ISU Course Template

The ISU Course Template is New and Improved. Consider using it in a Canvas course not tied to student enrollment by exploring an Organization Canvas course or preparing for your Summer and Fall 2023 courses.

The ISU Template contains the fundamental components for a quality online course as per the nationally acclaimed faculty-driven and peer-reviewed Quality Matters (QM) Course Design Rubric. All pages inside the template course are accessible and mobile-friendly. Originally designed for online and blended courses, QM principals can be effectively applied to an in-person, traditional, lecture-based course to achieve a more dynamic and purposeful classroom. Easy to modify and adapt, the ISU Course Template contains essentials for a quality Canvas course.


Would you like to see the improved design? Preview the ISU Course Template in Canvas.

  • ISU-branded look
  • Instructor step-by-step guidance in the edit mode is not visible to students.
  • Customizable Home Page, Syllabus, Start Here Module, and Module Overview
  • A syllabus page that contains required (not editable) and recommended (editable) syllabus statements. Required statements are automatically updated when the system Syllabus page is edited.
  • Canvas pages that can be edited using the Heading structure in Rich-Content Editor (RCE)
  • Support available from CELT instructional designers via on-demand meetings

The Structure of the Template

The ISU Course Template is customizable:

  1. Home Page: The Home Page, where learners are introduced to the purpose and structure of the course, has a banner image and layout consistent with ISU branding. The Syllabus and Start Here buttons are strategically located, helping students navigate the course.
  2. Syllabus: Contains editable Syllabus essentials, including required and recommended ISU syllabus statements. Required ISU Syllabus Statements are automatically pushed when the system page is edited. Also includes a Syllabus Navigation, enabling learners to quickly locate needed information.
  3. Start Here Module: This required module includes all the necessary information to encourage student success. This module is complete with all components required for a typical course overview and introduction that set the tone, let learners know what to expect, and provide guidance to help learners succeed from the beginning of the course. You can edit the information in this module as needed for your course.
  4. Module Overview: An overview that guides students in what they are about to learn, the scope of work, and the expected time commitment. Includes module-specific learning objectives and descriptions with subheaders for the various learning materials, activities, and
  5. Sample Content Page: Duplicate this page to edit and modify all additional content. Use the Heading hierarchy in the Rich Content Editor to add blocks of text and visual interest to the page.

For Assistance with Your Course

If you would like assistance with the new course template, book an appointment with a CELT Instructional Designer or email us at

Creating a course with the ISU Course Template

The steps below demonstrate the foundational skills required to work with the ISU Course Template in Canvas.

1. Planning your course

  1. Download the Plan Your Course worksheet (DOCX). The worksheet guides creating a direct link between the learning objectives, assessments, learning activities, and instructional materials in your course.
  2. Start by choosing a one-course learning objective. Identify the assessment you will use to evaluate student achievement of the selected learning objective.
  3. Next, reflect on the smaller, more discrete, and concrete knowledge and skills your course-level objective requires your students to obtain before they can demonstrate achievement. These smaller, discrete, and concrete knowledge and skills are described in your module-level objectives, which will direct your learning activities and instructional materials.
  4. Repeat the process for each of the 3-5 course learning objectives for an aligned course. All course components (learning objectives, assessments, activities, and materials) support student progress and learning.

2. Requesting a course using the ISU Course Template

  1. Log into Canvas by clicking on the “Sign Ons” link in the upper right-hand corner of Iowa State University’s home page.
  2. Request your course (or organization):
    1. Click on the ? Help icon on the red bar at the far left of the screen.
    2. Locate and click on the Global Course Administration link within the ? Help menu.
    3. Authorize ISU AdminTools to access your account.
  3. You will see two options:
    1. Prepare to Teach (Create courses, combine sections, and publish/unpublish courses)
    2. Request a New Course Shell (new credit-earning course shell or an organization shell )
  4. Choose Request a New Course Shell
  5. Follow the prompts
  6. Click the checkbox to “Preload your course with the ISU Course Template from the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching.”
    A blue arrow points to the checkbox that shows where a person should click to create a Canvas course from the ISU Course Template

3. Import previous course content into the ISU Course Template (optional)

When you are satisfied with your revisions to the ISU Course Template content, you may bring in your previous course content.

IMPORTANT: If you choose to import previous course content, DO NOT import the Syllabus page.

  1. Click Settings.
  2. Choose Import Course Content on the right sidebar.
  3. Choose Content Type Copy a Canvas Course.
  4. Click on Select Specific Content.
  5. Click Import.
  6. Click the red Select Content button.
  7. Select everything except Course Settings and Syllabus Body or as much as you want to import.
  8. Click Select Content.
  9. Review the course to confirm everything transferred correctly and adjust dates as needed.
  10. Follow the Prepare to Teach web guide steps to Add a section to an existing course shell.

4. Modifying the Course Content

  1. Navigate to the Canvas dashboard (far left of your screen on the Global Navigation Menu).
    Canvas Dashboard Icon
  2. Once on the Canvas dashboard, locate the newly created course you are designing (practice, credit-earning course shell, or organization).
    Course Tile for newly created course
  3. Select the page you would like to edit.
  4. Follow the Editor Only Instructions on each page. The instructions are specific to each page you are editing.
    Editor ONly Instructions
  5. To remove the Editor Only Instructions, select Key Action Items in the lower right-hand corner and select mark as complete.

    Template editor only complete

5. Update the contents in each module

  1. Modify each module with the content specific to that topic using instructions from the Modules section of the Canvas Instructor Guides.
  2. Optional: Add icons to page and module content if you Copy/paste emojis from sites such as Emojipedia to call attention to certain portions of your course. Be sure to select emojis that convey the intended meaning, not just eye-catching ones.

6. Fixing a mistake while editing the ISU Course Template

There are two ways to correct any mistakes made while editing the ISU Course Template content:

  1. Oops! You can resolve minor errors using the revision history on pages.
  2. Recover accidentally deleted content using the “Undelete” function. 

7. Updating the course name and dashboard tile image

Before adding students and publishing, ensure the course is appropriately named and that you have updated the course tile to be relevant to the course topic. Inside the Canvas course:

  1. Click Settings.
  2. At the top is the ISU Template Course tile image. Click the three dots, and click Remove image or Choose image. If you add a new image, you can upload your image or select from a library of freely available images from Unsplash.
  3. Next, review the Name of the course. Please update it to accurately represent the Registrar sections you have added to the Canvas course.
  4. Scroll to the bottom and click Update Course Details.

Best Practices

  • Give yourself time.
  • Please keep it simple.
  • Use the Plan Your Course worksheet to establish a direct link between the course’s learning objectives, assessments, and learning activities.
  • Check each of these items in your practice course to help you assess whether your modified content is now ready for importing into the course you plan to teach:
  • Specify the Homepage. Importing the course template will have automatically made the Syllabus the course homepage.
  • Announcements are set to appear on top of the Homepage. Importing the course template will automatically specify the last three (3) announcements that should appear at the top of the Homepage. See How to show recent announcements on the course’s Homepage and How to pre-create and delay posting of course announcements.
  • Update the course image (for the dashboard). Change the image of your course tile for your dashboard Dashboard. See How to add an image to a course card in the Dashboard.
  • All course pages are updated. Review every page to ensure that you modify the text until nothing remains highlighted in yellow. See How to edit a page in a course.
  • All sample materials have been modified or deleted. Click on assignments, discussions, and quizzes to check for and delete unused examples in the ISU template. See, How do I delete an assignment?
  • Simplify the course menu. Ensure your course menu only displays the course options you intend to use. See How to manage your course-specific menu.


Contact the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching by emailing and including the “ISU Template” in the subject line.