Feature: Michael Evans, University of Toronto

Creating a course structure and its corresponding components can be a challenge for any professor. To meet this challenge, Michael Evans relies on his decades of teaching experience for both remote and in-person courses. Though Michael is currently using this method in his Computer and Mathematical Sciences classes at the University of Toronto Scarborough, his approach can be applied to various subjects and institutional types.

Structuring Evaluations

In the years since he began teaching, Michael has reduced the number of assignments he gives. This change is due in part to Michael noticing a pattern wherein students waited for answers to be posted rather than completing their assigned work. Additionally, classes with greater numbers of assignments had higher occurrences of copying. Since uncovering these insights, Michael has continued to lecture and give students weekly assignments, but his course grades are weighted towards the midterms and the final. The comments below reflect teaching upper level Statistics and probability courses which can sometimes have very large enrolments.

To support this structure, Michael emphasizes to his students that the weekly assignments are the building blocks for the high-stakes assessments. He further discourages collusion and cheating on high-stakes assessments by making these assessments very lengthy, thus making it difficult for students to find time to cheat. Michael also makes up his own questions for all his exams so the students will not be able to look up previous years’ assessments or test bank questions online. Whenever possible final evaluations are in-person.

Through this approach, Michael has found a strong correlation between work on assignments, and marks on the midterms and final. When his students complete the assignments given in class, their grades on the midterm and final exam reflect the work they put into these regular assignments. Because the midterms and final are open-book, and there are no surprises, students who put in the work and do the assignments are likely to do well.

Feedback and TAs

To ensure students have as many learning opportunities as possible, Michael is generous when offering office hours. He offers in-person and online options for conversation, so students have as many opportunities as possible to seek help. During office hours students have the opportunity to discuss concepts they have questions on as well as seek overall feedback about their performance.

Not only does Michael make himself accessible in this way, but he delegates a number of TA hours for answering questions as well. Because he often has large classes, it is difficult for Michael to answer every student’s question. Increasing availability and access to TAs helps students get the assistance they need.

Crowdmark and Assessments

Michael has been using Crowdmark for several years and says it comes in handy for administering exams. When conducting classes online, Michael has found Crowdmark’s assigned assessment workflow helpful for hosting digital finals and midterms. For his in-person classes, Michael utilizes Crowdmark’s administered assessment workflow to allow students to complete paper-based assessments that can be uploaded for digital grading.

Michael likes that the Crowdmark platform gives instructors easy access to all their assessments. He finds it easy to use, and he appreciates that Crowdmark’s Customer Success team provides speedy and thorough responses when he needs assistance with feature use.

If in doubt, Crowdmark’s Customer Success team can troubleshoot issues, facilitate training, or process feature requests.