Term Start Quickguide for Instructors

Accessibility, Brightspace, Instructor Help, Spring 2022, Top Post

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Get Set for a New Term

This guide takes you through the key steps and resources available for developing online components of your course. Whether your course is being delivered online, in-person or a blend of these two modes, you can use the technologies we have at UVic to support learning and teaching.

 Get Started

Simplify your term: see what support is available to you!

Learning and teaching supports

There are many resources related to online components of your course available to you on our Instructor Help Site. 

These include:

  • Web based resources (quickguides, FAQs, video tutorials)
  • Live Support
  • Consultations with your LTSI Support Team (book here)
  • Workshops

Even if you just want to know what is available to you, contact ltsisupport@uvic.ca.


Conceptualize your Course & Syllabus

Here are some important considerations for designing your course and syllabus.

Start by visiting our webpage Teach a Course where you will find basic information on setting up your course for success.


Syllabus guidelines

The best course syllabus will inform students what they are expected to learn by the end of the course. Creating your syllabus? See the Syllabus Guidelines

  • Have your syllabus readily available to students throughout the course.
  • Provide students with clear expectations for the course including all assessment components (i.e., weighting and priorities) and delivery methods (in person, online, blended, etc.).
  • A syllabus can be displayed graphically to show how concepts in the course interrelate and build on one another, and to explain the “flow” of the course. An example of a graphic syllabus, created by Dr. Marty Wall for a first-year Psychology class, demonstrates this style of syllabus.
  • Your syllabus should include a statement regarding accessibility and another about academic integrity.
  • There are minimal university requirements for your syllabus. Please see the section named “Course Outline Requirement” in the Calendar for more information.

Choose your learning technologies

UVic’s suite of Learning Technologies provides the tools and supports for enabling teaching excellence and enhancing student learning and success. This collection of tools and supports provides faculty, instructors and students with a learning space that complements all modes of instruction from face-to-face to fully online.

Learn more and pick your tools:

  • Brightspace: UVic’s primary Learning Management System. Use this as the central hub for your course and add other technologies with it. Most of the tools below can be used directly within Brightspace.
  • Zoom: web conferencing tool for live online lectures, office hours, and student meetings.
  • Microsoft Teams: platform for class collaboration and communication.
  • Crowdmark: collaborative grading platform that enables instructors and TAs to evaluate student work more effectively.
  • Echo360: UVic’s video content management platform that works inside Brightspace

For assistance deciding between tools or questions about how they might work together, contact ltsisupport@uvic.ca.

Five things to incorporate for online courses


  • Blend of Synchronous & Asynchronous. Online courses can be delivered in many different formats or modes. Using a little bit of both is often a useful approach: decide on your blend of synchronous and asynchronous instruction.
  • Consider Workload. Instructional time looks different in an online course. Instead, consider “Time on Task” and be mindful of workload (yours and your students’). Learn more about online and face-to-face equivalency.
  • Flexibility & Accessibility. Students may experience a range of barriers to participating in online learning. Be sure to review all letters for students with academic accommodations at the start of the course to determine necessary supports. In all cases, incorporate flexibility wherever possible and keep accessibility in mind.
  • Engagement & Connection. In an online course, it is common for students to feel disconnected or disengaged. Keep student engagement and community building in mind as you develop your course syllabus. Here are a few resources: (1) What is instructor presence – and how to create it?; (2) How do I engage students online?; and (3) How do I manage large classes?
  • Connect Students with Support. Let students know about support available to them throughout the term. Learn Anywhere is a portal for all student supports.


Review letters for students with academic accommodations

Review all letters for students with academic accommodations at the start of the course to determine necessary supports. See the Centre for Accessible Learning Online Tools.


The LTSI Is available to walk you through the process of setting up accommodation requirements in Brightspace, including extended time-invigilated exams. Please reach out to ltsisupport@uvic.ca.


Set up your Brightspace course site

Even if you are teaching in person, you can still use Brightspace as a hub for your course materials to support student learning. Use the customizable course template to start organizing your course site to save time and help students quickly find materials for each week of the course.

Find your Brightspace site

All credit courses automatically receive a Brightspace site. If you are the instructor of record for a course, you will find it under the “My Courses” widget on the UVic Brightspace main page. Use the tabs named after each term to locate your course site more easily. Note that students will not be able to see your site until you activate the course AND the start date has passed. If you would like a site for a particular community or just for experimentation, please submit a request.


Do you need a cross-listed course? If you are teaching multiple sections of the same course, you may want to consider merging them into one site. Please request a cross-listed/merged site before the start of the term by submitting the cross-list request form or contact ltsisupport@uvic.ca for more information.

Copy over past content

In Brightspace, Copy Components allows you to copy a whole course (or select components) from one course site into another site.  For more information, see this step by step tutorial.

Starting from Scratch? Use the Course Template

Save some time and energy by downloading the fully editable and customizable course site template. The template is pre-stocked with some course components that can support your online, in person or blended course and is arranged in a way that will help students (and you) easily navigate and find your content when needed. Learn more and get the course template!

Decide when you would like students to access your site

In your Brightspace site, you can set a  Start Date and End Date control student access to your course site.


  • Give students access in advance if possible. By default, start date is the first day of term, but you can adjust it as needed. It can be helpful to give students access a bit earlier so that they already know where to find your site and syllabus on the first day of class!

  • No need to set an end date!   Course sites remain in Brightspace for at least one year after the end of the course and will be automatically archived. If you want to close your course to students earlier ensure it’s well after the last date you want students to be able to access your activities, exams, feedback or grades. In most cases, this date should not be the last day of classes. 

Get step by step instructions on setting your start and end dates for the site.


Organize your site

A well organized Brightspace site helps students to find things when they need them.
Here are some resources and tips for structuring your site.

Keep it easy to navigate

Keep an eye on the student experience when adding your content to Brightspace. See the Course Navigation Guide for tips for structuring your Brightspace course.

These resources may be helpful as you decide what to include in your course site:

There are some elements that you might decide to include even if your course is primarily being delivered in person, such as a Q&A section or an Introductions forum.

Add a "course information" topic

Make the first module/unit in your course site a “course info” topic that includes important information that students will need throughout the course. Having a clear place to check for important information will help students understand what is expected of them in the course, regardless of the delivery mode. In the course template, this module/unit is called “Course Info & Outline.” Including a course info module provides context, lets students know what they can expect in the course and sets the tone for the term. Make sure to include:


  • Syllabus – in addition to posting the syllabus as a PDF, a recommended approach is to create individual documents (or pages) for each section of your syllabus with descriptive titles.
  • Schedule and Due Dates – provide a high-level overview of the schedule and due dates all on one page.
  • Contact Information and Office Hours (in person or online live office hours) – post your contact information and office hour information.
  • Class Q&A – create a discussion forum where students can ask questions asynchronously.
  • Student Support Information – include links to Learn Anywhere (online support student portal), Student Technology Help (FAQs about Brightspace, Zoom, and more), Student Guide to Online Learning (self-paced modules).

Add an introduction to each module/unit

Depending on how much content you are including for your course on Brightspace, choose whether to organize your course by week or topic and provide a consistent structure so that students will know how to navigate it.

If you are including most/all of your content on your Brightspace course site, start each module/unit with an introduction or overview page:

  • Describe what the module is about and why it is important for the course.
  • List the intended learning outcomes for the module and what is expected from learners.
  • Include a plan for the week so that students will know what to expect and what work they need to complete (e.g., a to-do-list).
  • As you are planning your weekly to-do-lists, estimate “time on task” for the week, making sure to include your online synchronous classes or in-person classes in your weekly total. In the online environment, it can be helpful to use “time on task” as an equivalent to instructional hours. Learn more about “time on task” and instructional hours.

You can see an example of a weekly structure from our course template.

Choose your homepage & layout

The front page of your course is called the course homepage. You have four options for how your homepage appears to students. Learn more and pick your homepage.

There are also two layout options for the content area of your Brightspace course: Classic Content Experience and New Content Experience. The Classic layout is the default for UVic courses. Learn about the New Content Experience and the differences between the two. You can switch between layout options yourself by following these steps. Alternatively, you can use this form to request a change of layout in your course page.


Set up Assessments

Brightspace has a number of tools you can use for assessments. For example, Brightspace can be used to deliver quizzes/exams, collect submissions, grade, and give feedback on in-person assignments.

Add your assessments to Brightspace

Most instructors who do online assessments use Brightspace Assignments or Quizzes for assessment activities. Activities with due dates show up in the course calendar and in the Pulse App for students. If you are doing your assessments online, here are some things to include:

  • Add assessments at the start of term 
  • Include the due date
  • Only use start/end dates if you need to restrict student access ahead of time
  • Include the assignment weighting
  • Provide assignment materials / instructions and relevant information.
  • Note: If you use start/end dates, students might not be able to see your assignment/quiz in the Content area of the site until the start date arrives (this happens in the New Content Experience). If you want an exam/assessment to be available at a future date but need to provide information/instructions in advance, it is a good idea to add that information in the weekly outline and/or course schedule. For example, in the course template we have included placeholders for two assignments, two quizzes, and a final assignment.

Resources for Assignments & Exams


Set up grades and rubrics

Using Brightspace for your grades and rubrics is helpful for both you and your students whether your course is online, in person, or a blend of the two modes.



Set up your gradebook in Brightspace by reviewing our “Set Up Grading Tools” module in the Teaching with Brightspace site or request help setting up your gradebook. Tip: Use the Gradebook Set Up Wizard in Brightspace!



Set up rubrics by reviewing our FAQ: How do I add / edit a rubric in Brightspace?

Related resources

These resources might be helpful as you develop online assessments for your course:


Create your Content

We recommend that each module/unit of your course follows a consistent format. For example, in our course template, each week includes a weekly overview, instructional content, and activities.

Add existing course content

You might already have existing content to add to your course.

Keep in mind that if you are using the course template, your existing content will not be automatically reorganized. It’s easy to integrate your existing content into the template, and we can help! Contact: LTSIsupport@uvic.ca.

Add new content

There are a variety of ways to add new content to your course. Get started by reviewing our “Build Your Course” module in the Teaching with Brightspace course and reviewing our Creating Content FAQ. See examples of different types of activities and instructional materials in our Brightspace Examples Database.


Note: Consistently place instructional content either in the weeks where they are due or where they start. For example, in the course template, each week includes a content page, a discussion, and link to a Zoom session, and some weeks include other learning activities.

Related resources

Tips for organizing your content

Resources for developing video content

Resources for hosting live sessions

Resources for planning collaborative work


Communicate with Students

Communication creates community and sets students up for success. At the start of your course, let students know how you will be communicating during the course and how they can communicate with you and each other.

Get started by reviewing our Communication FAQs.

Provide clear avenues of communication

If you are using Brightspace in your course, there are various ways to communicate with students directly such as with email, announcements, discussion forums, chat and more. Start by learning seven ways to communicate with students in Brightspace and then pick the methods that will work for you.


Regardless of the mode of instruction you will use, we recommend:

  • Communicating learning expectations and activities to students weekly (learn more). For example, you can use the weekly overview page or post an announcement in Brightspace on a consistent day and time each week.
  • Finding ways for students to ask questions more easily. For example, schedule weekly office hours in Zoom or create a Q&A forum in Brightspace.

Create a respectful and inclusive online classroom

As an instructor, it is important to establish a respectful, inclusive, and positive learning environment that sets your expectations for students. It might seem more difficult to build trust, empathy, and shared values depending on the mode of instruction you will use. Indeed, an online environment without the face-to-face interaction and body language can make things more challenging, but there are many things we can do in classrooms with online aspects to promote a positive learning environment. Learn more in our tip sheet.


Launch your Course

Congratulations! You are almost ready. Interested in finding out more?
Register for one of our workshops.

Welcome & orient students


The beginning of term is the perfect time to welcome students and orient them to the course.

  • Welcome Email. Send students a welcome email in the week prior to the first class. Let them know the mode of instruction you will use and where to find your course, when they can access it, and what will be expected in the first week. We recommend sending an email the first week as students will not receive announcements to their email until they log in to Brightspace for the first time (Learn how to send an email).
  • First Day Announcement. On the first day of class, post a welcome announcement. Make it engaging! Consider including a picture or video rather than text only. You can even create it now and schedule it for the first day (Learn how to post ).
  • Course Orientation. During the first week, provide students with an orientation to the course and course site. Show them where they can find the syllabus, how to navigate the modules, and where they can find assignments. An online “scavenger hunt” can be an engaging activity in your first week.


Make your course visible to students

When your course is ready to open, you will need to activate your site and set a start date. Learn more in How do I make my course visible to students?

Add other instructors or TAs to your course

You might need to add other members of your instructional team to your course. Learn more in How do I assign roles to users in my course?

Add waitlisted or auditing students

You can add auditing or waitlisted students to your course site through the Course Management page in Online Tools (See step by step instructions). Students will be removed when the waitlist closes or they drop the course. 


Related resources

Check out our Course Access FAQ for more information on:

  • Finding your courses
  • Student access to courses
  • Instructor and TA access to courses



About this post

This post was last updated:

April 22, 2021

We acknowledge and respect the Lək̓ʷəŋən (Songhees and Esquimalt) Peoples on whose territory the university stands, and the Lək̓ʷəŋən and W̱SÁNEĆ Peoples whose historical relationships with the land continue to this day.

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