1. Room Logistics
  2. Lecturing
  3. Classroom Transition Time
  4. Course Outlines
  5. Textbooks and/or Coursepacks
  6. Icebreaker Activities and Student Introductions
  7. Course Shopping
  8. Unstable Class List
  9. Substantial Absenteeism
  10. Waiting Lists and Full Courses
  11. Paul Menton Centre Accommodations
  12. Other Requests
  13. cuLearn

There are a number of logistical and organizational issues that usually arise during the first class. Prepare yourself and get as much of the “housekeeping” work out of the way as possible so that you can get on with teaching in subsequent classes.

Room Logistics

Whenever possible, visit the room that you will be teaching in prior to your first class. Light switches in many classrooms can be complex. Test them out ahead of time if you will be doing any lighting adjustments.

If you plan to use any electronic equipment, visit the My Classroom page on the IMS website for a list of specific equipment in each room, user manuals and how-to videos. You can also schedule an appointment for a personal orientation to that particular room with IMS. “Full” electronic classrooms have computers, screens, speakers, wireless microphones, VCRs, DVD players – all coordinated through a touch panel on the instructor’s console. 

You will need to go to IMS’ Classroom Technology Support office in room D283 Loeb to pick up a key for the console. You will then also be given the passcode to unlock the control panel on the console (note: passcode changes annually).


Students do not always expect you to lecture on the first day. It is recommended that you offer at least an introduction to your class and go over the syllabus. You may also wish to use this opportunity to let the students get to know you by indicating why you teach the course and what your research interests are.

If you do offer a full lecture (recommended in three-hour classes so you don’t use up an entire week of the course), good communication ahead of time through cuLearn is an excellent way to ensure students are prepared to take notes and pay attention. Otherwise, keep first day lectures concrete and introductory and spend time talking about expectations for the course, student behaviour, academic integrity, etc.

Classroom Transition Time

Classes start at 0:05 (five minutes) after the hour or at 0:35 (35 minutes) after the hour and will finish at 0:55 (55 minutes) after the hour or at 0:25 (25 minutes) after the hour. New instructors and students will have access to the room on the hour (0:00) or on the half hour (0:30) to set up their course material. In general, you have five minutes to set up your course materials before you begin teaching and five minutes to clean up your materials before the next class commences. This will help ensure a smooth transition between classes and allow students enough travel time.

For example, within the five minutes prior to the start of class time (i.e., 10 a.m. for a 10:05 a.m. start time) you should set up your teaching materials. You should finish lecturing at 11:25 a.m., clean up your course materials and leave the classroom by 11:30 a.m., leaving enough time for the next course instructor to set up for an 11:35 a.m. start.

Course Outlines

You should have a detailed discussion about the course outline. Talk about what you will cover, important dates, deadlines, grading schemes and highlight any unusual circumstances or policies (e.g. lateness). A detailed class schedule, complete with dates for tests and assignment due dates will be useful for students. Sometimes an in-depth discussion of your learning outcomes for the course can serve as the introductory “lecture” during the first class.

Make your course outline available on cuLearn for your students as soon as it is approved by your department’s chair/director and dean. Some academic units still require that you hand out paper copies to all students, so check with your departmental administrator.

Textbooks and/or Coursepacks

Even if you have listed coursepacks/textbooks on cuLearn before classes begin and told students to have them available, you should expect some students to wait until you have confirmed your choice in class before picking them up. You have the right to expect students to have these resources available by the second week of classes.

Posting introductory material on cuLearn allows you to get students up and running before they have purchased all of their textbooks, though you must ensure that the material does not violate copyright laws.

Icebreaker Activities and Student Introductions

Many students do not appreciate icebreaker activities on the first day. If you do decide to do an icebreaker, keep it concrete and avoid asking students to present orally in front of the class.

Icebreaker activities can actually be more successful if you wait a couple of weeks, when students have become more comfortable with you and have developed social networks within the class.

Some students will be eager to introduce themselves and discuss special requests. It’s a good idea to plan to stay a bit later than normal on the first day and arrive as early as possible at the beginning of the second class.

Course Shopping

Some students will attend several different courses in the first week of classes before deciding what to drop and add. You might also have students in your class who are not formally registered. Bring paper copies of your outline to class as these students will not have access to documents on cuLearn until they are formally registered. Most academic units tell you not to allow students into your class until they are registered, but with large classes, this may be logistically impossible.

Unstable Class List

There is a lot of student movement in and out of courses in the first two weeks. This is particularly important if you are assigning students to groups or planning long-term activities. Check your class list often through Carleton Central.

Substantial Absenteeism

Quite a few students miss the first class for various reasons (not registered, flight arrangements, student visa application delays, etc.). Be prepared for them to contact you to find out what they missed. Bring extra copies of your course outline to the first few classes. You can expect new students to show up right until the official drop date. 

While you should do everything that you can to accommodate the latecomers, you are not obligated to “reteach” two or three weeks’ worth of material. If students enter a class late, they are responsible for making up what they missed.

Waiting Lists and Full Courses

Students may approach you to be put on a waiting list if your course is over capacity. Check with your departmental administrator as to whether these are kept. Typically registration happens on a first come, first serve basis and is controlled through the Registrar’s Office. Don’t make promises to students that you may not be able to keep. Refer them back to their departmental undergraduate advisors or the Registrar’s Office.

Paul Menton Centre Accommodations

You will be approached by students who have been granted PMC accommodations for a variety of disabilities. It is often these students who wait for everyone else to leave before approaching you, so allow yourself ample time after class to speak with them.

PMC will email you about any students with disabilities. Through email response, you will need to acknowledge that you are responsible for accommodating their needs throughout the term (e.g. provide them with extra time or quiet space for exams). Keep a copy of the email in your files. You can also contact their accommodations coordinator in the PMC to clarify how best to meet the student’s needs.

Other Requests

Some students will approach you and offer a variety of reasons why they will miss class on certain dates or they might request a different deadline on an assignment. Making these accommodations is your decision, but remember that there will be several requests as the term goes on and you are not obligated to make such accommodations (which often amount to a significant amount of work for you). Be fair but firm. One strategy is to schedule one make-up test or in-class presentation date and stick to it.


If you plan to manage your course through a learning management system (and this is strongly recommended), be sure to offer a brief demonstration of the cuLearn site. You may wish to refer students to information regarding login, user information, etc., off the Carleton home page or directly on the cuLearn support site.

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