Setting Norms in the SMUFlex Classroom

What are classroom norms?

In contrast to rules, which are (usually) instructor generated and work best when introduced on the first day, norms are "an agreement among members of a classroom or school about how they will treat one another, " according to Gary Borich, Professor of Educational Psychology at The University of Texas at Austin. There are three types of norms: those the pertain to safety and health, moral norms, and discretionary norms. 

Establishing norms is key to instructional and learning success in the SMUFlex environment. The Fall 2020 term will look like no other previous semester. Therefore, it is essential that norms are established in the classroom to create a constructive environment for all students' success.


Success begins before the first day. From the class roster, you can retrieve email addresses to send a “Welcome Email” to students. We also recommend creating a welcome video on your Canvas course as discussed in the various Online Teaching Trainings provided by CTE and OIT. In this video, or letter, welcome your students and set the tone for your plans to communicate with them throughout the semester. Also, consider addressing the "student responsibilities" as discussed below.  Don’t assume your students know how to access everything you are asking of them this semester—tell them. If there is a preferred method of communication for you, be sure to list your contact information. An introduction email or video sets the stage for success before the first day and makes your students feel welcome and at ease on the first day.

Establish Student Responsibilities

While the instructor of an SMUFlex course is ultimately in control of the course, it is important that students clearly understand what is expected of them in the SMUFlex environment and how it might differ from their usual in-person classes. 

Example student expectations:

  •   Read the entire syllabus and know the policies for each class in which the student is enrolled. It is suggested to provide a short “participation” assignment to verify that the syllabus has been reviewed!

  •   Check the Course Calendar, Announcements, and Messages (e-mail) systems in Canvas LMS on a regular basis (at least 2-3 times per week).

  •   Participate in weekly discussions board on course topics

  •   Keep current on class recordings, if not attending the live class (either in person or online).

  •   Keep current with all course assignments, quizzes, and examinations.

  •   Ask questions and communicate with the instructor regularly.

Be okay with making adjustments

Anyway we look at it, the Fall 2020 term is going to be a unique term. This will be the first time for many, both instructors and students, to utilize technology and online resources in the classroom in a broad sweeping manner. How you think your course might go before the semester starts, might not work. That's okay. It is important that we all maintain a level of flexibility during this unique time and be willing to adjust our strategies as needed.

Should you run into a situation where either technology or student learning is not going as intended, CTE and OIT are here to help get your course back on track. Please reach out to us at or submit a helpdesk ticket at