Online Learner Support

Online Learner Support

Table of Contents

Guidance for Students: COVID-19

We recognize students and families may have questions/concerns about returning to campus. This Guidance website is specifically for those that are at an increased risk for severe illness as defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Additionally, we ask students to review Guidance for Supporting Community Expectations During COVID-19 Pandemic page.

ISU Computer Requirement

Beginning in fall 2020, all students at Iowa State University will be required to own or obtain a laptop computer or other device appropriate to their discipline. Visit the ISU Computer Requirement page.

Technical Support

New to Iowa State? Complete your tech list.

For assistance with supported software, networking, and service issues contact IT Solution Center via the Solution Center website, call 515-294-4000, or email

Canvas Support

  • Will your browser work with Canvas? Find out through the Which browsers does Canvas support guide.
  • Or use the support options listed in the ? Help menu of the global navigation (red bar on the far left of your screen) when logged in Canvas.

Accessibility and Accommodations

Iowa State University is committed to assuring that all educational activities are free from discrimination and harassment based on disability status. Students requesting accommodations for a documented disability are required to work directly with staff in Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to establish eligibility and learn about related processes before accommodations will be identified. After eligibility is established, SAS staff will create and issue a Notification Letter for each course listing approved reasonable accommodations. This document will be made available to the student and instructor either electronically or in hard-copy every semester. Students and instructors are encouraged to review contents of the Notification Letters as early in the semester as possible to identify a specific, timely plan to deliver/receive the indicated accommodations. Reasonable accommodations are not retroactive in nature and are not intended to be an unfair advantage. Additional information or assistance is available online at, by contacting SAS staff by email at, or by calling 515-294-7220. Student Accessibility Services is a unit in the Dean of Students Office located at 1076 Student Services Building.

Essential COVID-19 communications about  from Student Accessibility Services:

Experiencing an Accessibility Barrier?

Consider bringing your concerns to the attention of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Facilities Planning and Management through the ISU Barriers to Access web form. Some concerns can be fixed immediately, while others may require long-term architectural and financial planning. All entries, regardless of their scale and scope, are inputted into a database in order to prioritize the needs for upcoming projects.

View the Accessibility and Privacy Statements for Course Technologies webpage.

Improve Your Academic Success

Academic Success Center (Dean of Students Office)

We support. You succeed! The Academic Success Center (Dean of Students Office) provides learning opportunities for all students through services that support academic skill development, grade improvement, and engagement with peers, all of which promote success and self-directed learning. The ASC offers individualized and group-facilitated experiences connected to a specific course, or focus on general skill development. Services include Academic Coaching, Resources and Worksheets, Supplemental Instruction, Tutoring Services, the Workshop Series, and PSYCH 131, an academic skills course. The ASC encourages students to use the supports that can best strengthen their learning.

Learn more about ASC services, employment opportunities, office location, via our the Academic Success Center website (, call 515-294-6624, or email

Writing and Media Center (WMC) (Dean of Students Office)

Helps students become competent, confident communicators. The WMC is a welcoming and inclusive place where friendly Communication Consultants offer individualized assistance to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff, and community members working on any form of written, oral, visual, or electronic communication. While we can help you identify patterns and trends in your spelling and grammar, we do not provide editing services. In addition to one-on-one and group consultations (both in-person and online), we offer Multimedia Communication Center appointments, workshops, and more. For locations and availability, visit the Writing and Media Center website, call 515-294-5411, or email

Center for Communication Excellence (Graduate College)

Comprises multiple sets of expertise imparted by Disciplinary, Interdisciplinary, and English Writing Consultants. They offer one-on-one consultations and facilitate peer writing groups. Prepared through in-depth training, they assist with any research-related communication (e.g., thesis/dissertations, journal articles, proceedings papers, conference presentations, and posters, etc.). Visit the Center for Communication Excellence (Graduate College) website.

Follow these steps to stay motivated.

Promote and Preserve Academic Integrity

The value of an education at Iowa State University depends significantly upon the quality of academic work and research completed by you and other students. As students, your role in promoting and preserving integrity on campus is essential. To learn more about academic integrity and your responsibilities, visit the Office of Student Conduct’s website.

To understand plagiarism, the consequences of plagiarism and best practices for avoiding plagiarism view the Know the Code: Plagiarism: Academic Integrity at ISU YouTube video.

Also, students are highly encouraged to view the Know the Code: Academic Misconduct for Students YouTube video.

Enhance and Cultivate Inclusion at ISU

  • Campus Climate Reporting System (CCRS) Have you experienced a campus climate incident that has impacted you, and you need assistance in connecting with available resources and services? Do you have concerns about a campus climate incident, but you are not sure what to do? If so, please contact the Campus Climate Reporting Team by submitting your concerns using the online Campus Climate Incident Reporting Form
  • The Division of Diversity and Inclusion fosters and sustains an environment of inclusiveness that empowers faculty, staff, and students to achieve their highest potential and have a clearer understanding of diversity, equity, inclusion and educational justice. View ISU’s Diversity and Inclusion site, visit 2680 Beardshear Hall, call 515-204-8840, or email
  • Resources at ISU. A resource with link to campus organizations and units serving students, faculty, and staff. Each subheading links to the website for each resource Bookmark the Inclusive Resources at ISU page.
  • Students are responsible for living the tenets established in ISU’s Principles of Community: Respect, Purpose, Cooperation, Richness of Diversity, Freedom from discrimination, and the Honest and respectful expression of ideas. Visit ISU’s Principles of Community website.

Religious Accommodation

Iowa State University strives to reasonably accommodate students who’s sincerely held religious beliefs or creed conflict with academic requirements. Accommodation requests must be made proactively. The process for requesting an accommodation is interactive and the process must be initiated by the individual seeking the accommodation. For optimal consideration, students should inform instructors as soon as possible in the semester of a course conflict. It is recommended that the student and instructor discuss the request in person and then document the resolution in an email format. Assistance throughout the process for all parties involved is available through the Office of Equal Opportunity at 515-294-7612.

Stay Safe at Iowa State

For key resources about sexual misconduct and assault, personal safety, how-to report a problem, and important phone numbers visit the Stay Safe at Iowa State page.

Students are responsible for being familiar with the University’s student rules and policies located on the ISU Policy Library website.

Green Dot: A green dot is any choice, behavior, word or attitude that promotes safety for everyone and communicates utter intolerance for power-based personal violence in our Iowa State University community. A green dot is anything you do to make our community safer. What is your Green Dot? Visit the Green Dot – Student Wellness page.

Students are encouraged to view the Student Sexual Misconduct Presentation YouTube.

Netiquette at ISU

What is “Netiquette”? It is “Internet Etiquette” or the conventions of politeness pertaining to the way we use the Internet and interact with others online. To provide a foundation for civility in the online learning environment we promote Netiquette at ISU.

Communication and Collaboration

In addition to gathering information, you may use collaboration tools to create content with your classmates.

Communication is essential. Your instructors will let you know how they prefer to communicate with you.

To be get prepared, do the following:

  • Check-in. Check your Canvas site AND your IASTATE email at least once a day for important information from your faculty and ISU.
  • Set your Canvas notifications. Canvas includes a set of default notification preferences you can receive for your courses sent as one of four delivery types: notify me right away, daily summary, weekly summary, or don’t send. To select your notification preferences, read through the How do I set my notification preferences? web guide or view the Notification Preferences video.
  • Stay up-to-date with Iowa State. the ISU Safety website on your browser. Plus, the University will continue to send official communications to your IASTATE email.
  • When you are communicating, make sure that you follow the Netiquette at ISU (PDF).

Attend online classes/meetings or record a video

A web conferencing tool may be used for facilitating lectures online in either synchronous (occurs in real-time) or asynchronous (not at the same time) environments. Check with your instructor whether or not these tools will be used for online delivery of your course.

Prepare to use these common tools: Webex, Zoom, MS Teams, and Studio

Webex is a multi-functional desktop Video/Audio Conference call application. It allows you to meet with anyone, anywhere, in real time from your office or home, as long as you have Internet access on your computer or have the Webex mobile app installed for yourself device.

Test Webex Meetings on your device and practice changing audio and video settings with the links below:

Need help with WebEx? Try searching the Webex Help Center page for your topic first. If you still needed assistance, please contact WebEx support (available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for students, faculty, and staff).

To begin exploring how to use Zoom:

Classes and office teams can chat, meet, call, and collaborate all in one place, no matter where people are located. Add your favorite Microsoft and third-party services or build custom apps for your unique business needs. Meet with an individual or as a team with up to 10,000 people.


  • Instant messaging
  • Voice and video calling with live captioning and recording
  • Meeting scheduling
  • Integration with other Microsoft products and 3rd party apps

To learn how-to use MS Teams, visit the MS Teams page.

Studio is an integrated video sharing platform that will allow students to submit video assignments much more easier.

To learn more Studio, go to the Studios (Canvas) page.

  • Make sure you’re muted when not talking
  • Be yourself and respect others
  • Ask questions using the chat tool
  • Use reactions to engage with your class
  • Think before you write
  • Utilize the raise your hand feature if wanting to ask a question live

Completing Activities, Assignments and Assessments

Faculty may have many options for online activities, assignments, and assessments (quizzes). It is important that you review all directions for an activity, assignment or quiz carefully and that you contact your faculty member via their preferred communication method with any questions.

  • Assignment in Canvas – submit online Assignments using several submission types. Instructors can choose what kind of online submissions they want you to use.
  • Canvas Quizzes – You can easily take a quiz by accessing the Quizzes page. Depending on how your instructor set up the quiz, questions may be shown all on one page or one at a time.
  • Google Suite – used to create documents, papers by individual students or groups
  • Top Hat – online polling and quizzing tool

Best Practices for Taking Online Tests

Taking a quiz or exam in a Canvas course can be a big deal and you want to do everything in your power to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible. Follow these steps and tips to help ensure a successful testing experience. See the Best Practices for Taking Online Tests page.

Managing coursework with lower-speed connections

These steps below are intended to help you navigate the process of improving your connection, or finding alternative means to connect while still maintaining social distancing so that you can access course content and complete your coursework during the rest of this semester.

If you continue to have connection issues notify your instructor and academic adviser.

Knowing your connection speed can help you figure out what your connection can handle. It’s good to try multiple speed tests to get a fuller picture of your speed over time—reliable options for speed tests include Ookla, Speed of Me, and DSL Reports.

Here are some basic minimums:

  • For general web surfing, email, or social media 1 Mbps
  • For video conferencing 1-4 Mbps
  • For standard definition (SD) video streaming 3-4 Mbps
  • For HD video streaming 5-8 Mbps

Most DSL or satellite carriers can offer speeds that meet these basic requirements. Try to connect to the services you will use most often to see how they perform. You can also join a ‘test’ Zoom meeting here or Webex ‘test’ online meeting here.

Contact your internet carrier and inquire about the availability and cost of higher tiers of service. You can also consider obtaining a WiFi hotspot from a local cellular carrier, or tether to your mobile device (be aware that this may raise your data costs). Many internet and cellular carriers are offering discounts on internet service upgrades during this pandemic, and many have signed a pledge not to cancel service or charge late fees during this crisis.

Many carriers and some government programs are also offering low-cost internet plans that may be available in your area.

If your connection meets the minimum 1 – 1.5 Mbps requirement, you will still need to do some optimizing to get your work done. When it’s time for online work, be sure that the connection is as unburdened as possible. Talk with your family or roommates and agree on the best ways to facilitate course work during each day. Setting up a schedule for when coursework, gaming, entertainment, or other uses will take place will help free up this resource for academic work.

Consider installing a WiFi router that uses ‘smart queueing’ to improve performance when your internet connection is being used by multiple applications and/or users.  Read more about how ‘smart queuing’ can help at

Many online applications (such as Zoom, for example) have the capability to dynamically adjust their bandwidth consumption depending on your connection. To further reduce your utilization of available bandwidth during a live-streamed lecture or conference, be sure to turn off your video.

The activity that uses the highest amount of bandwidth is live-streamed multidirectional video and audio sharing. We are encouraging professors and instructors to pre-record lectures and other video content whenever possible so that during this crisis, there is less need for the most bandwidth-intensive types of content.

If your home internet connection does not suffice, you may need to explore local options for community-access WiFi. Once you find one or more useful resources, you can develop a routine of going to your WiFi location once or twice each day to upload assignments, ask questions, and download new content.

Remember that while at a public access internet connection, it is best to stick with secure sites — look for HTTPS in the URL. Also, to maintain social distancing, remain outdoors or in your vehicle if possible. Be sure to let your professors and instructors know that this is the method you will need to use to keep up with your coursework. 

Possibilities include

  • Connecting through Eduroam: Your Iowa State network credentials can get you connected to high-speed WiFi networks at Eduroam-participating educational institutions across the U.S. and in more than 100 countries around the world. Learn more about Eduroam, and find “Where  can I Eduroam?” page
  • Multiple commercial carriers. MediacomComcast/Xfinity, and Charter/Spectrum are offering free WiFi connectivity at thousands of hotspot locations throughout the U.S. through the duration of this crisis. Check with your local providers for details.
  • ISU Extension and Outreach office locations. Students located in Iowa are welcome to complete their coursework via ISU Extension and Outreach offices. ISU Extension is situated in every Iowa county and has a high-speed internet hotspot for rural connectivity. Students should be able to access it from a nearby parking lot; however, it is important to contact the local office to ensure connectivity. Students beyond Iowa’s borders may wish to contact their state’s Extension program for similar access.
  • Schools, community centers, churches, and libraries: Many community organizations and government facilities offer open WiFi and access from the parking lot.
  • Businesses and restaurants: Many local companies may offer open WiFi as well. Please observe current public health guidelines.

WiFi options in Ames, Iowa

Your Well-Being

Iowa State University is committed to proactively facilitating the well-being of all students. We welcome and encourage students to contact the following on-campus services for assistance regarding their physical, intellectual, occupational, spiritual, environmental, financial, social, and/or emotional needs:

Seek help if you don’t know where else to go

Many students unexpectedly face difficult times during college, be it for academic or personal reasons. Unexpected life events, personal crises, or other difficulties can interfere with college success. The Student Assistance staff will listen to your experiences, whether it is something as simple as not being able to find one of your classes to something as tragic as the loss of a loved one. Also, the staff will help you understand ISU policies and services that may assist in your situation. View the Student Assistance website, visit 1010 Student Services Building, call 515-294-1020, or email

Quick links to crucial student resources are available on the Student Services and Resources webpage.