Course Continuity (Students)

This guide provides you with the fundamentals when making the shift from a face-to-face course to one that is now being delivered online. We encourage you to follow these steps to stay motivated.

Table of Contents

Managing coursework with lower-speed connections

Over the coming weeks, many of you will be doing classwork through internet connections that may not be as fast as what you were able to access at Iowa State University. These steps 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

Getting started in Canvas

Canvas is the primary learning management system (LMS) that hosts the courses you take at the university and gives you access to course materials and tools to communicate and collaborate with classmates, instructors, and Teaching Assistants (TAs).

Are you joining Canvas for the first time? View the Canvas Overview for Students video.

There are a few checks you will want to perform to ensure successful participation in your course(s):

Access to Canvas at ISU

Step One: Login credentials You will need to have your ISU Net-ID and password to log into Canvas. If you do not, please visit the IT Accounts and Passwords website or contact the Solution Center at 515-294-4000. Step Two: Choose how to interact with Canvas There are three options for finding the Canvas login page: Step Three: Logging into Canvas Use your Net-ID and password to login to Canvas. Once logged in, you should see your Canvas Dashboard. If you have an issue logging in, contact the Solution Center at 515-294-4000. Note: that all students have access to the MyCanvas Student at ISU course that contains information on how to use Canvas.
  1. If the course doesn’t appear in your Dashboard – check if your course is on the list in Courses > All Courses, and you should ensure to mark it as a favorite in All Courses.
  2. If don’t see the course on your Dashboard or the course list (after you logged into Canvas), and it is supposed to be, contact your instructor.

If you still cannot locate the course, contact the ISU Solution Center.

Accommodations and Accessibility

Review the Student Accessibility Services Message Regarding COVID-19 03.18.20 post. If you have questions or concerns:

If you are experiencing an accessibility barrier

Bring your concerns to the attention of the Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO), complete this Barriers to Access web form with as much detail as possible when you encounter a barrier to access. You may also contact Equal Opportunity at 515-294-7612 or email

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 Virtual Meetings

A web conferencing tool may be used for facilitating lectures online in either synchronous (live) or asynchronous (recorded) 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, 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:

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 Using Studio as a Student web guide in MyCanvas Student at ISU site.


  • 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