Instructor Handbook

This Handbook is written and maintained in order to:

  1. Introduce instructors to the Arts Faculty, providing information about its history, organization, goals, and objectives 
  2. Summarize the most regularly consulted teaching resources and policies 
  3. Provide samples of syllabi 
  4. Provide a brief introduction to other pertinent Arts teaching documents

The Arts First Mandate: To build students' foundational competencies in communication and analysis during their first year at university.

Message from the Director & Associate Director of Arts First

The Arts First program promotes excellence in teaching with a focus on active learning in a small class environment. Student in Arts First classes can expect to practice communication as a means of critical inquiry.

Communication courses help students to develop skills in speaking, writing, listening, critical reading, and collaboration. They also build competencies in analysis, research, and the thoughtful assessment of information, evidence, and data. These skills and competencies will support student success in their academic careers and in their life beyond the university.

To create a unique first-year experience for students, Arts First courses foreground practice-based learning and background discipline-specific knowledge.

Our aim is that students become more effective and confident communicators, better able to understand and influence the world they encounter.

Arts First Team and Contact Information

About Arts First - Courses and Learning Outcomes

Course Descriptions

  • Although oriented toward different modes of inquiry, both ARTS 130 and 140 will support instruction in the communication competencies outlined by the Undergraduate Communication Requirment (UCR) and both support instruction in analytical thinking.

  • Please refer to the Undergraduate Calendar for official course descriptions.

Learning Outcomes

  • Classes focus on practice-based learning. Instead of listening to a lecture and trying to capture notes, students will be immersed in activities and exercises that require communication, problem solving, and the kinds of skills necessary for demonstrating comprehension and effective decision-making. Classmates work together to respond to a challenge posed by the instructor.

  • Arts First classes are dynamic, discussion-based experiences that give students the chance to do a lot of writing and speaking. At the end of each course, students will have written, revised and peer reviewed about 15 pages of text over a series of two or three assignments that build on each other. Students can also expect to give presentations, which should be well-practiced, but not read or memorized.

  • Students will get regular feedback on their work from the instructor as well as from peers through collaborative in-class exercises and assignments.

Upon completing ARTS 130, students should be able to:

  1. Understand their own diverse experiences, strengths, and goals as communicators.

  1. Examine their views and perspectives and, through the practice of interpersonal communication, develop a deeper awareness of their role in the communication process.

  1. Look critically at context, audience, and genre and use that information to be more persuasive in communications.

  1. Collaborate with classmates and provide, incorporate, and reflect on feedback.

  1. Use communication to consider their own ideas and the ideas of others.

  1. Identify and work with different technologies that will help with effective communication.

Upon completing ARTS 140, students should be able to:

  1. Access information and practice navigating library resources, including indexes and databases.

  1. Recognize, define, and reflect on the meaning of quantitative and qualitative data.

  1. Practice writing and speaking through communication assignments that build skills and confidence.

  1. Collaborate with classmates and provide, incorporate, and reflect on feedback.

  1. Demonstrate an ability to reflect on how information, analysis, and communication lead to knowledge.

  1. Assess, examine, and evaluate the uses of information, including distinguishing between facts and values.

Support for Instructors

Instructor Workshops

  • Instructor workshops are scheduled at least twice a year to help with the design of Arts First seminars. Past instructor workshops provide a snapshot of types of content covered.

  • Instructors can expect to receive more information and workshop invitations several weeks prior to workshops.

Student-Centered Teaching Strategies

  • Instructors are encouraged to consult the glossary (PDF) of student-centered teaching strategies for ideas on how to foreground communication and analysis in their classes.

Integrating Library Skills & Resources

  • Many Arts First seminars work closely with the Library to improve students’ research skills.

  • ARTS 130: Librarians are available to work with instructors to address your students’ information needs tailored to the class topic, typically in a single classroom visit.

  • ARTS 140: Librarians have designed three hours of foundational content, on the topics of asking researchable questions, finding appropriate resources, and evaluating information. This content should be integrated into each section of Arts First.

  • Once instructor names appear in the Schedule of Classes (starting 8-10 weeks before the start of the term), a librarian will contact you directly.

  • If you have questions or wish to make early arrangements, please contact Kari Weaver, Instructional Design Librarian.

  • Please contact the following people to make arrangements if you are teaching an Arts First course through:

Teaching Development Resources

Teaching Term Information for Instructors

Please review the Teaching Term Information for Instructors page before and during the term when you are teaching. It includes all relevant details about:

  • Important dates and religious holidays

  • Course outline requirements

  • Grades

  • Mental health support for students

  • Academic integrity, academic offences, and student discipline

  • Test, assignment and exam regulations

  • Accommodations for students

  • Procedures and guidelines for instructors

  • Accessibility

  • Student privacy

Arts Information for Faculty and Staff Webpage

Please consult the Arts Faculty and Staff Resources website for additional resources.

Sample syllabi and assignments

Course Materials


Before each term, expect an email regarding ordering books for your classes. The general information is below.

  • For textbooks, clickers, and access codes, visit the bookstore order page and log in using your WatIAM user ID and password.

  • If you do not have a user ID yet, you may ask an administrative assistant to place the order on your behalf.

  • Emailed orders are acceptable but must include detailed information for each title ordered (ISBN, edition, title, author, etc.)

  • Courseware order requests may be placed online or by contacting Shawn Gilbertson.

  • Please list all books for your course, even if you are concerned about prices or prefer other sources. Students use our website as a source of information, even if they are not planning to buy on campus. Some students will prefer a hard copy, even if the book is free online or on reserve!

  • Please provide information in the 'notes/comments' box (final step of your online order) that the bookstore should be aware of, relating to required texts - e.g. "Students will choose 1 of 3 books for an assignment" or "Students will have this book already from Course X last year."

  • The bookstore does not keep regular stock of your books - if you haven't ordered, titles are returned to the publishers.

  • Contact Information:

Iain Dmitrienko, Course Materials Specialist |
University of Waterloo Retail Services
Book Store Office: South Campus Hall (SCH) 118A
519-888-4567 ext. 32471
Toll-Free: 866-330-7933

Library Course Reserves

  • Rather than requiring students to purchase textbooks, many instructors use the Course Reserves service through the Dana Porter Arts Library.

  • The library makes course readings available to students in either paper or electronic formats.

  • Reserves include traditional materials like books, journal articles, and lecture notes, but also digitized materials such as eBooks, e-Journal articles, and scanned excerpts from print publications.

  • Instructors should provide the library with citation information as early as possible, at least 3 weeks before the start of classes

  • Please submit course reserve requests as soon as possible before the start of classes.

  • Log in to Course Reserves to place new requests, or to clone reserve lists from a previous term.

  • Course reserves must be activated each term. Clone your reserves list or contact the library to activate a list for the new term (this includes material on “indefinite” reserve).

  • Please allow up to 8 weeks processing time for electronic reserve requests that require copyright permission.

  • Not sure how to create or clone a course?

  • For easier retrieval of reserves material, encourage students to ask for reserves by call number at the Circulation Desk. Call numbers display for every non-electronic item in a reserves list.

Policies, Procedures, Guidelines, Logistics

Course Scheduling

NOTE: Due to COVID-19 campus closures, different processes are in place for scheduling courses remotely. Information and instructions will be provided to you via email.

Scheduling during business-as-usual terms:

  • Course scheduling begins several months before the teaching term.

  • Instructors will be asked to submit the Arts First Scheduling form to provide teaching availability, constraints, other teaching/time commitments in upcoming term, and any other information that will impact the timing of when course scheduling.

  • If there are changes in availability after the form has been filled out, they need to be reported as soon as possible. Final information needs to be provided (via the webform) by the following dates, depending on the teaching term:

  • Fall term – by May 15

  • Winter term – by September 15

  • Spring term – N/A; since very few sections are scheduled the First-Year Program Co-ordinator will contact you regarding availability.

  • Providing accurate information regarding your availability is essential. After scheduling is complete, room/time/day change requests are unlikely to be accommodated due to classroom availability, or because changes may introduce time conflicts for students.

Course Syllabus/Outline

  • Use the accessible course syllabus/outline template available on the Arts Teaching Term Info page (under the Course Outline/Syllabus - Requirments drop-down)

  • Instructors must submit digital course outlines/syllabi for each section of ARTS 130 and 140 to the First-Year Program Co-ordinator at the beginning of each teaching term.

  • Course outlines/syllabi function as a contract between students and the instructor, so all course requirements, readings, assignment dates, and expectations need to be spelled out in detail.

  • Students appreciate clarity and detail regarding attendance, assignments, and marks in the syllabus. Every instructor is different; it is crucial for each instructor to plainly state expectations and specifics regarding both time in class (participation, etc.) and out-of-class work. If you need a copy of a course syllabus for reference, please see the above 'Sample Syllabi and Assignments' drop-down.

Course Exemption Requests

  • Rarely, a student may request exemption from Arts First courses. Students must complete the request for exemption form, which will be assessed by the Director and Associate Director. A decision on the request will be communicated to the student.

Course Enrolment and Override Requests

Students add their Arts First topic to their schedule at the start of the Add/Drop period prior to the term:

  • Fall term – late July

  • Winter term – mid-late November or early December

  • Spring term – late March

Students receive advising emails and an instruction webpage for information on how to enrol in an Arts First section.

Some students are not able to add the course to their schedule for various reasons:

  • Arts First sections only hold 25 students, so they fill up quickly.

  • The class time conflicts with another class in their schedule.

Please do not sign course overrides to enrol additional students in your section(s) of Arts First beyond the course cap. Instead, please direct them to the following webpages:

Course Fees

Supporting Students Who Need Help

  • Instructors can identify students who are performing poorly academically or are chronically absent or disengaged, using a “widget” in LEARN (only available to instructors).

  • If you report a student using the widget, the appropriate Arts Advisor in the Arts Undergraduate Office will reach out to the student to help.

  • The Student Success Offices provides academic and personal development services, resources for international students, as well as study abroad and exchange support. We work closely with campus partners to create a vibrant experience for students from their first days at Waterloo, right to convocation.

  • Campus Wellness is here to help all students at the University of Waterloo. Our professionals provide primary medical care and mental health services using an inclusive, connected, and collaborative approach.

  • AccessAbility Services helps students with known or unknown disability, illness, or condition. They can help students develop their individualized academic accommodation plan for all components of their academic career.

  • EDGE is an opt-in experiential education certificate program for undergraduate students in traditional (non-co-op) programs of study. Students who complete EDGE will develop their professional skills, explore their career options and learn how to market themselves to employers.

Cancelling a Class (e.g. due to instructor illness, extenuating circumstances, weather)

Please consult the University of Waterloo Policies regarding cancelling classes due to weather closing or other reasons.

Best practices:

  • Post an announcement on LEARN or email your class list to notify students about a cancelled class, as soon as you know it will need to be cancelled

  • If feasible, post a sign on the classroom door, or ask a department admin contact to do so

  • Specify course, section number, topic, time and date for the cancelled class

  • If rescheduling a class on a different day and/or time, consult with your students regarding their ability to attend


Arts First courses do not have exams.

Course Evaluations

  • Instructions for conducting course evaluations will be available near the end of the teaching term.

  • Instructors must provide the course evaluation link to their class. Students fill out and submit course evaluations online. Please plan to set aside in-class time for students to complete course evaluations, in order to encourage higher participation.

  • The Arts Computing Office collects and tabulates evaluations, then emails instructors with information on how to access their own results.

Accessing University of Waterloo Technology Systems

Quest – How to Access Quest Roster

Learn how to view or download your class roster on Quest.

Eduroam – University of Waterloo Wifi Access

You can connect to Eduroam for wireless internet access when on campus.

LEARN Access

  • Waterloo LEARN is a web-based learning management system that enables instructors to manage course materials, activities and assessments and to interact easily and efficiently with their students outside the physical classroom. It can function both as a component of on-campus blended courses and as a platform for fully online learning.

  • Visit the Waterloo LEARN webpage for further information and contact details.

  • For assistance:

Fobs for Computer Access in Classrooms

  • All Arts First designated classrooms are electronic classrooms.

  • Review the Podium fobs section on the Electronic classrooms IST support page for information on obtaining a fob to access the podium computer in your assigned classroom(s).

  • Exception: Classroom SJ1 3015 does not require a fob.

Technology and Room Layout

  • To view the layout of your assigned classroom(s) and the list of technology available in that room, see the IST website (login required).

  • Please note: Layouts for St. Jerome’s (SJ#) or Renison University College (REN) classrooms are not available.

  • SJ1 3015 characteristics include: electronic classroom, data projector, standard tables and chairs, whiteboard.

Library Access

Details about library access are available on the Library Faculty and Instructors webpage.

Other Campus Information