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Semester Start

It’s a whirlwind.

We make it easier.

LMS links, functionality, and dates ensured for you
Grading systems aligned with course policies
Consistency across courses
Review for outdated and/or missing content

Make the start of next semester easier on your faculty, and your students.

Contact us to learn more.

Your online courses updated, aligned, and ready for the start of every semester.

At Six Red Marbles, we know that the beginning of a new semester can be an exciting yet stressful time. Faculty often find themselves trying to prepare for the new term while concluding finals and grading, making it difficult to find time to update online courses for the new semester—especially with the ever-changing landscape of learning management systems.

Is Semester Start right for me?

If you or your faculty have require updates and maintenance every semester, this is a great low-cost solution for improving the student experience. If you need courses built from scratch, Six Red Marbles can do that too—but that’s beyond the scope of this product, so contact us and we’ll discuss opportunities.

Our team of dedicated instructional designers offers in-depth knowledge of your LMS to help faculty quickly and efficiently prepare for each new term. We provide a detailed review of each of the courses in your program to ensure that all aspects of the course function as expected. 

What LMS do you work with?

Our team has experience with Canvas, Blackboard, Moodle, D2L, and many other widely used systems. Do you have a different or in-house LMS? Schedule a meeting, and we’ll find an expert from the team who knows exactly how to support you.

What size and type of programs do you work with?

We work with colleges and universities that run the gamut from small liberal arts schools to R1 institutions. We can contract with individual colleges within a university or individual programs within a college. We’ve completed work at all levels from undergraduate to graduate as well as boot camps and certificate programs.

In what content areas do you have expertise?

Six Red Marbles employs a diverse and exceptional team of instructional designers who have expertise in a variety of fields such as business, public health, mathematics, physical sciences, biological sciences, technology, humanities and social sciences, and more.

Why should we consider Semester Start?
  • We make sure things work, we meet your expectations, and we’re here to be sure your new semester starts smoothly.
  • We can ensure a consistent student experience across courses in a program and verify that all courses are published and accessible to students on a certain timeline.

  • We offer a second set of eyes on grading policies.

The way that different LMSs calculate grades can vary widely. We will work with you to make sure that when faculty establish a grading policy in their syllabus, it is reflected in how their gradebook works in the LMS. This helps improve grade transparency and reduce student concerns because they know where they stand throughout the semester and can ask questions as needed.

  • Semester Start is an opportunity to identify courses that need additional support or development.

Our IDs often ask faculty questions about why they use an LMS in a certain way only to find out that it’s because faculty don’t know about helpful features that support a better way. We can improve the student experience by using your LMS as it was designed. We can also let you know if courses have too much or too little content to meet guidelines for your credentialing body.

  • We support faculty to make sure that essential content is identical across sections of the same course.

Six Red Marbles can work with individual faculty or groups who teach the same course to normalize content across sections. If you need it, we can also lock down courses to place limits on customization or prevent course modification entirely while allowing instructors to grade and communicate with their students in the LMS.

  • Semester Start is your opportunity to have a team reviewing all of your courses and verifying that university or programmatic policies are applied consistently.

This could be as simple as making sure that the syllabus boilerplate is clearly available on a page in the LMS for all courses or as complex as ensuring that all faculty clearly communicate their expectations for certain student experiences even if those expectations differ across courses.

What does the process look like?

We like to kick off the Semester Start process with administrators the term before you want to begin using the service. This gives us time to get to know you and to start communicating the new process with faculty.

We start with a period of information gathering where your administrators meet with an instructional design manager at Six Red Marbles so we can discuss current challenges for students and faculty in the program. We will also have questions like:

    • What is most stressful about start of term for administration?
    • Do you have a policy handbook for faculty and students? Are there policies that need to be implemented in the courses that we prep?
    • How can we make the whole process easier for faculty?
    • What feedback do you receive from students? What does your IT team struggle with each term?
    • As we are reviewing, is there information about courses that you would like us to share with administrators?
    • Who are your faculty opinion leaders? Can we meet with them in advance to approach the process more seamlessly?
    • What does your course schedule look like? Do you run courses every term, or is there a rotation? Does your program have a lot of single-section courses, or is it 30 sections of the same course with different instructors?

Your Six Red Marbles team will want to meet with the IT team as well to find out answers to the following questions:

    • What LMS add-ons are in most common use in your program (Tophat, Yuja, etc.)?
    • Are there storage limits in your LMS for videos and other content? Do you recommend other services for storing videos and displaying in the LMS?
    • What access levels would you recommend for an instructional designer, and how can we make sure that they have access to all course shells for a school/program?
    • What are some common student concerns for online courses?
    • What are some common faculty concerns?

Once your course schedule is set for the term, we will ask you to send it to your ID leads. We will then plan a launch schedule for Semester Start based on the overall number of courses and begin lining up instructional designers to work with your faculty. As a part of that schedule, we will request that the administrators:

    • Email and announce Semester Start to faculty
    • Send a follow-up email to remind faculty to register for Semester Start
    • Meet weekly with your Six Red Marbles ID lead to track progress on courses and identify possible challenges
    • Let the ID lead know when you are opening additional sections of specific courses if registration caps are hit
    • Notify Six Red Marbles when all courses are published and visible to students
Sample Faculty Experience

At least eight weeks before the start of your first Semester Start–amplified term, faculty receive an email asking them to sign up for a week to meet with an instructional designer to discuss their courses and prepare for the next semester.

What to expect

Monday: 30-minute meeting with instructional designer to talk about issues or concerns from the previous term and expectations for the next

Tuesday through Thursday, your ID will:

    • Copy course content
    • Implement revisions discussed during Monday’s meeting
    • Verify gradebook policies match the syllabus
    • Assign/reassign all dates for the new term
    • Schedule online course meetings
    • Follow up with faculty via email with questions
    • Review the course as a student to ensure all materials are accessible, publication statuses are correct, course content is in the correct order, and other necessities.

Friday: ID notifies faculty that the course is complete and ready for review. Faculty are welcome to review and request changes up to two weeks after start of term.

Your instructional designers are never far away.

We offer consulting on your time and budget.

Make the start of next semester easier on your faculty, and your students.

Contact us to learn more.