Best Practices on cuLearn

A course structure that is simple, well organized and allows for student participation through various activities is likely to succeed. Here are some best practices for creating a successful course on cuLearn.

  • Simplicity
    Use a simple and clear layout to help students find the resources and materials easily. Label files with meaningful names that identify the materials.
  • Organization
    Organize your course in a logical manner. Consider modular organization such as by topic, week-by-week or grouping similar content together (e.g., readings grouped together in one folder).
  • Participation
    Student participation in course activities keeps them engaged throughout the term. Create forums for discussions between instructor and students or amongst students themselves. Use the survey tool to collect feedback throughout the course.

Posting Content

Instructors are encouraged to upload course materials for students to view and download. At the very minimum, instructors should place the course outline within their cuLearn course. The following guidelines should be applied when posting content:

  1. Be mindful of copyright.
    Current Canadian copyright law forbids the placing of copyrighted materials unless the rights holder has granted specific permission. This includes posting of articles held in the Library’s electronic databases. Note: linking to materials is permitted and encouraged. To secure copyright clearance of materials use the Library’s copyright clearance services. For more information regarding copyright, view:
  2. Consider using PDF, HTML, and RTF files instead of Microsoft Office documents (.docx, pptx, etc).
    This ensures that students can view the documents properly and minimizes the file size.
  3. Organize similar materials together.
    This will help not only students, but you and your TAs to locate information quickly.
  4. Pay attention to file sizes.
    Large files (>10 MB) can be problematic for some students to download and can slow down the overall cuLearn system for other users.

Communicating with Students

cuLearn provides several ways for instructors to communicate with their students.

  • Email
    Instructors must use a Carleton email address to communicate private information to students (grade information, accommodations, etc). Using non-Carleton email (i.e. gmail, yahoo, Rogers, etc.) is strongly discouraged even for non-private correspondence. Consider the purpose of your message before emailing all students in a class. If the message is of low importance and urgency, consider placing the message in a discussion board post or as an announcement rather than emailing it.
  • Forums (Discussion Boards)
    A forum should be organized and structured to allow students to follow conversations. Using weekly topics can help keep conversations organized and make them easy to navigate; instructors should also close discussion topics after conversations have ended (to prevent students from submitting new posts). Build an FAQ section. When a student emails you a question, if the answer may benefit other students, place the question and your response in the discussion board. Identify whether it will be you or your teaching assistant(s) who will monitor the discussion board to help ensure a safe and respectful learning environment.
  • News Forum
    Use this tool to place all course announcements in one consistent location. All students have forced subscription to the News Forum (students will always receive an email notification when posts are made by you or your TA to the News Forum).

Assignments & Grading

Electronic submission of assignments is recommended as a way of reducing the use of paper and the risk of losing student submissions. As well, assignments that are created in cuLearn are linked directly to the gradebook. Online assignments should be graded in the assignment tool in order for student grades to be automatically entered into your gradebook. This will save time for both you and your TA.

Another time saver would be to organize and sort your gradebook prior to the start of your course. This will prevent possible confusion at the end of the course when trying to sort out each grade item your students have submitted.

The cuLearn Gradebook is the only secure way of releasing course grades to students. It should not, however, be used to release final (official) grades to students as these are subject to the approval of the department chair and Faculty Dean. Final grades are released using E-Grades, a tool hosted inside of Carleton Central.  Some instructors even prefer to hide their course totals in cuLearn from students before all the grades have been accounted for.