ISU Course Template

The ISU Course Template is part of the Online Course Essentials (ONCE) process. 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. Essential QM Standards are assigned 3 points and must be present in a quality online course.

Additionally, all pages inside the template course are accessible, easy to modify and display well on student laptops or hand-held smart devices. 

The Structure of the Template

The ISU template consists of two modules for importing into a Canvas course. A module is an instructional package/unit that focuses on a specific learning objective and contains documents, learning materials (such as readings, presentations, media files, etc.), learning activities (discussion boards, etc.), assessments, etc.

The two modules in the ISU template course include:

  1. Orientation: Begin Here is a required module that orients students on how to interact with the online course, its structure, course requirements, and technical, and academic support resources. This module is complete with all components required for a typical online course overview and introduction that set the tone, let learners know what to expect, and provide vital guidance to help learners succeed from the beginning of the course. You can edit the information in this module as needed for your course.
  2. Module 01 models the strategic organization where a module introduces a page containing an overview of module-specific learning objectives and descriptions, supplemented by subheaders for the various learning materials, activities, and assessments. Each of these assignments contains clear instructions (purpose/task/criteria) for equitable student success.

Module 01 offers a solid structure where you may replicate it as many times as needed.


  • Includes an Orientation: Begin Here module comprised of the syllabus, instructor introduction, communication expectations, technology and academic support resources, and course tour pages.
  • Features an example module organization, complete with an overview page.
  • Demonstrates clear assignment instructions for students to be successful.
  • It contains clear instructor guidance showing the next steps for designing the course.
  • Uses accessible and easy-to-modify pages for confidence while editing.

Would you like to see the template in action?

Explore the ISU template in this model course.

Creating a course with the ISU Course Template

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

Steps for using the ISU Course Template

Instructor Resources

1. Requesting a course using the ISU Course Template

  1. Log into Canvas by clicking on the “Sign Ons” link found in the upper right-hand corner (above the search box) 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

IMPORTANT: Remove all yellow highlighting – this emphasis serves as instructor prompts to edit, remove, or add content.

2. Modifying the homepage

  1. Navigate to Canvas dashboard (far left of your screen on the Global Navigation Menu) Canvas Dashboard Icon
  2. Once you are on the Canvas dashboard, locate the newly created course that you are designing (practice, credit-earning course shell, or organization). Course Tile for newly created course
  3. Modify the syllabus page (currently set as the homepage) by following the steps to edit the syllabus.
    1. Recommended changes marked in the yellow highlighted text include:
      1. Course identifier and title
      2. Course catalog description
      3. Prerequisites
      4. Credit hours
      5. Course format
    2. Select an alternate banner image: delete the current existing banner, then use the Content Selector (in the rich content editor) to select a new one. There are six possible options included in the course files.
    3. Replace and relink the Access Modules button. Delete the existing image, then again use the Content Selector to choose a new one. There are six possible options in the course files. Finally, click on the button and use the Content Selector to create a Link to Course Navigation > Modules.
  4. As you edit the content and delete the prompts, remove the yellow highlighted text. If any remain after you finish writing, you can clear the highlight by clicking the Remove Text Formatting icon (in the rich content editor).

3. Editing the content in the “Orientation: Begin Here Module”

  1. Click the Modules link in the course navigation and locate the Orientation: Begin Here module.
  2. Click on Orientation: Your Instructor, then click the Edit button when it loads. Add or modify the text according to the suggestions provided (designated by yellow highlight) and replace the image with one of your own. Be sure to include appropriate alt text for accessibility purposes.
  3. As you edit content and delete the prompts, remove the yellow highlight background color. If any remains after you have finished editing, you can clear the color by clicking the Clear Formatting icon.
  4. Click Save and preview your changes (use Student View in Canvas).
  5. Click Next at the bottom of the page to continue to edit the pages in the Orientation module.

4. Duplicating and editing a module

The quickest way to build a lot of content is to duplicate a module:

  1. Click on Modules in the course navigation.
  2. Locate Module 01 (the template module).
  3. Plan the number of modules needed for your course and follow the steps to duplicate the module guide.
  4. Note: The duplication tool does not work if there are Quizzes or external tool assignments linked within it. Instead, do the following:
    1. Remove the Module 01:Quiz (this will only remove the reference to the Quiz from the module and will not delete the actual Quiz).
    2. Try again to duplicate the module.
  5. For each copied module:
    1. Edit and rename the module according to your chosen naming convention (e.g., Module 02, 03, 04, Week 01, 02, 03, 04, etc.)
    2. Edit each module item such that all instances of Module 01 are updated appropriately.

5. Adding quizzes to your modules

When the course contains the proper number of modules, use this process to reinsert the Module 01:Quiz, then create additional quizzes for each module.

  1. Click on Modules in your Canvas course navigation.
  2. Locate the Module 01 (or module you want to use).
  3. Click the + symbol on the right-hand side.
  4. In the window that pops up:
    1. Change the dropdown menu at the top to be Quiz.
    2. Click on Module 01: Quiz.
    3. Set Indentation: Indent 1 Level
    4. Click Add Item.
  5. Click on Module 01: Quiz and then Edit.
  6. Select all of the content in the Quiz description and copy it.
  7. Return to the Modules page.
  8. For each of the remaining topic modules, click the + symbol on the right-hand side. In the window that pops up:
    1. Change the dropdown menu at the top to be Quiz.
    2. Click on [New Quiz].
    3. Name it Module 02: QuizModule 03: Quiz or according to your chosen naming convention (e.g., Week 01: Quiz, Week 02: Quiz, etc.)
    4. Set Group: Assignments
    5. Set Indentation: Indent 1 Level
    6. Click Add Item.
    7. Once you add the Quiz, you may publish the module.

Learn more from the Quizzes and Exams instructional strategies page.

6. Updating the module contents

  1. Modify each module with the content specific to that topic using instructions from the Modules section of the Canvas Instructor Guides.
  2. Ensure the removal of all yellow highlighted text formatting is complete.
  3. Optional: Add icons to page and module content if desired. 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 meaning intended, not just ones that are eye-catching. The Files section of the template includes several icons which can be inserted to provide visual cues in the content.
  4. Double-check that the assignments, pages, etc. have all been renamed to correspond to the appropriate module.

7. Importing previous course content into the ISU Course Template

When you are satisfied with your revisions to the ISU Course Template content, it’s time to bring in your previous course content.

  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 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 steps in the Prepare to Teach web guide to Add a section to an existing course shell.

8. 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. 

9. Updating the course name and dashboard tile image

Before adding students and publishing, ensure the course is appropriately named and 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 choose to add a new image, you can upload your own image or select from a library of freely available images from Unsplash.
  3. Next, review the Name of the course. 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.
  • 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:



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