Five strategies for a successful start for your students (Teaching Tip)

January brings with it the comfortable familiarity of a completed fall semester and the newness and opportunities of a spring semester waiting to begin. Before the first day of the semester, consider these strategies to promote student success.
  • Welcome students. Send a welcoming email or Canvas announcement to your class (see the communication strategies page). Let students know where and when the first class session occurs: in person or online, how to access the Canvas course page, include a copy of the syllabus, and share your student office hours. This welcome sets the stage for prepared students on the first day of class.
  • Do a readiness assessment. On the first day of class, include a short, no-stakes quiz with a mixture of prerequisite knowledge questions and topics that students will encounter in the course. This readiness assessment can provide you with diagnostic information about the new class. Further, providing the correct answer to the questions can serve as an early resource for content review. Get started by using the Quizzes and Exams strategies page.
  • Ask students for their goals. No matter the class size, ask students why they signed up for the class and how it will help them achieve their goals. Students can complete this information (including name and pronoun preferences) in word or sentence format using Qualtrics. Display the Qualtrics word cloud results in real-time or share them during the next class session.
  • Give a syllabus quiz. Instead of a detailed syllabus reading, give a short syllabus quiz in the first week of the term (see CELT’s Sample syllabus quiz questions page). This method is an easy first assignment win for students and can lessen potential anxiety about course expectations and grading.
  • Make Connections. Prepare a small follow-up assignment in which students actively engage and make a connection with the course material and their lives. Perhaps this is finding a news article or social media post related to your course content. Maybe it is asking students to identify something within their lives impacted by the course topic. At the next class session, create triads of students to share the information. This strategy is beneficial if you use permanent triads for discussion and project teams throughout the semester and further connections with content and between classmates. Find additional ideas for engagement on the Ideas to create a welcoming, engaging, and inclusive classroom page along with the Engaging Students Online page.
Continue to read the CELT Teaching Tip for the Start of the Semester Checklist, Instructional Tools & Updates, the CELT Teaching Spotlight, and CELT Upcoming Programs. The CELT staff eagerly awaits meeting and working with you in spring 2021!
With a joy for teaching,
Sara Marcketti, Director

Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching

Full Teaching Tip

View the published CELT Teaching Tip: Five strategies for a successful start for your students (January 14, 2021 – Constant Contact) page.

Prefer a Print version?

To view the Teaching Tip as a printable document with web addresses, download the CELT Teaching Tip for January 14.

Tips to Make Your Course More Accessible (Teaching Tip)

Students work together during Disability Awareness Week

This week, Iowa State University has been observing Disability Awareness Week, a week devoted to educating the Cyclone community about the experience of individuals with disabilities. As an instructor, you have a direct impact on a student’s experience and ability to grow and thrive at ISU. Consider these tips to increase accessibility and improve all student learning experiences.

  • Present information in multiple formats: A disability may impact a student’s ability to access specific forms of communication. Provide course content in a variety of modalities to eliminate this barrier, and allow all students the ability to access materials through the platform most beneficial to their learning. Create captions and transcripts for videos and audio recordings, include audio descriptions of images, diagrams, or maps, or include a simulation or hands-on experience.
  • Consider how students will engage with course materials and each other: Can you identify any barriers to or within the meeting location(s) or learning environment? Have you selected learning technologies accessible to students with disabilities? Support students by being flexible and providing alternative options for engaging with course materials and each other. Allow students to participate in person or virtually. Give them the opportunity to voice questions and comments, type them within a chat, or provide anonymous feedback via Qualtrics. Encourage students to work together using alternative formats including virtual rooms, team chats, discussion boards, or online interactive apps.
  • Use assessment for learning ownership: Identify alternative mechanisms students may utilize to demonstrate acquisition of knowledge and skills indicated in your learning objectives. Provide a variety of options for students to demonstrate their skills that allow for various strengths, preferences, abilities, and student disabilities.

Contact Lori Mickle (, 515-294-5299) for more information about course accessibility or email with any questions.

Above photo courtesy of Alexandra Kelly/Iowa State Daily

Full Teaching Tip

View the published CELT Teaching Tip: Resources for Success (October 28, 2021 – Constant Contact) page.

Prefer a Print Version?

To view the Teaching Tip as a printable document with web addresses, download the CELT Teaching Tip for October 28, 2021 (PDF).

Winter Course Design Institute 2022 (Teaching Tip)

Four people using laptops

Registration is open for the 2022 Winter Course Design Institute (CDI). The CDI is open to 40 faculty or staff with teaching responsibilities. All disciplines are encouraged to participate.

The CDI provides a space for faculty to build community, review effective assessment, active learning techniques, and overall course design. Attendees will have the opportunity to design or substantially revise their online or hybrid courses. The presenters for the 90-minute sessions 2022 CDI are Drs. Lesya Hassall (CELT), TJ Stewart (School of Education), Cristina Bonaccorsi (Department of Chemistry), and Monica Lamm (Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering). Topics include course design elements, building community, effective assessment, and active learning techniques.

This year, the CDI will be offered January 4-7. Each day will feature a 90-minute session discussing different components of online or hybrid learning environments. The sessions will take place from 9-10:30 a.m. each of those days and will conclude with an optional 30-minute guided discussion and individual, scheduled consultations.

Registration will be accepted until November 30 through this Qualtrics survey. Those who fully engage in the four-day CDI and complete a self-evaluation of your course (materials provided by CELT), will receive a $500 professional development stipend from the Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost.

Full Teaching Tip

View the published CELT Teaching Tip: Resources for Success (November 11, 2021 – Constant Contact) page.

Prefer a Print Version?

To view the Teaching Tip as a printable document with web addresses, download the CELT Teaching Tip for November 11, 2021 (PDF).

Good Course Design Makes All The Difference

Start with the end in mind. It seems like pretty straightforward advice for a lot of things in life. And, although it isn’t always considered Faculty member speaking with three strudentswhen creating a new course, or modifying an existing one, it can create a very useful framework for course design.

Often this approach to course design is called “backward design”. The process starts with identifying the course learning goals. Next, you determine the best ways to assess and evaluate if students are achieving these goals. Then after the goals and evaluation strategies are established the course content is considered. Designing and teaching courses this way puts learning first and content coverage second. It can help students achieve higher levels of cognitive development (i.e. higher order learning as described in the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy) than classes that have content coverage as a primary focus.

The CELT website has a set of resources available to help with your course design:

Additionally, CELT is offering a 5-part workshop series- Best Practices in Online Course Design starting January 31st (registration is now closed for the spring series – CELT will be offering this series again in the near future – if you are interested email CELT). The workshop series is based on the research-based Quality Matters (QM) framework. You may learn more about this framework through CELT’s Quality Matters Tracks for Faculty Development website.

(On a personal note, last fall semester I worked with a graduate student in my program to develop a non-credit online course using the Quality Matters framework. It was a big undertaking, but the QM framework provided a fantastic guide and ensured we implemented a number of best practices for online learning. We’ve had great response from many of the participants as well.)

Ann Marie VanDerZanden, Director
Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching

Quality Matters (QM) resources you can use any time 

As an institutional member of Quality Matters, you can access valuable resources to guide your online course design and improve student experiences. Create an account on the MyQM website and check out an impressive list of the following resources: 

  • Accessibility and Usability Resource Site (AURS): Browse this resource and receive reliable information, tips, and tricks on addressing key accessibility and usability concerns in your online courses. 
  • QM Success Stories Webinars: Attend synchronous virtual meetings with experienced instructors who designed and delivered successful online, blended courses. No time for synchronous webinars? Access the QM Success Stories archive on your own terms! 
  • Online Learning Webinars: Join QM experts and quests to discuss various topics related to building success with QM, online learning, and professional growth. 
  • Research Webinars: Explore the latest research on the impact of quality course design on learning. 
  • Bridge to Quality: A QM Online Course Design GuideThis course design guide provide a roadmap for designing courses with the QM Standards in mind.