Finding success, FAQs & Canvas basics (Teaching Tip)

This teaching tip includes answers to the most frequently asked instructor questions as well as Canvas basics for those new to ISU’s learning management system (LMS) Canvas.

In addition, we want to share how faculty are finding success while delivering content online:

Do you or your colleagues have success stories to share? Email us at

With joy for teaching,

Sara Marcketti, Director
Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between synchronous and asynchronous teaching and learning?

Synchronous happens in ‘real-time’ at a specific virtual location during one particular time of the day using video conferencing tools (Webex, Zoom) to live stream a lecture/meeting. For example, every Monday at 2:10 p.m. (Central Savings Time) in a Webex virtual room. Use synchronous mode for student office hours and courses where oral communication and live discussions are crucial to attaining learning objectives.

Asynchronous happens on your schedule: materials, lectures, and assignments posted in Canvas for students to access. There are due dates, but there is also flexibility in when and where students access and complete the tasks. Self-guided lesson modules, streaming video content, virtual libraries, posted lecture notes, and exchanges across discussion boards are examples. The asynchronous model allows time for students to settle into the learning routine and for instructors to pace their facilitation.

How do I “deliver content”?

  • Consider recording short, up to 8-minute videos of mini-lectures.
  • Create videos in Canvas Studio (located on the left global navigation bar above ? help) and post them inside your online course. Videos uploaded to Studio are compacted and more accessible to students with limited internet access. For advice on how to do these things and more, see the Canvas Studio guide in MyCanvas Teacher.
  • Or consider an even more accessible option, posting mini-lectures in the form of PowerPoint slides with notes, or even a PowerPoint file and a pdf of the Notes documents, in which instructors describe the slides.

How do I deliver exams and promote academic integrity?

Assessments are powerful learning tools and provide useful information to you as an instructor.

If you have not seen your questions answered here, please consult the Deliver course content table on the Quick Start Guide page for other ideas on transforming your in-person sessions into the online environment or email

3 things to emphasize to all ISU students

Senior Vice President and Provost Wickert asked us to share this with you, “As you send messages (via email or Announcements, Canvas Inbox) to students regarding ISU’s conversion to virtual instruction, it is helpful to emphasize these three points consistently:

  • Virtual courses continue to count toward students’ degree programs.
  • We have implemented a temporary Pass/Not Pass option (PDF) to provide students with additional flexibility.
  • Our faculty are committed to providing a high-quality educational experience in the virtual environment. This commitment was expressed recently in a resolution from Iowa State’s Faculty Senate (PDF).”

5 steps to successful teaching in Canvas

Use these key Canvas steps to ensure a successful teaching and learning experience. Conversations with undergrad and graduate students, instructional designers, and examination of tickets submitted to the ISU Solution Center helped create these points.

  1. Announcements. Every time a student logs into your course, they see whatever you provide them via the front page (How to set a Front Page guide) as well as announcements (How to add an announcement guide). During this time of uncertainty, be sure to create an informational front page and add (and remove outdated announcements) to keep students up to date.
  2. Update Notifications. Students can turn off Canvas notifications! Set your notification preferences and then explain how students can update their notifications to ensure that they receive all Canvas updates in their emails.
  3. Modules for Organization. Make your course easy to navigate so that students can concentrate on the subject matter at hand. Within each module, you can include PowerPoint slides, lectures, quizzes, assignments, and discussion prompts. Some instructors organize modules by weeks and some by multi-week units under the same topic.
  4. SpeedGrader. This Canvas tool is an easy and effective way to provide an electronic record of the students’ work, your feedback, and the grade (How to use SpeedGrader guide).
  5. Publish. One of the most frequent issues submitted to the ISU Solution Center is that students cannot access the course, the modules, quizzes, tests, or assignments. The solution? Publish each content item, and use Student View to make sure that they see what you see (How do I view a course as a student? web guide).

Full Teaching Tip

View the published CELT Teaching Tip: Finding success, Frequently Asked Questions & Canvas basics (March 26, 2020 – Constant Contact) website.

Prefer a Print version?

To view the Teaching Tip as a printable document with web addresses, download the CELT Teaching Tip for March 26, 2020 (PDF).