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The Academy has lots of online classes! Some have been running for many years. Others are brand-new, while still others have been rebuilt. Depending on how recently a course was (re)built, its topics will work differently. We've received lots of questions this semester about how topics work in a rebuilt class, so here's a quick overview.

Topics for Assignments, Exercises, & Discussions

Older Classes

In older classes, discussions, assignments, and exercises take place in global topics that are created and managed by the instructor. Global topics can be imported and reused from one semester to the next. And as long as you have associated a global topic with a module, that topic will open and close automatically in the new semester at the appropriate times.

  • You can edit your global topics from the Global Topics page.
  • You can view your global topics on the Pending Topics page until their opening date arrives, when they will be moved automatically to the Current Topics page.

If you're teaching an older class for the first time, the Help Desk can import global topics for you from a previous instructor. Here's what you need to do:

  1. Check your Pending Topics page. If there are no discussion or assignment topics listed, then you need to have global topics imported.
  2. Your director must make this request. Contact your department and ask the director to contact the Help Desk. 

Newer Classes

 In contrast, topics for discussions, exercises, and assignments in newer classes (brand-new and rebuilt) are created as part of the course-build process. We call these course topics.

  • Before the semester begins, you can view and update all your course topics on the Pending Topics page.

(warning)  Unlike global topics, course topics are specific to a given section. So if you make changes to a course topic in one section, you will also need to make those same changes to the topic in every other section you're teaching.

  • When the semester starts, the Module 1 topics will be moved automatically to the Current Topics page.

 When an online class is rebuilt, the global topics for assignments and discussions (which were essential in the earlier version of the class) are no longer needed. They have been replaced by course topics.

Informational Topics

In addition to global topics for assignments and discussions, many instructors create global topics to provide key information to their students — course policies or assignment tips, for example. And if you are teaching a newer class, you may also have created global topics for this purpose. What happens, though, when the class you have been teaching with global topics is rebuilt? What happens to your old global topics? 

Once the course is rebuilt, you can can import your global topics from a previous semester. But keep in mind that this is going to bring in lots of topics that you no longer need — which means that you'll need to delete all the unnecessary assignment and discussion topics.

(star)(star) A better option is to ask the Online Help Desk do a selective transfer of your old global topics into your newly rebuilt class. If you make a list of the global topics you want imported and send this to the Help Desk, they can take care of this for you.


from my Inbox

I occasionally get emails from online instructors seeking advice on teaching issues. I review their class, think through the problem, and do my best to offer them a workable solution and relevant resources. When it (finally) occurred to me that other teachers might have similar concerns, I decided to post some of these questions and answers here. I hope you find them helpful! If you need help or advice or support with online teaching, please drop me a line (

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