Improve Your Online Instruction with Quality Videos

By Kelly McGowan, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching

New Recording Studio Enhances Online Statistics Courses

A mobile recording studio is the latest of CELT’s innovative solutions serving Iowa State’s online students. 

As the Department of Statistics develops its new Master of Applied Statistics online program, faculty now benefit from an in-house recording studio to create high-quality course content. And it’s just a walk down the hall to a small office in their building, Snedecor Hall.

Department of Statistics Chair Dan Nettleton said the studio is a comfortable space for instructors to focus on their recordings “without having to wonder if the audio and video will be up to technical specifications.” 

For online classes, CELT Media Production Manager Andrew Sevcik said videos made intentionally in a studio geared toward online instruction are best.

“It provides that step up in quality from sitting in their home or office recording on Zoom, Webex or Canvas Studio,” Media Production Specialist Kyle Solberg said. 

The CELT Media Production Team worked with faculty in the department to assess needs, and how to best meet them.
That solution consists of a lectern cart that holds the equipment, a computer, a monitor mounted on the cart, a high-quality webcam, a wireless mic system, a Wacom tablet that allows presenters to draw on their notes, a light kit, and a backdrop with custom branding.  
The elevated recording quality provides a better student experience and a sense of consistency across courses in the program, Sevcik and Solberg said.  
That uniformity, Nettleton said, lets students “focus on learning our course content without the distractions and frustrations that can come from lower-quality media.” 
This is just one example of CELT working with a strategic program to advance student-centered learning. Is your department wrestling with providing the best experience for online students? The CELT team is happy to discuss options and best practices. 

The New CELT Video in Online Courses Toolkit Provides Video Guidance for Online Instructors

CELT’s new Video in Online Courses Toolkit is a resource for instructors looking to improve their online courses with engaging videos. 
Released this week, the ten-page toolkit is packed with helpful, researched, actionable information on how quality video content impacts students and how instructors can create it.
The toolkit explores best practices such as creating “micro-lectures,” tips on video length and structure, ideas to amplify engagement, and more.
Six faculty members’ course recordings are highlighted as examples of different presentation styles. Morrill Professor Dr. Steve Butler, Department of Mathematics, uses body language and expresses enthusiasm in a clip showing “expressive presentation.” ISU Professor Dr. Cindy Haynes, Department of Horticulture, welcomes students back from break and warms the class for the upcoming lesson in an example of “direct presentation.”
Video recording setup tips are also included, along with recommended technology tools for different types of content and definitions of video platforms supported by Iowa State.
Use the toolkit when developing online courses or revisiting them for improvements. It’s never too early to consider small improvements to enhance an online course!
Looking to dig even deeper? CELT’s Course Design Institute touches on many aspects of course design and development, including using media content. 

Improve Your Students’ Canvas Experience: The New ISU Course Template is Now Available

The New ISU Course Template is now available for your Canvas courses! Whether starting from scratch or building on previous content, the template is designed to help you build easy-to-navigate courses in Canvas:

  • With a focus on clear way-finding, the template ensures that your students can navigate your Canvas course, allowing them to spend more time learning and less time figuring out where to find various course components.

  • The template provides opportunities for incremental course improvements. Use parts of the template or re-style your entire Canvas course: you can quickly plug in your course information or plan for future enhancements as you become more familiar with the design tools that come with the template.

  • The template proudly displays the Cyclone spirit, from course banners to institutional color palettes! A bonus deck of themed PowerPoint slides and customizable course and video cards will elevate the look and feel of your instructional materials.

  • Built on the Quality Matters (QM) Course Design Rubric, the template incorporates best practices for student-centered course design. The redesigned Start Here module packages student success resources and policies recommended by QM.

  • Complete with detailed guidance in the instructor toolkit, the template offers many basic and advanced customization options.

And the best part? CELT provides both group and individual support for template implementation, helping you to improve your course one step at a time. Start using the New ISU Course Template today and take your course to the next level!

Three Tips from CELT Instructional Designer, Suhan Yao

Suhan Yao is the CELT instructional designer who led the ISU Course Template redesign inspired by the recent updates to the Quality Matters (QM) Course Design Rubric.

The rubric updates allowed CELT to provide tools for designing a better syllabus, options for clear communication, better engagement and improved course accessibility. Suhan offers three tips for using the enhanced template.

  • We included the essential syllabus sections, which are easy to edit. Explore the instructor toolkit ⁠to find quick advice and example wordings for each section. 

  • We removed the required and recommended syllabus statements from the Syllabus page. They now appear on a separate page called Syllabus Statements. Syllabus Statements are updated automatically: simply edit the page and save it without making any changes.

  • We even included the printing instructions at the top of the page, so you and your students can easily print or save the syllabus and syllabus statements to a PDF file.

  • If you make a mistake, you can always restore the Syllabus page to any previously saved version.

  • Take the guesswork out of assembling useful support resources for your students. Our one-stop-shop Support and Resources page in the Start Here module combines technology support, academic assistance, and well-being resources into a neat package and saves your time!

  • Are your students new to Canvas? The Support and Resources page links to a simple but full of practical and easy-to-understand Canvas Student Orientation course.

  • In the instructor toolkit, find simple instructions on how to add resources specific to your course!

  • After you import the new template into your sandbox course, head to the Files area to find a collection of new banner images in the ISU Course Template Images folder. These banners encompass the enthusiasm, pride, and support shown by students, alumni, and fans of the university.

  • Check out the ISU-Branded Templates in Files. We included ditable cover cards with detailed instructions to use as your course’s card on the dashboard or replace a Canvas Studio thumbnail.

  • We saved the best for last! Check out our deck of Cyclone-spirited PowerPoint slides in the ISU-Branded Templates in Files. Use them for your course presentations to match the look and feel of your Canvas course!

ISU Course Template and Support

Import the Template in Your New Canvas Course

CELT recommends importing the template into your sandbox course shell in Canvas first. This way you can experiment with the many features the template offers. Once comfortable, you can transfer your sandbox into the course shell where you plan to teach. To import the template into your sandbox:

  1. From the Help option on the Canvas Global Navigation, choose Global Course Administration.

  2. Once you authorize ISU AdminTools, opt to Request a New Course Shell.

  3. On the next page, select Organization for Course Type.

  4. Select Create from the new ISU Course Template.

  5. Submit the request.

Your sandbox course will be created, and the template will be added to the sandbox course. Be sure to read Toolkit: Explore and Customize the Template in the Instructor Resources unpublished module that comes with the template.

Use the Template with Your Previous Course Content

Once you create a Canvas sandbox and import the template, you can also import the content from your previous course. You can use the template’s features to style your previous content:

  1. Import the template into your sandbox course shell in Canvas.

  2. Import your previous content into the templated sandbox.

  3. Reset the homepage back to the template.

  4. Navigate to a page with the previous content.

  5. Click Edit on the top of the page with the previous content.

  6. Use the keyboard shortcut Alt+Shift+D (Windows) or Option+Shift+D (Mac). to call on the design tools that come with the template.

  7. In the tools that appear to the right, click on the “+” plus and search for Theme.

  8. This will insert the Heading 2 structure at the top of the page.

  9. Now, use the Paragraph on the Canvas Rich Content Editor to style your previous content with appropriate headers and paragraphs.

For more guidance, be sure to read the instructor toolkit that comes with the template.

Examples of the New ISU Canvas Template pages.

Synchronous Training

CELT offers group training sessions to help you use the new ISU Course Template.

Led by an experienced CELT Instructional Technologist, training occurs online. Each session is 40 minutes long with sufficient time for participants to ask questions.

Instructional Support for ISU Course Template

CELT instructional designers are available for one-on-one consultations to provide support for the implementation of the new ISU Course Template.

Send a message to or book an appointment

AI in Teaching Series

AI in teaching Series written in white lettering on a cardinal red banner

Teaching with AI Course 

Several educators completed our “Teaching with AI” Canvas course as a self-paced or hybrid teaching and learning cohort for fall 2023. During our discussion, we addressed the following queries: What is the significance of ChatGPT and other generative Artificial Intelligence (AI)? What are the pedagogical and ethical implications should instructors be aware of while teaching with AI? How are students incorporating AI, and what are the implications of such usage for our classrooms?

Are you interested in participating if we offer a future “Teaching with AI” course? Please email us at

Upcoming Programming

ChatGPT Under the Hood: Introducing Generative AI, February 1 (3:10-4 p.m., hybrid event) presented by Dr. Ashraf Gaffar, Teaching Professor, and Dr. Mohamed Selim, Associate Teaching Professor (Electrical and Computer Engineering)

ChatGPT Under the Hood: Generative AI in Education, February 29 (3:10-4 p.m., hybrid event) presented by Dr. Ashraf Gaffar, Teaching Professor, and Dr. Mohamed Selim, Associate Teaching Professor (Electrical and Computer Engineering)

ChatGPT Under the Hood: The Future of Generative AI, March 28 (3:10-4 p.m., hybrid event) presented by Dr. Ashraf Gaffar, Teaching Professor, and Dr. Mohamed Selim, Associate Teaching Professor (Electrical and Computer Engineering)

Leveraging Generative AI for Accessible Education, February 20 (11 a.m.-12 p.m., online via Zoom) presented by Jamie Niman

Previous Programming

“How to Teach with Generative AI: Supporting Students and Designing Learning Experiences,” presented by Dr. Abram Anders, Interim Associate Director of the Student Innovation Center and Associate Professor of English, and Emily Dux Speltz, a Ph.D. candidate in the Applied Linguistics and Technology program in the Department of English. Watch the How to Teach with Generative AI Recording (61 minutes) and review the AI Ethics Tutor Lesson Plans and Resources (Substack page)

“Experimental Insights into Writing-Classroom Applications of Grammarly and ChatGPT,” presented by Jim Ranalli, Associate Professor of English. Watch the recording of the Experimental Insights into Writing Presentation (55 minutes) or review the  Experimental Insights into Writing Slides (PDF).

“Are Students Reading the Textbook? Where Artificial Intelligence and Learning Science Meet”, presented by Heather Dean (ISU Bookstore) and Dr. Rachel Van Campenhout (VitalSource).

“Applying AI-Generated Practice to Textbooks to Improve Teaching and Learning,” presented by Dr. Kelly Odenweller (COMST) and Dr. Rachel Van Campenhout (VitalSource). View Kelly & Rachel’s Talk.

“Advantages, Questions, and Fears Around AI Uses in Creative Practice.”, presented by Assistant Professor in Art and Visual Culture Johnny DiBlasi and Olmo Amato, Instructor of Photography at the ISU Rome Program. View Johnny & Olmo’s Talk.

“Preventing Cheating with AI: Strategies for Dealing with ChatGPT Misuse,” presented by Christine Denison, Roger P. Murphy Professor in Accounting / Associate Professor. View Denison’s Talk.

“Pallbearer for the Term Paper: Beyond ChatGPT,” presented by Michael Bugeja, a distinguished professor at the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, January 3o, 2-3 p.m. View Bugeja’s Talk on YouTube, download the Talk bibliography (docx), and read the recent essay, If AI kills the essay, I will be a pallbearer at the funeral” (Poynter Institute, January 24, 2023).

“How to Use ChatGPT to Boost Your Research and Teaching,” presented by Abram Anders, Associate Professor of English and Director of Communication Innovation

Weaving Art into STEM: CELT Workshop Highlights Visual Literacy

By Kelly McGowan, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching 

Meteorology students may not expect to spend a class session in an art museum — or that the rolling clouds in a painting would spark a rich discussion about their field of study — but that’s just what happened at Iowa State thanks to some creative thinking and collaboration by a professor and staff in University Museums.  

Dr. Bill Gallus, professor of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences and newly appointed University Museums CELT Faculty Affiliate, has worked with the museums in various ways over nearly two decades. The faculty affiliate role, started in August 2023, aims to integrate visual literacy and learning with the use of University Museums works of art in curriculum. 

The class visit to the Brunnier Art Museum for a 2015 Ellen Wagener exhibit is just one example of how Gallus and University Museums Curator Adrienne Gennett hope instructors across campus can weave art into their courses. 

“What makes art, I think, so useful in the classroom,” Gallus said, “is it just opens up so many questions where you can really test how well the students have understood what they learned in your STEM course.” 

Wagener’s vast natural land and skyscapes were the perfect canvas for Gallus to pose questions about what was happening meteorologically in the art. What did it mean that the clouds did not have a smooth base? Could students guess what time of year was depicted? What things might the students question?

Fall, Cumulus, 2006 by Ellen Wagener (American, b. 1964). Pastel on paper. Purchased by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences with partial funding from Charles Persinger. In the Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. U2012.22
Fall, Cumulus, 2006 by Ellen Wagener (American, b. 1964). Pastel on paper. Purchased by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences with partial funding from Charles Persinger. In the Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. U2012.22


Art experiences promote critical thinking 

In deepening his involvement with the museums, Gallus learned about the visual literacy framework of data collection, interpretation, and evaluation. It struck him how closely those three steps mirrored “exactly how we conduct science.”  

That parallel allows for a meaningful connection between art-based activities and classes like his. 

Bringing an art experience into a STEM course can challenge students to think more broadly and critically, Gennett said, and help them understand that different interpretations and answers are valid. It can also help expand ways of thinking and encourage students to consider problems from a different angle. 

It’s valuable to give students a moment to consider multiple ways of thinking, she said, “to not necessarily have the correct answer, but to also understand it takes a lot of evaluation before you can come to an answer.”  

Gallus and Gennett said these lessons apply both in coursework and in life.


University Museums are ready to help 

Many students come to Iowa State having never visited an art museum before, Gennett said. This type of art integration can make an impression that lasts a lifetime. 

With 30,000 works of art in the permanent collection and Art on Campus Collection, she said there is bound to be a good fit for any field of study — and her team is ready to help faculty enhance their courses with art. 

“We work really hard to make it as easy as possible,” she said. That can include pulling art out of storage, bringing a work of art to a teaching space, providing tours, discussing art with students, and even helping faculty to create a lesson around works of art.  

Faculty can explore the online museum database for inspiration. Collections in the database group art together for their possible application to the life sciences or physical sciences, for example. 

“We can take a work of art and use it throughout the university,” she said, “in different courses, in different fields of study — and we can teach the valuable basic skills of visual literacy and communication.”

Bill Gallus, professor of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences and University Museums CELT Faculty Affiliate, and University Museums Curator Adrienne Gennett will host a workshop, “Visual Literacy Tools for Curriculum in STEM Fields,” at 10 a.m. on Feb. 21 at 2030 Morrill Hall.