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College of Humanities & Sciences

Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture

Faculty resources

Resources for Teaching (and Getting Ready to Teach)

Class syllabus: Per the VCU Faculty Handbook (section 2.9.2. Course Syllabus) every course should have a course syllabus. The Robertson School requires faculty members to include the following items in their syllabi:

  • Faculty contact information: email, telephone, office;
  • Course description from VCU Bulletin;
  • List of prerequisites, and a statement that all prerequisites must have been completed with a grade of C or better;
  • Student learning objectives;
  • A list of required texts and readings;
  • A schedule of class meeting dates and topics to be addressed in each session, with required/suggested readings;
  • Description of assignments and how they will be graded;
  • Exams to be given (including dates) and how they will be graded;
  • Attendance policy;
  • Any policies regarding how student work is to be submitted (format, deadlines, late submission policies);
  • Grading policies and scale;
  • The School's diversity statement (see the bottom of that page);
  • A statement about the School's technical standards to be met by students as prospective communications professionals;
  • Required syllabus content from the VCU Provost (e.g., campus emergency information, the VCU Honor System, reporting incidents of sexual misconduct and students with disabilities). You can include this information verbatim in the text of your syllabus or provide an online link to it; if the latter, it's a good idea to provide a list of topics students will find; and
  • A course schedule that includes important dates for each semester.

Here is a sample syllabus (as a PDF version and a Word document) distributed at an orientation for the School's adjunct faculty. All faculty, both full-time and adjunct, must provide an electronic copy of their course syllabi and course schedule within two weeks of the start of classes each semester; faculty will be emailed details.

Canvas: VCU uses the Canvas course management system to facilitate interaction between students and the professor. You can use Canvas to post announcements, lecture notes, assignments and a syllabus. You also can use Canvas for discussion forums, audio and video sessions, interactive exercises, online quizzes and surveys. With Canvas, you can blast emails to all of your students, and you can post assignment and test grades (but you must post your official final grades on a different system called Banner; see "About grades and how to submit grades" below). As faculty members, you can log in to Canvas and "create a course" (a Canvas website to accompany the course you're teaching). Canvas automatically syncs with Banner, VCU's student registration system, and "enrolls" your students in your Canvas course. Canvas and Banner "talk" to teach others about once a day. When you first create a course, it may take up to 24 hours for Canvas to list your students as users. Also, if a student withdraws from your class, he or she will "disappear" from your Canvas site, including from the Canvas Gradebook. Because of this, it's suggested that during the semester you occasionally download and backup the Gradebook as a spreadsheet. VCU Technology Services provides guides, videos and other help for faculty members using Canvas. Technology Services' Learning Systems staff has a program for new Canvas users: The staff will create your basic course, upload your syllabus and show you how to keep the site up to date.

How to obtain a class roster: You can obtain a class roster, with photos of your students, by logging into the myVCU portal and accessing the VCU Reporting Center. Here are step-by-step instructions.

About grades and how to submit grades: You must submit all grades through VCU's Banner system, which is different than Blackboard. (It's great to post final grades to Blackboard for your students to see, but they're not official until posted in Banner.) See the VCU Undergraduate Bulletin "Grading and marking system" for detailed information about the grading system. Use the myVCU portal to submit final course grades (and for 100- and 200-level courses, mid-semester grades of D or F). After logging into myVCU, click on "eServices/VCU Self Service," also known as the Banner system. You can use these step-by-step instructions with screenshots. Banner also is a way to get a list of students in your course and to obtain contact information for students.

Official course descriptions: Here is VCU's course catalog, including a list of all mass comm courses (showing the prerequisites). The VCU Bulletin describes our overall program; it shows our graduation requirements for each of our programs: undergraduate advertising, journalism and public relations, as well as graduate multimedia journalism and strategic public relations.

Students in distress: From VCU University Counseling Services: "Faculty are often on the front lines for students in distress. A student often views a professor as a confidant, role model or friend. You are welcome to call University Counseling Services to consult with one of our staff about how to best help a student. You can reach us at (804) 828-6200." See their website for more information about sources of stress to students and how to deal with students in immediate distress. Here's the "Faculty and Staff Guide: Assisting Distressed Students" from VCU's Division of Student Affairs.

Schedule of classes: Here's where you can look up when and where your course (or any course) meets. Drill down and you can see how many students have registered for your course. (But you can't see their names without logging into myVCU/Banner.) You also can see who taught your course in past years; those instructors might be a good resource for you.

Academic calendar: Here are the calendars for the next several semesters, so you can see key dates (when classes begin, when they end, the deadline for add/drop, breaks and holidays, the deadline to withdraw from a course, etc.). That page also has a link to the final exam schedule. Final exams are given in three-hour blocks during the week after classes end (and may not coincide with your exact class time).

How to order textbooks for your courses: As faculty members, you're responsible for ordering textbooks from the Barnes & Noble @ VCU Bookstore. You also may order texts from other bookstores or suggest that students buy texts online, but if you have a required text, it must be ordered through at least the VCU Bookstore. You can do that by phoning the Monroe Park Campus textbook manager at 828-1678; by emailing the textbook manager at; or by completing the online order form. Here are more instructions and the policy from the VCU Provost's Office. Textbooks should be ordered well in advance: by April 1 for fall courses; Oct. 15 for spring courses; and March 1 for summer courses.

How to get instructor's editions and desk copies of textbooks: Many publishers offer instructor editions through their website, typically with a link on the page dedicated to that text. Or contact the publisher of the textbook you want by phone or email. (Ask if the publisher has a representative assigned specifically to VCU and even more specifically to the Robertson School.) Most publishers are more than happy to provide instructors a copy of a book for free. Allow plenty of time: Besides time in shipping, sometimes the publisher rep must verify an instructor's status with the School.

Student Response System ("clickers"): In many VCU classes, instructors have students use their smartphones to answer questions on the fly -- for in-class surveys, comprehension checks, quizzes and attendance. VCU is partnered with Top Hat for this service. Get more information here.

Training on technology and other skills: VCU has a searchable database of instructor-led training classes and self-paced training materials for VCU faculty and staff. You can search the database by entering terms such as "Blackboard" or "PowerPoint" or "lectures." There are even classes specifically for adjuncts.

For you and your students: VCU has a contract with, one of the top websites for online technology training with "thousands of tutorials aimed at teaching business, software, technology and creative skills to allow its members to achieve personal and professional goals" for LyndaCampus. It contains well-produced video tutorials on a wide range of software and other skills, from Access and Acrobat to WordPress and Windows Movie Maker. These tutorials are free to all registered students, faculty members and VCU employees. This means mass comm instructors can have students learn technology skills outside class with so that they can spend class time applying the skills. See VCU's page and log in.

VCU's Common Book Program: Each fall all of the students entering VCU read the same book -- and then they discuss the book in small groups before the semester begins and (ideally) in key courses. This shared experience helps build a sense of community for each entering class. It's good for you, as instructors, to know which book your students read -- because you may be able to relate your course content to the book. In fact, many of the books have been journalistic or about advertising and public relations. Every spring and summer, VCU seeks faculty members to lead discussions about the coming school year's book. Interested in being a discussion leader? Click on the link above.

Course evaluations: At the end of the semester, students will be asked to complete an online evaluation of every course they have taken. VCU will send your students an invitation to evaluate your course, and you should urge them to do so. After you have submitted your final grades, you will be able to see the course evaluation results.

AP Stylebook Online: The Associated Press Stylebook, often called the "journalist's bible," details the rules for abbreviations, capitalization, punctuation, word usage and other issues in news copy. It is a critical resource in journalism and public relations skills courses. In the past, students had to buy a new copy of the stylebook every year. Fortunately, VCU now has an institutional subscription to the AP Stylebook Online -- and every student and faculty member can access this resource for free.  

Teaching in computer labs: The Robertson School has special software to allow faculty members who teach in computer labs monitor and control what students are doing online. For example, as instructors, you can view the activity on each student's computer screen; block access to the Internet or to specific websites; turn all screens blank, or broadcast to all screen what you're doing on the instructor's computer. For a tip sheet on this software, contact Associate Professors Tim Bajkiewicz or Jeff South.

Guest speakers: We encourage Robertson School instructors to invite media professionals and other guest speakers into the classroom. The School can provide free passes for guest speakers to park in VCU garages; to obtain a pass for a guest speaker, see Administrative Specialist Frances Lynch. For accreditation purposes, we keep track of our guest speakers. When you have a guest speaker in your class, please fill out this form on SurveyMonkey.

Copying and faxing: If you need class materials copied or faxed, the School's administrative staff can help. Fill out this form (PDF or Word), and submit it to Executive Assistant Pamela Williams. For copy requests, due to the possibility of a high volume of requests, please allow at least a one-day notice for turnaround.

How to propose an Honors course: The VCU Honors College handles applications from faculty members who want to teach official honors courses -- courses that are especially challenging and stimulating. The deadline for fall-semester course proposals is November 1 of the preceding year. The deadline for spring and summer course proposals is May 1 of the preceding year. Contact Associate Professor Peyton Rowe for questions.

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