Resources for Part-time (Sessional) Instructors

Taking on a new teaching position involves accessing a significant amount of information, understanding the rhythm of the academic year, and learning about resources, supports, and policies that inform your course preparation and teaching. We hope that this page will make information about teaching at Western easily accessible for part-time instructors. Links to original information sources are included throughout. This ensures that if you need further information on a particular topic, you will be able to find it quickly and easily.

The Western Context

Western is a research-intensive university with over 30,000 undergraduate students and 5,000 graduate students pursuing degrees in eight Faculties. While the number of online and blended courses is growing, Western is primarily a residential university, where the majority of first year students live in residence and continue to take mainly face-to-face classes throughout their programs. Most students on campus originate in Ontario, but international students from over 70 different countries make up a growing proportion of the undergraduate student population. Our graduate student population is equally diverse, with 25% of doctoral students arriving from overseas.

Western’s curriculum relies on a unique modular program that allows students to combine a major or honours degree in one discipline with a minor in a second discipline. For example, a student may pursue a major in Political Science with a minor in Anthropology, and take courses in Biology, Psychology, or Modern Languages to fulfil the breadth requirement of their degree. Given the structure of the modular program, about 40% of a student’s coursework will represent their chosen major. The goal is to provide students with university level education that balances depth of knowledge in their chosen disciplines with breadth of knowledge in science, arts and humanities, languages, and social sciences. All degrees at Western meet the institution-specific learning outcomes known as the Western Degree Outcomes. Western strives to provide the best student experience, including opportunities for experiential learning, community engagement, and opportunities for undergraduate research.

Who are Western’s Part-time Instructors?

Part-time instructors (or sessional instructors) hold limited-duties faculty appointments. According to the Faculty Collective Agreement, limited-duties appointments are fixed-term, non-probationary appointments. This means that limited-duties appointments are not automatically renewed, and instructors reapply to teach available courses each year.

Full-time faculty at Western are unionized as the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association (UWOFA). Limited-duties faculty can also become members of UWOFA as described in the Faculty Collective Agreement. UWOFA also has a Committee for Contract Faculty. The committee’s mandate is to represent the concerns of all contract faculty. The committee works to promote solidarity and understanding among contract faculty and between contract faculty and the larger UWOFA community. 

 

Getting Started Tips for New Part-time Instructors

  1. Participate in an instructor development program at the Centre for Teaching and Learning. You can also check out the Centre’s web resources on Course Design, Teaching and Assessment, and eLearning, or contact the Centre for a one-on-one consult appointment.

  2. Meet with the Department Chair or other lead in your department to clarify any questions you have about your roles and responsibilities as a part-time instructor. Administrative staff in the department will also be a valuable resource in terms of gathering unit-specific information and accessing university resources.
    • Ask about how your course fits in with the rest of the department’s curriculum or degree programs. What program-level learning outcomes should your course help students to achieve? 
    • Ask about department policies or guidelines for marking, conducting exams, accessibility, working with teaching assistants, responding to grade change requests, and promoting equity and academic integrity.
    • Find out when your course syllabus needs to be finalized and submitted to the department.
  3. Familiarize yourself with Western’s Indigenous Strategic Plan. To support Indigenous students in your classroom, see the Guide to Working with Indigenous Students.

  4. Search the Academic Calendar to answer any questions you might have about Academic Policies and/or Sessional Dates. Familiarize yourself with the Structure of the Academic Year. Review the Rhythm and Rules of the Academic Year presentation for new faculty.

  5. Explore the campus facilities. Check out your classroom spaces and the technology available to you. Learn about the library, academic and support services available to students, faculty and staff on campus.

  6. Investigate OWL, Western’s online learning management system (OWL portal) and launch the OWL page for your course.

  7. Set up an introductory meeting with your Teaching Assistant(s) to discuss the course, roles, and responsibilities. Read through the Western Guide to Working with Teaching Assistants and talk to a departmental lead about any questions you may have about TA support.

  8. Download a class list (with student photographs) before your first class, through the Faculty and Staff Extranet site. Use this list to get a sense of who is enrolled in your course.

 

A-Z Logistics for New Part-time Instructors

Academic Timetables

Western’s Academic Timetable provides information regarding undergraduate course schedules and locations. Check with your departmental administrator for information about the scheduling and location of graduate level courses.

Buildings

All Western building have abbreviations that are commonly used in timetables and class scheduling. A full list of building names, abbreviations, and addresses is available through the Western Directory.

A listing of all classrooms at Western, with photos of classroom spaces, available technology, and number of seats is available from the Classroom Technology Group. Detailed maps of interior building layouts with accessibility information can be found through Accessibility at Western.

Calendar (Academic Dates)

A timeline of the entire academic year can be found in the Academic Calendar under Sessional Dates. Important dates for graduate courses can be found in the Regulations (Section 1.01 Calendar of Events) of the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

E-mail

Western provides faculty, staff, and students with an e-mail address, set up as username@uwo.ca. This e-mail allows you to avoid using personal e-mail addresses when communicating with your students. All official communications from the university will come to you through your Western e-mail. Your e-mail is a great way to record and track ongoing exchanges between you and your students. These records may come in handy when dealing with grade appeals, extension requests, missed class or deadlines, etc.

Log in to your account using your Western Identity login and password through the university’s webmail client, Outlook. Set-up instructions and trouble-shooting help can be found on the Western Technology Services (WTS) website.

Extranet

The Faculty and Staff Extranet portal provides you with access to class lists (with student photos), and student accommodation information. When students request accommodation (e.g., missed exam due to illness), they seek support at Academic Counselling in their home faculty. When a request is granted the information is posted to Extranet and the instructor is notified by email. If you cannot access Extranet using the link above (and your Western Identity login and password), submit an Extranet Access Request Form.

Health and Safety Training

All instructors at Western are required to complete several online training programs accessed through the Human Resources Required Training page. The page also recommends instructors complete the Mental Health Interactive Learning Module which shares information about mental health issues on campus and the resources and services available to students.

Keys

Depending on your office and classroom locations, you may need building and/or room keys.

  • Ask your departmental administrator for a list of the keys you will need.
  • Fill out the online Key Request Form provided by Facilities Management.
  • You will receive an e-mail letting you know when your keys are ready to be picked up at the Parking & Visitor Services Offices. You will need your Western ONECard in order to pick-up (and return) keys.
  • The Western Technology Services (WTS) Help Desk issues General University audio visual (AV) keys for accessing classroom technology.

Libraries

Western Libraries resources are found at fifteen locations distributed across campus and its affiliated colleges. See here for library locations and subject matter allocations. Off-campus access to online databases requires logging in using your Western Identity username and password. Withdraw library materials using your Western ONECard.

Mail

Each academic unit sorts and delivers incoming mail for faculty members. Ask your departmental administrator about the location of your mailbox. Mail services on campus are coordinated by Facilities Management.

Maps

Maps of Western’s main campus and the campuses of affiliate colleges are available from the Department of Geography. These resources include information on parking lots, accessible pathways, library locations, and campus recreation and safety.

Office hours

Consider scheduling some time each week to meet with your students outside of class. Departments generally suggest that faculty members plan at least one hour of office hours per week into their schedules, but requirements may vary across academic units. Check with an administrator regarding your unit’s office hours expectations. Also consider scheduling virtual or online office hours in addition to your face-to-face time.

Office Space

Each academic unit manages its own office space for faculty members. Limited-duties faculty may be assigned to individual or shared offices. Check-in with your departmental administrator for up-to-date information.

Parking

Faculty members who regularly drive to campus may obtain parking permits through the online application system of Western Parking & Visitor Services.

Paycheck

Faculty members receive their pay via Western’s Human Resources department. You can update personal banking information and view earnings statements on the MyHumanResources website. Most Western faculty are paid monthly on the second last working day of every month. Human Resources also offers additional plan information on Pensions and Investments.

Printing and Photocopying

Individual academic units manage photocopying and printing (e.g., worksheets, handouts, exams, etc.) for their department. Request information about printing and photocopying accounts and access codes from your departmental administrator. In addition, Graphic Services and Creative Services are two of the facilities on campus where you may print materials for a fee.

Professional Expense Reimbursement (PER)

Some limited-duties instructors receive reimbursement for eligible professional expenses. Details on professional expenses can also be accessed through UWOFA’s Professional Expense Reimbursement web page.

Recreation

Western has a large recreation complex on campus. Faculty members, staff, and their family members can join campus recreation for a reduced fee. Membership information is available from campus recreation along with detailed information about services and programs.

Smoking and Scent Guidelines

Western will be a smoke-free environment as of the summer of 2019. Western’s new smoking policy, now in effect, recognizes and provides exemptions for traditional cultural or spiritual practices by Indigenous members of the Western community. Aside from identified exemptions, the policy includes all forms of smoking, vaping and tobacco use.

Wherever possible, Western community members are asked to follow campus scent guidelines and eliminate the use of scented products. This is to address concerns about indoor air quality and the needs of individuals with scent sensitivities. Human Resources has additional information on scent guidelines.

Western Identity

All faculty members receive a Western Identity when they become a university employee. Your Western Identity is your key to central services at Western and consists of your User ID and Password, sent to you through your home faculty or department.

Once you have a Western Identity, you will be given access to a variety of tools and services including:

  • E-mail
  • Classroom computers
  • The online learning management system (OWL)
  • Campus wireless networks
  • Western Libraries
  • Human resources

Contact Western Technology Services (WTS) for assistance with your Western identity.

Western ONECard

All Western employees are assigned an identification (ID) number and issued a Western ONECard (photo ID). This card will serve as your employee ID, library card, and may also be used as a key card to gain access to certain rooms/buildings. Western ONECards are obtained from Room 1120 in Western’s Student Services Building (WSS). When you go, be sure to have your employee number with you. You won’t be able to obtain a card without it!

If you choose to open a Flex account through Hospitality Services, you can also use your ONECards to purchase food almost anywhere on campus.

Some locations on campus are accessed using your Western ONECard. This system is managed through Western’s Campus Community Police Service. Deans or Budget Heads usually submit the access request and approval form on your behalf. Your information will be programmed into the system and your Western OneCard will be activated within a few business days. For more details, please follow this link: Western ONECard Access.

Preparing to Teach

The Centre for Teaching and Learning offers orientation events and professional development opportunities to help both part- and full-time instructors prepare for the new academic year.

Programs for First-time Instructors

Testimonials

Both new and experienced instructors find that CTL programs enrich their teaching experiences and practices. Much of the programming is designed to match the teaching interests of participants in a given session. Western faculty have commented:

“I appreciated having the opportunity to get support, reflect with other teachers, and give support … it was nice to feel that I could support new instructors who had not taught.”

“I transitioned from worrying about [being] an authority at the front of the class … to an enabler of learning… and I think that helped me let go of this anxiety about authority. After that, I just started teaching, teaching, teaching.”

“I became much more aware of where the students are and how they’re experiencing the content of what I’m teaching them.”

“[the ISW workshop] made me think more about what I want students to get out of my course.”

“Now I definitely think of teaching more as a two-way street, so I rely on feedback from my students so that I can figure out how I can teach this better the next time, or what they need in order for them to be successful”

Planning Your Course

Getting Started: Preparing a Syllabus

Think of your course outline or syllabus as a tool for student success. The information in a syllabus provides overall course structure, addresses student questions and concerns, and offers resources and support services to students. Academic units are responsible for posting their own course outlines. Check in with your departmental administrator regarding the submission process. For help with designing your course outline, see the pages on:

  

Choosing Course Materials

Preparing a course involves choosing the reading materials and instructors have a variety of options to choose from.

Ordering Textbooks

Course textbooks can be ordered via an online form through The Book Store at Western. The Book Store’s main location is found in the lower level of the University Campus Centre. If possible, try to order textbooks at least 90 days in advance in order for your textbooks to arrive in time for the start of the term. Although The Book Store does not provide instructor desk copies, they do assist you in obtaining desk copies from publishers. See the policy on instructor desk copies, which also includes a Desk Copy Request Form.

Ordering Course Packages

Printed custom course packages can be ordered through The Book Store’s Custom Course Book The Book Store needs about 60 days prior to the start of term to have a custom book ready for students. The CBB Office arranges copyright clearance on behalf of instructors. Additional detail on copyright is available from Copyright @ Western website.

Library Reserve: Course Readings

Instructors have the option of creating a reading list for students that compiles diverse sources (e.g., book chapters, journal articles, etc.) The Course Readings Service on campus will compile PDF versions of these readings and make them available to students through a link on your course OWL site. Physical copies of materials may also be placed on short-term loan in the library (from 2-hour to 1-week loans). Try to place your requests for reserve materials by August 1 for any courses starting in September, December 1 for any courses starting in January, and at least one week prior to the start of intersession and summer courses.

Scheduling Assignments and Final Examinations

Undergraduate students must receive feedback on 15% of their final course grade three days prior to the course drop deadline (see the Evaluation of Academic Performance policy). This ensures that students have the opportunity to evaluate their success in a course early on and make a decision about whether or not they want to complete the course. Drop deadlines are detailed in the Sessional Dates calendar.

Policies regarding scheduling assignments and final exams

Refer to the Academic Handbook’s section on Scheduling of Examinations for policies regarding scheduling assignments and final exams. Some policy highlights include:

  • No previously unannounced assignments may be introduced in course during the last six weeks of a term. The nature of class assignments and all due dates must be provided to students before the final six weeks of a term.
  • Final examinations may not be scheduled during the last three weeks of classes in any term for either one-term and full-year courses.
  • Instructors of full-year courses may not schedule a test during the last week of classes in the Fall (September to December) term.
  • Instructors of Intersession and Summer Day Courses may not schedule tests during the last third of the course (i.e., during the last two weeks of classes in a six-week course, or during the last week of classes during a three week course).
  • Instructors of Summer Evening and Distance Education Courses may not schedule tests during the last three weeks of classes in the term.
  • If you are considering assigning a “take home” final exam, the Faculty Dean must first provide approval.

Managing Your Course

Engaging Students

The Fundamentals of Learning and Engaging Students pages provide useful tips on how to promote student interactions and meaningful engagement with course concepts. Topics covered include:

Assessing Student Learning

For ideas on how to manage grading tasks effectively, see the Assessing Student Learning page. Topics covered include: 

Working with Teaching Assistants

Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) make an important contribution to the quality of undergraduate education at Western. If one or more TAs are assigned to your course, work together to determine how their hours will be divided each week (e.g., attending class, running lab/tutorial, office hours, grading, etc.)

Resources that will help you make the most of your working relationship include:

Teaching with Technology and eLearning Resources

  • The Teachology page provides teaching tips and links to a variety of resources about online learning technologies and software available across campus.
  • The eLearning Toolkit is a comprehensive source for the kinds of tools available to instructors and how you might use them.

Western’s Learning Management System (LMS)

OWL is the name of Western’s LMS. You can log on to OWL using your Western user ID and password. OWL pages may be set up and published by course instructors for any undergraduate or graduate course. Instructors rely on OWL to make materials available to students (e.g., syllabi, lecture materials, assignment instructions, grades etc.) and to interact with students (e.g., announcements, forums, online activities, etc.) As the instructor, you can choose from a set of features to create an OWL site that suits your course and your students’ needs. For assistance with OWL, visit the OWL Help site or contact the Western Technology Services (WTS) Get Help page.

The Instructional Technology Resource Centre (ITRC)

The ITRC assists instructors who are interested in integrating technology into the classroom by providing technical expertise. ITRC student consultants assist with the preparation of online content, information about and the use of instructional technology tools, and system and software maintenance.

The ITRC also accepts proposals for the development of computer-based instructional materials from Western faculty members. Once a project is accepted, a student consultant is assigned to provide the technical expertise required for the creation of the learning materials. Sample projects and information about proposal submission is available on the Project Request section of the ITRC website.

Classroom Technology

Instructors receive classroom assignments based on class size and time slot. Western’s General Use classrooms are supported by the Classroom Technology Group. The webpage provides detailed information about individual classroom layouts and available audio visual (AV) equipment. Typically, a key is required to access some of the AV equipment (e.g., keyboard, mouse, microphone). The Western Technology Services (WTS) Help Desk issues General University A/V keys. Instructors are responsible for turning on the AV equipment and shutting down the technology at the end of class.

Many General Use classrooms are equipped with a telephone. Calling 911 from a campus phone in cases of medical (or other) emergency will connect you directly with Campus Police and Emergency Services.

Getting Feedback on Your Teaching

Student Questionnaires on Courses and Teaching (SQCT)

Formal end-of-term student feedback takes place entirely online. Students receive email invites to complete an online questionnaire within the last three weeks of class. For a complete overview, see the SQCT page. Showing interest in receiving feedback effectively promotes student completion of SQCTs. Consider setting aside time in class (10-15 minutes) to encourage students to complete the feedback form using their devices. During this time, step out of the classroom to respect student privacy. Instructors do not receive the compiled student feedback until a period after marks have been submitted. Instructors can also access feedback results from previous years through the SQCT website.

Before the End of Term

Student feedback can provide valuable insight into modifying and refining your teaching strategies before your course is over. By giving the students a voice early on, you gain an opportunity to improve the student learning experience which may then have an impact on your end-of-term feedback. Some instructors opt to use the SQCT system to conduct a Midterm Check-in. Students can complete the check-in online outside of class. You can also consider setting aside time (10 - 15 minutes) in class to ask your students for mid-semester feedback. Decide if you would like the students to complete the online check-in, or if you would prefer students write out responses and turn them in. Think about the kinds of questions you might ask your students and determine the ways in which you would address possible responses. The questions might be as simple as:

  1. What do you like about the professor’s approach to teaching?

  2. What changes would better support your learning?

Teaching Awards and Dossiers

Student feedback provides insight into teaching effectiveness, and is a key component of a teaching dossier. Teaching dossiers are used at Western for decisions on faculty tenure and promotion and for teaching award nominations. For more information on preparing your teaching dossier, see the Awards and Dossiers page. The Centre for Teaching and Learning also offers Consultation Services for faculty members who are interested in receiving feedback on their dossiers.

Excellence in teaching by part-time faculty is recognized by:

Supporting Students

Medical Emergencies

In the case of a medical emergency, call 911 from a campus phone or call Campus Police directly at (519) 661-3300 if using a cell phone. Calling 911 from a campus phone will connect you with Campus Police who will dispatch Western’s Student Emergency Response Team (SERT) to respond to medical emergencies. At the same time, Middlesex-London Emergency Medical Services will also be dispatched.

If you call 911 from your cell phone, the call will connect with Middlesex-London Emergency Medical Services rather than Campus Police. However, if you indicate that that you are at Western, Emergency Services will contact Campus Police and SERT as part of their response. 

Mental Health Resources at Western

In some cases, faculty members are the first to find out that students are facing mental health challenges. There are many resources at Western that instructors can share with students in order to help them find the support that they need. 

Western’s Health and Wellness webpage includes a variety of medical, psychological, and well-being resources including:

  • Student Health Services
  • The Wellness Education Centre
  • Psychological Services

Clicking on the “I need help now” button from the Health and Wellness page connects individuals with support contact numbers. The “Mental Health Resource Guide for Undergraduates and Graduate Students” is also available on the site. This guide is a comprehensive resource for accessing supports on campus an in the larger London community.

Academic Support

Many services across campus work together to support student learning and student development. Refer your students to the services of these groups, or consider inviting a Writing Support Centre counsellor, Learning Skills Services Counsellor and/or a librarian to visit your class. Librarians from Western’s Teaching and Learning team commonly present in undergraduate and graduate student classes on information literacy, researching and writing essays, etc. 

Academic support resources for students include:

Additional services that support the academic success of students more broadly include:

Academic Counselling

There are Academic Counselling offices in each Faculty at Western. Counsellors assist students with identifying areas of difficulty and developing strategies to improve academic performance. Counsellors have in-depth knowledge of Western’s policies and procedures, and are able to assist with the following:

  • Course selection and module or degree choices
  • Accommodation for missed course work (assignments or exams)
  • Special permission (e.g., course overloads, prerequisite waivers)
  • Interpretation of policies, academic regulations, and procedures
  • Probation or grade point waivers
  • Change of status, including withdrawal from the University, transfer from another Faculty

Additional Support Services for Students

Equity & Human Rights Services (EHRS) provides information on the University’s discrimination and harassment policies, employment equity and diversity and other human rights related issues. This confidential service is available to all students, staff, and faculty members.

The Office of the Ombudsperson provides a safe, confidential environment in which students can discuss a University-related problem or concern. The Office is open to all students from all faculties and campuses who have concerns relating to any part of university life.

The Campus Student Case Manager works in the Counselling and Human Resources branch of the Housing and Ancillary Services department and provides assistance with the co-ordination of complex, multifaceted student issues (e.g., financial, housing, academic, emotional, health, physical and/or mental health supports). The current Campus Case Manager, Anh Brown, can be reached at anh.brown@uwo.ca or 519-661-2111, x85985.

Acknowledgement

Thank you to Dr. Jennifer Martin, a part-time instructor at Western and a full-time Educational Developer at Niagara College for her contributions to the original draft of this resource for part-time instructors.