Automate Your Announcements: The Video!

My teacher workdays/meetings started this week, so real life has returned.  It’s nice to be back.

I did make time to make a short video about automating announcements.  In it, I talk about some of the things I do, and show you what it looks like on my end of the LMS.  Click the video to view!

Automating announcements video

If you have a second, let me know in the comments that you automate, and what you WISH you could automate! 



Quick Trick: Automate Your Announcements


I love being present for my students.  I want them to feel like I care, because I do! One of the easiest ways to be present is to frequently check in with your students, using your LMS.  This is imperative if you teach online, but it is even useful for your face to face classes.

I know I’ve had semesters where I’ve had grand ideas about checking in every Monday, or sending reminders about days that we are closed, or sending an encouragement video.  Then I’d get crazy busy, and those great ideas would be pushed aside to make time for grading or other details.

Enter automation.  Does your LMS have any automation features?  My school uses Canvas, which has a few.  One of my favorite ones is automating my announcements.  Before school even starts, I have written out an entire semester’s worth of announcements set to go off so that I am communicating with my students consistently.  I say hello, I remind them of due dates, tell them about resources that my school has that they may not know about,  and remind them that school is closed for (holiday). I remind my blended students that we are meeting in class on x date, etc.  I also like to post encouraging videos during the key burn out points of the semester.   The best part is that this is all finished before I step into my classroom. It’s a set it and forget it set up, and I love it.

I require that my students set up their settings so that my announcements and e-mails go to either their phone or an e-mail address that they actually check. (On Canvas and have no idea how to do that? Here’s a guide!)

This does not mean that I never contact my students during the year. I absolutely do!  Having the announcements auto-post just makes sure that I am always consistent. It helps future me be the best teacher I can be.



3 Quick Tips for Fall Semester (There’s still time!)

3 Tipsfor Fall Semester

I know, it’s August and you are staring at a pile of work.  If you took the summer off, there’s a lot of loose ends to tie up. If you taught or worked a second job this summer, you might not feel like you had a break!  That does not mean that your Fall classes have to give you whiplash.

Here’s a few tips to help make the start of semester a bit better for you:

1. Go spend an afternoon cleaning and editing your office.

  • Did you leave it clean and ready for fall when you left it? Fantastic!  I still encourage you go in, wipe it down, and make sure that everything you left behind is stuff that you still want and need.
  • Do you still have student papers in your filing cabinet from 1998?  Time to shred those babies.
  • Do you have books that a publisher sent you that you don’t think you’ll be using?  Get them off your bookcase.
  • Do you need to restock on post it notes, or get rid of those pens you hate but still have in your overfilled pen cup?  Take care of it. Walk in to your office the first day of classes to a relaxing space that is ready to go!

Bonus: Don’t have an office?  I feel your pain. I was an adjunct for years, often across several schools.  If you have not already, set up an office in a box.  That can look like a lot of things.

For me, it looked like a cloth laundry hamper bin in my car.  Mine came from Thirty-One Gifts, but now I see them for sale everywhere.

It was easy to pull out and stash if I needed to. I also used color coded accordion files for each school, and color coded file folders for each class. It all lived in my office in a box. Nothing school related goes outside this bin, so I never lost anything that I needed for class.  If you don’t have a dedicated office system, get one.  If you do have one, clean it out! So many pens somehow ended up at the bottom of my office in a box, and if I did not clean it out periodically, it got heavy.

2. Think ahead about the copies you need.

  • If your institution is anything like mine, the copy center gets super busy at the start of semester.  Syllabi, assignment sheets, etc- there was a time where I did not think about them until the day I returned to my office.  Don’t do that.  Finish your syllabi and think about your first two weeks of needed copies.  Go make them.  (Or, if you have an awesome school, send in the copy request!) Don’t wait.  Nothing is more stressful than fighting the copy center line thirty minutes before class starts.

3. What annoyed you most about your day to day last year? Spend a few minutes coming up with a process.

  • What thing did you find yourself doing over and over?  What student question or issue came up a lot?  Now’s the time to either revamp your process for dealing with that issue, or coming up with a process *to* deal with it. Maybe it’s writing a few canned responses to have ready. (Example: Yes, you do need the book. Here’s a link to the bookstore…etc). Maybe it’s moving your office around so you don’t feel so trapped with a scary student parks himself in your student chair.  Maybe it’s setting up a calendar that you can see so you don’t over commit this year.  Whatever your “It” is, decide how you’re going to deal with it now, and set up mechanisms to deal with that make it easier.  Future you will thank past you!

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Welcome to The Simple Prof!

Hello world!  Welcome to The Simple Prof, which is an answer to the questions that I get asked frequently.  I am a college professor and instructional designer, and I love to help teachers (both corporate and academic) make their workshops and classes active and fun.   I also love (love, love, love) to figure out and share time saving tricks on everything from grading to lesson planning.  I’ve been doing this in an informal way ever since I started teaching in 2004, so I decided to create a blog to keep everything in one easy to find place.  I can’t wait to get started, and I hope you find some helpful things along the way.

Thanks for being here!