completed in setting up a course each semester:

  • read and respond to the CATEI evaluation from the previous offering of the course
  • set up the Course Outline for this semester's offering (by end of week 0)
  • set up the Course website for this semester (by start of week 1)
  • write the final exam, if you have one (now required by the Faculty to be submitted by end of week 4)

You also need to ensure that Week 1 lectures and the first set of labs and tutorials, if any, are underway. 

Response to CATEI evaluations

In producing your Course Outline, you need to consider the CATEI evaluation for the previous offering of the course, so you might want to deal with that before completing the Course Outline. While you're checking CATEI evaluations, you may as well do the Report to HoS. Since this involves much the same process, doing them together will save you time. If you've already done your Report to HoS, then you can probably use that as the basis for the Evaluation/Feedback section in your Course Outline.

If you did not teach the most recent offering of the course, you also need to approach the previous lecturer for information about the evaluation from when they taught the course. If they've already completed their CATEI response, you could summarise that for the Course Outline.

CATEI evaluations for courses you taught are available via myUNSW or via the CATEI website:

Once you're logged in to CATEI:

  • click on the HOS Report tab
  • select "Form A: Course Evaluation" and "Teaching Period"
  • click on the View link next to your course to get the feedback (they insist on s-l-o-w-l-y delivering it as PDF)
  • read the comments ("View Comments as PDF")
  • click on the checkbox next to your course
  • click on the (faint grey) link next to the "Action:" label
  • fill out the text boxes and click [Submit] (note: [Save] does not submit your report to the HoS)

Previous semesters have had a low response rate by lecturers in writing their report to the HoS. The school is rated by the response rate, so please do it ASAP.

In formulating your response, look at the numbers and read the comments. The ratings are in a range of 1 to 6, and any criterion with a "Mean Rating" above 5 is fine. Any criterion which has a "Mean Rating" below 4 is problematic and requires attention. Such issues must be addressed in your Report to HoS. They should also be covered, although perhaps in less detail, in the Course Outline for subsequent offerings on the course.

Course Website

All CSE courses have a website which is accessed via a URL e.g. http://www.cse.unsw.edu.au/~cs1917/

This refers to a web page contained in the following file under the class directory:


This file will be the gateway to your course's web site, whatever backend you use to manage the site (whether OpenLearning, WebCMS, BlackBoard, WordPress, or even just hand-rolled HTML). The file should provide a re-direction to the real course home page, which should then provide links to the course material. If you're storing course material under the class direcory, it's useful to put it in a directory specific to that offering of the course:


This allows you to retain old offerings of the course intact, while you copy/use the material from them for the current offering.

There are several methods to redirect the top-level course web page to the "real" one, with the simplest being to make the top level "index.html" page. e.g.

<meta http-equiv=refresh content='0;URL=real URL in full'>

For example, a redirection to WebCMS would look something like (where <tt>NNNN</tt> is the WebCMS id for the course):

<meta http-equiv=refresh content='0;URL=http://mahler.cse.unsw.edu.au/webcms2/course/index.php?cid=NNNN'>

How you structure the web site below the entry page is entirely up to you and will depend on which system you're using to run your course web site.  

Course Outline

The University is now basing some funding to the School on the quality and availability of Course Outlines. For quality, they randomly select one Outline and assess it, so they all need to be up-to-scratch. For availability, they check what proportion are available by the end of Week 0 (i.e. Friday before teaching commences); having them available by the middle of Week 1 is not good enough to help with the "availability" assessment.

In CSE, making Course Outlines available to the students means attaching them to the course web site in a prominent place.

The Course Outline needs to contain at least the following information:

  • Course Staff: who convenes the course (LiC) and any admin contacts
  • Class Details: times and locations of classes and consultations
  • Course Summary: syllabus summary
  • Course Aims: overall goals of the course
  • Learning Outcomes: what students will know at the end of the course
  • Assumed Knowledge: topics that you expect students to know in week 1
  • Teaching Strategies: how will the course run (e.g. lectures, seminars, labs)
  • Teaching Rationale: why is the course being taught the way it is
  • Assessment: description of assessment items and formula to compute final mark
  • Academic Honesty and Plagiarism: statement of
  • Course Schedule: e.g. which weeks do lectures/labs run, assignments due dates
  • Resources for Students: e.g. textbooks, websites, ...
  • Course Evaluation and Development: response to CATEI evaluation  

Most of the above is relatively straightforward and can either be copied from previous semesters, or needs to be sorted out before semester starts in any event. WebCMS (see below) has a Course Outline editor that can assist by filling out some of these details, based on information it has, or by using the relevant parts of the Course Outline from a previous semester.

In the past, many CSE course outlines have dealt with CATEI evaluations with a generic statement along the lines of the example below:

Student feedback on this course will be obtained via electronic survey at the end of session, and will be used to make continual improvements to the course. Students are also encouraged to provide informal feedback during the session, and to let the lecturer in charge know of any problems, as soon as they arise. Suggestions will be listened to very openly, positively, constructively and thankfully, and every reasonable effort will be made to address them.

Such statements by themselves are not sufficient. There must also be a reference to a previous CATEI evaluation and a response to it. This may be as simple as (if true) the following sentence:

The CATEI evaluation from the last time I taught this course showed that students were satisfied with all aspects of the course. Thus we intend to maintain the same style and structure for the up-coming offering.  

Alternatively you could also use the following wording:  

The previous CATEI evaluation indicated that students were especially unhappy with the speed that feedback on assignments was returned. In this offering, we will be employing extra tutors to assist with marking, to ensure that feedback is delivered in a timely fashion.  

However it MUST have something more than generalities.  

In order to achieve the above, you'll need to take a look at the CATEI evaluation for an earlier offering. If you teach the course regularly, look at your most recent evaluation. If you alternate with someone else, ask them for some feedback on what the students liked/disliked about the most recent offering.  

Using WEBCMS2 For Course Outlines

WebCMS2 has a template-based system for Course Outlines which (a) prompts you for relevant info (b) can use data already in WebCMS to populate some of the Outline.

In order to use it, you'd need to register your course in WebCMS2. This takes about 30 seconds, and gives you access to additional info such as (daily updated) enrolment list.

If you want to use the Course Outline template, but aren't interested in the rest of WebCMS, then do the following:

login to http://webapps.cse.unsw.edu.au/webcms2/login/login.php (requires your CSE username and a WebCMS password)

click on the "Add new course" link in the sidebar

fill out the Course code, Course Title, and choose a colour

click on the [Create Course] button

you should get a list of courses, with your new one somewhere in the list

click on the course code to go to the course's WebCMS "home page"

click on "Course Outline" in the sidebar

click on the [Add] link next to "...using a template"

then read the green instructions and play with the template  

If you fill in other WebCMS stuff, such as consultation times, these can be automatically included in the Outline. If you wait for one day after creating the course, then the class info will be uploaded and can also be automatically included in the Outline.

If you want to use the WebCMS-generated Course Outline, but not the rest of WebCMS, then you could grab a copy of it by:

  • right click on the "[Preview]" link and open in new tab/window
  • save as HTML
  • copy the file under your course web-site

Alternatively, put a link like http://mahler.cse.unsw.edu.au/webcms2/intro/template/view.php?cid=NNNN (where NNNN is the 4-digit course ID (cid) that appears in the URL for the course's WebCMS "home page") into your own course web pages.

Note that when initially created, a WebCMS course outline is not visible to students. This is to allow you to edit it into a final form before they see it. To make it visible, you need to click on the obvious link on the [Edit] page.

Let John Shepherd know of any problems or suggestions for improvement with the WebCMS Course Outline template.

Miscellaneous Tips

Exam papers and solutions for all writen exams are now due at the end of Week 4. If you want to avoid being rushed to prepare an exam in Week 4, it's worth thinking about it now.

When scheduling assignment deadlines, try not to load them up at the end of semester. If you think that you can't possibly have any deadlines before week 5 because "students won't have covered enough material" by then, think about re-ordering the material so that you can start assignment work earlier.