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Pre-semester checklist for teachers

Reflecting and planning are essential aspects in preparation for teaching any course.

The following checklist can be used as a guide to help teachers prepare for teaching. While these suggestions represent good practice, they are not exhaustive, and you may be aware of other ways to prepare a course that is also effective.

If you are a new academic, the University’s education and student experience page describe policies relating to learning and teaching practice, academic conduct and quality, and assessment.


Technology and software

Connect IT has provided a . Other considerations are:

  • Ask an IT-savvy colleague to help you with new technologies or contact the .
  • Make sure your web browser is up to date. Most browsers update automatically, but if you are unsure, see a guide on how to update your browser.
  • Install the University’s VPN service (Virtual Private Network) to your home PC. This connects you to the campus network for access to systems that are behind a firewall.
  • Download the Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) app to your computer desktop or mobile device and link it to your University login.
  • Make sure you can connect to your  (H: drive) from off campus. See the ‘Working from home reference guide’ on how to connect to your Home drive. If you have problems, submit a Staff Service Centre request.
  • In addition to your Home drive, consider the free Cloud file storage through Microsoft OneDrive. OneDrive makes your files accessible from any device. Log in to OneDrive using your University login e.g., If you don’t already have it, download the OneDrive app to your computer. The app looks just like a regular folder on your desktop but everything saved to it will synchronise with your Cloud storage.
  • If you require specialist software in your labs, familiarise yourself with FlexIT. This enables off-campus access to lab software.  and check the available software list. If something is missing from the list, please inquire through the .
  • Install Zoom for hosting or joining online meetings (you will need a webcam or at least a microphone). The University also uses Microsoft Teams to message colleagues or make video calls. For videoconferencing, your internet download speed should be at least 1.5Mbps (megabits per second). Check your speed at and talk to your Internet Service Provider (ISP) if required.
  • For any other , contact Connect IT software services through the .
  • Identify the room/lecture hall that you will be teaching in, read up on how to use the lecterns and check equipment/technology available in the room.

Student information

Canvas checklist

  • If you don’t have access to this semester’s course in Canvas, contact your faculty .
  • If you wish to copy content from last year’s Canvas course into this semester’s course, please review the guide on importing a Canvas course.
  • Use the link validator tool in Canvas to check all the hyperlinks in your Canvas course.
  • Make sure assignments are created in Canvas and added to Assignment Groups. Check and the weights of assignment groups are set up correctly.
  • You may like to know how to relink and reuse past and H5P content in Canvas.
  • Decide on what stance your course is taking on the use of ChatGPT and other generative AI tools in coursework.
  • Incorporate messages into your course that promote academic integrity; refer to the academic integrity summary checklist. Include an academic honesty declaration into your assignment instructions.
  • Make sure your Canvas course is published. Similarly, remember to publish any modules, pages, assignments, discussions etc., that are ready to be released to the students. Do the same for any new materials that you create during the semester.
  • Familiarise yourself with how course streams (Sections in Canvas) are identified and how you can communicate with specific sections.
  • Provide clear instructions on how the course will be assessed and provide marking criteria for each assignment. Make it easy for students to find assessment information. This also helps staff at Student Disability Services understand what assessment factors may pose a barrier to students with disabilities and to work with course coordinators to provide additional support.
  • Finally, take a look at Canvas baseline practices and work towards weaving these principles of good design practice into your Canvas course.

Welcome your students to the course

Providing a personal welcome is a great way to set the best possible tone and climate to develop a positive relationship with students.

Create a personal introduction video and include it in your welcome announcement so students are introduced to the teaching staff.

Explain the course outline and let students know what they will achieve in the course (objectives).

You can also encourage students to introduce themselves using a Canvas discussion forum to start building a community.

Additional reading
Including off-campus students in a positive learning experience (The University of Sydney)
Adding Some TEC-VARIETY: 100+ Activities for Motivating and Retaining Learners Online

Contact details and virtual office hours

Have a communications plan and let students know how they can contact you. You may have your preference, either through Canvas (Inbox) or by email. Add your office hours to the Canvas site and include the time zone if you have students in different countries e.g., NZST.

Instruct students to review their Canvas notifications settings. These are found under the Account button on Canvas’ side menu. Advise them to turn on notifications for (at least) Announcements and Conversations, Due Date, and Calendar.

Ask students to ensure their University email account is forwarded to their personal email address (for those who prefer to use personal email only).

To-do list for preparing students

Consider when you want students to familiarise themselves with your Canvas course, when your course will be ‘viewable’, and what things they can view at this time.

Create a to-do list for students using the pre-semester to-do list template (Word docx).

  • Explain where students will go to get their course information and updates (refer them to their Canvas Group space if used).
  • Ensure students understand how the course will work by referring them to the Syllabus page.
  • Explain how the assessments will work for on-campus and/or remote students. Note that you can use Canvas Announcements to message offshore students separately, as they will have been streamed into Canvas Sections by the University’s International Office.
  • Ask students to install any software required for the course on their computer. e.g., Zoom.

Ask them to upload a profile photo to Canvas:, and for Zoom: Let them know they can use a virtual Zoom background if they wish and whether you expect the to keep their cameras on or off.

If you have students in your course who are overseas or studying remotely from within New Zealand, ask them to download and install the University’s VPN service (Virtual Private Network). This enables them to connect their home computer to the campus network for access to systems that are otherwise unavailable off campus. See information about accessing restricted technologies from off-campus and blocked from various countries.

Please note that not all students have a broadband internet connection. Some students also conduct their studies entirely via a mobile phone. Teachers should be mindful of document file sizes and not expect all students to consume large files. Consider exporting large Word documents and PowerPoint files to compressed PDF files. ‘Chunk’/segment’ videos and upload them to Panopto where possible.

Talis readings list and copyright

During the semester

  • Provide a weekly guide for your course (download a weekly guide template). State what your students will learn this week (learning outcomes). What tasks do you need them to do? Give clear instructions on how you want students to prepare for and do during and after the class.
  • Monitor weekly discussions. Be careful not to ‘jump into the conversation too soon’ – the teacher’s presence can sometimes stifle a discussion. Still, you do not want them to continue with obviously incorrect assumptions.
  • Make sure resources are available to all students – remember to publish your Canvas pages, assessments etc.
  • Record your class sessions and make these available to all students.
  • Consider conducting a formative evaluation of your course to understand your students’ pain points. You may be able to adapt your course delivery accordingly.

Page updated 22/02/2024 (minor edit)

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