Preparing your Digital Classroom

4 easy steps to prepare your classroom

Step 1: Know your Learning Management System

Step 2: Confirm Instructor Readiness

Step 3: Confirm Course Readiness

Step 4: Welcome your Students

Expectations for Online Adjunct Faculty

SUNY Empire instructors prepare the digital classroom for students to start a semester successfully. Our online courses open to student preview one week before the start of term. Use these steps to establish a tailored digital learning environment intended to warmly welcome students.

Step 1: Know your Learning Management System

adult student at coffee shop

A Learning Management System (LMS) delivers and manages instructional content including video, written material and assessments. The LMS typically includes a variety of features such as a course syllabus, rubrics, instructor facilitated learning, a discussion board and a course schedule.

Digitally delivered courses in the LMS are predesigned to present the SUNY Empire Online course structure and faculty built curriculum (see Design your Course). Use the following sections in this area, Teach your Course, to personalize student learning in your section.

Step 2: Confirm Instructor Readiness

College Policies

Instructors must be aware of all SUNY Empire Policies:

Policies, Procedures and Guidelines

Course Materials

Instructors should check they have the appropriate course materials:


Update Learning Contracts

SUNY Empire Faculty members, who not teaching from a course master, should confirm that the Learning Contract for their online course has been updated:

Update Learning Contracts

Request a Pour Source

One of the goals of SUNY Empire Online has been to make sure that line faculty members teaching online sections have the ability to develop their own versions of the courses they are teaching rather than being assigned to teach a templated or, "master" course. In some cases faculty prefer to teach the master version, in other cases faculty may actually work with associate department chairs to develop/revise the master course so that everybody involved in teaching it is comfortable using the master. And, in some cases, faculty prefer to develop and "pour" their own online sections of catalog courses.  

Thus, we have two basic types of online sections in SUNY Empire's School of Undergraduate Studies:

Course Master:  A version of an online course developed and administered in such a way that the course template can be readily taught by a number of instructor types, including adjuncts. Most of our online undergraduate sections, credits, and students are taught in master sections. These sections will likely continue to constitute ~95% of our online credits in undergrad. Associate Department Chairs are responsible for course masters (with specific responsibilities articulated in the ADC position description).

Faculty Pours: Sections of online courses that are individually developed, and usually taught only by a single faculty member. Like masters, Faculty Pour sections must go through the Instructional Design process and adhere to the design, accessibility, copyright, and other applicable standards. Faculty teaching Faculty Pours are responsible for submitting book orders in a timely manner, submitting their Learning Contracts on time, complying with all regulations and policies (e.g., copyright, ADA, grading policy), coordinating with Empire Online staff to ensure accurate pour source information, coordinating scheduling of that section with the appropriate School, and working with the instructional design team to maintain the quality and currency of their sections.

In short, associate department chairs are responsible for course masters, and individual faculty members are responsible any faculty pour sections.

The next time you teach this course, undergraduate faculty members will be able to decide if you would like to teach from:

  • The course master
  • A version of a master course which you taught in previous terms 
  • A course you designed to be taught only by you

If you would like to teach a course master, do nothing. The course will automatically be added to your LMS course list approximately 3 weeks before the term opens. (This is the only option for adjunct faculty.)

If you are a faculty member with your own course master, this will be your assigned course shell. If you would prefer to teach from a different source, request a course shell modification on our internal site linked below.

Empire Online

Step 3: Confirm Course Readiness

SUNY Empire online courses open to students one week before the official start of the term. This is referred to as Preview Week. Course readiness must be confirmed before Preview Week. Areas to address:

  • All links work properly
  • The syllabus is reviewed
  • There a late work policy posted in the course
  • Instructor contact information is clearly stated
  • The course schedule reflects the current term dates and deadlines

Term Calendar

Make sure your syllabus or other course materials include an outline or calendar of due dates. Students need a pacing guide to help them manage their work and easily check due dates. Remember to remain flexible, however. Things happen. Have an extension policy in place and let students know when and how they can use it.

Are there broken links or other technical issues with the course? Get IT help:

IT Service Desk

Step 4: Welcome your Students

Add a welcoming announcements for students to see when they first enter your digital classroom in order to foster a growth mindset in students (and yourself). Mindset affects student success and every word sends a message. Welcome students using phrases designed to encourage students towards an accomplishment mentality.

Remember, the most important thing you can do for your students is to communicate with them. Let them know that you understand their challenges and that you’re working right along with them as they try to achieve their goals. Give them details on when and how you’ll correspond with them, and when and how they can correspond with you and each other.

Suggestions for Course Communication:

  • Use Messages feature located in the upper right corner or found in the dashboard menu.
  • Use a Class Email List in your Navigation button > select My Courses > Participants. Check the name you want to send an email.
  • The Announcements Tool is useful for general announcements to the entire class.

SUNY Empire encourages keeping communication within the LMS. If you correspond via email, be sure to save those messages. Having a record keeping system of communciation with students may be useful.

Expectations for Online Adjunct Faculty

In keeping with the mission of SUNY Empire State College and good teaching practices, instructors should promote a positive learning environment and remain consistently and proactively engaged in courses throughout the term.

Adjunct faculty members teaching online courses in the School of Undergraduate Studies or the School for Graduate Studies are expected to:

  • Complete relevant training provided by ESC in a timely manner.
  • Follow relevant SUNY Empire State College policies and procedures (e.g., grading, academic honesty, student conduct, FERPA, student accessibility services).
  • Create a welcoming environment for learning. This includes:
    • Posting introduction, contact information, and updated schedule information.
    • Using the learning management system’s announcement feature to keep students informed regarding upcoming course events.
    • Clearly indicating your expectations regarding communication methods with instructor, acceptance of late assignments, citation styles, and other relevant matters.
    • Articulating clear standards of civility and behavior in the online class.
  • Be regularly and substantively engaged within the course.  In most online courses, this means engaging with students on at least three separate days each week of the term.
  • Provide appropriate formative feedback on assignments and learning activities using the learning management system tools. Feedback should be provided in a timely manner, generally no longer than 7-10 days of the assignment due date, depending on the complexity of the assignment and accompanying feedback. 
  • Respond to students and college personnel within 2 business days.
  • Facilitate and monitor discussions as appropriate.
  • Refer students to the appropriate college office/services for support as needed.
  • Proactively communicate with the appropriate college office/personnel regarding student and course issues.
  • Provide feedback to the course supervisor regarding course design and content and student preparation at the end of the term to facilitate course improvements.
  • Contact your course supervisor if you have a personal emergency that will keep you from engaging with students for more than 3 days.

If you have any questions regarding the information on this page, or the course in general, know that your school leadership team is available for support.

SUNY Empire Contact Information

After preparing your course, explore the next step: Engaging Students in a Digital Environment 

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