Quick Start Guide (Instructors)

Quick Start Guide

Table of Contents
Person using a smartphone has headphones and wearing face mask

To help you prioritize and communicate use the strategies in this Quick Start Guide. Additionally, download and use this Rule of 2’s: Quick Start Guide Plan (PDF) to focus on what most matters.

Important: Review the COVID-19 Communications and Planning Resources (2021)

To be well-prepared and informed, we encourage you to review and bookmark the Academic Affairs Division-Wide Communications page on the Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost website. These communications provide essential information (e.g., syllabus statements, protocols, policy updates, etc.) for you, your students, and colleagues.

Iowa State has adopted a new required syllabus statement to affirm the university’s commitment to free expression

These syllabus statements communicate a consistent message to all students.

1. Use Canvas

Canvas is the primary learning management system (LMS) at the university. It gives you the ability to quickly share course materials, provide easy-to-use tools to communicate and collaborate with students, co-instructors, and Teaching Assistants (TAs).

Ensure successful participation in your course(s) by using this guide whether you are using Canvas for the first time or locating a course.

A simple ISU Course Template in Canvas and a straightforward process aid instructors in the must-have elements.

How to access ISU technology resources from off-campus

2. Communicate with your students

You need to communicate with your students promptly, even if you do not have a full semester plan in place. Inform them what your expectations are for checking email or Canvas (ISU’s learning management system).

One-on-one communications between students and their instructors and/or advisers can be particularly challenging in a virtual environment. It is imperative that Instructors follow all Federal Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA) guidance on the Registrar’s Policies website.

In particular, review and bookmark the Sharing Sensitive Student Info-FERPA page. This page outlines which software may be used to communicate private information.

Engage daily to keep students progressing and adding value to each other.

Explore approaches and methods which emphasize prevention and education.

Share this resource with your students – link it in your Canvas course.

3. Deliver course content

Instruct your students about how and when you will deliver course content along with hosting meetings, holding their office “student” hours, and more.

Students may not have ready Internet access. Consider the best way to communicate information to students and the best ways for them to interact with course content.

Examples of In-Person Class Sessions Transformed to Online

Use Case

Tool and Description

Best Practices

Tool, Descriptions, & Support

Outlook or CyMail email

Canvas Announcements or Inbox

Choose one form of communication, and communicate weekly with students. This communication can include an update or feedback on assignments.

When sharing grades and other sensitive student information, follow guidance from the Registrar’s Sharing Sensitive Student Info-FERPA page.

Record short lectures.

Embed discipline-specific videos from YouTube or existing video streaming resources.

PowerPoint slides with notes coupled with low-stakes quizzes.

Asynchronous (not at the same time) short videos are best for delivering complex material or setting the stage for active learning.

Ensure you watch the entirety of the YouTube or other video to ensure the correct information is presented.

Short lectures can also be posted in the form of PowerPoint slides with notes or PowerPoint file and a PDF of notes in the document. To ensure accountability, couple the PowerPoint with low-stake quizzes or student reflections.

Canvas Assignments and Quizzes

Transfer in-class assignments to virtual assignments. This can include a file upload, problem set, student reflection, or quiz.

Canvas Groups

Webex for live collaboration, G-Suite or CyBox for document collaboration, Canvas Collaborations, One Note is part of MS Office 360 available to all students and faculty.

Learn more about Canvas student groups. Assign students to groups randomly or manually in Canvas, so they can use a group space inside your course. Size is limited to 2-7 people per group.

Assign different problems to groups to examine and come up with solutions.

Have the group create and post a presentation/video/chart/infographic in the course’s discussion area. Other groups could share their thoughts, questions and opinions.

Canvas Assignments and Quizzes

LockDown Browser locks down the testing environment within Canvas

Respondus Monitor supplements the LockDown Browser with a fully automated process that uses student webcams.

Transfer in-class exams to virtual ones. This can include a file upload, problem set, student reflection, or quiz. 

Follow the guidance in the Quizzes and Exams page.

Canvas Discussions

Here is a great guide on discussions from the Chronicle of Higher Education that has some info in online discussions.

Discussions (in Canvas)

Webex and Zoom for live meetings.

Maintain office/student hours. Communicate with students the days and times that you will be online (include time zone) and how to access you.

Canvas Files, G-Suite or CyBox to share files with students

File sharing can accommodate written work, drawings, photos, written assessments, and reflections.

Canvas Studio

Written scripts of presentation

Ask students to record their presentation using a cell phone or their computer to upload to Canvas.

A lower-tech option is to ask students to submit a written script of their presentation to assess content knowledge and other skills like persuasive thinking.

Canvas Gradebook

See information below for Grading in Canvas.

4. Plan for collecting assignments/submissions

You will likely need to provide additional course materials to support your changing plans, from updated schedules to readings that allow you to shift more instruction online. In a pinch, providing some new readings and related assignments may be your best bet for keeping the intellectual momentum of the course moving.

Best practices for sharing resources and collecting assignments

Best practices for sharing resources and collecting assignments

5. Activities, Assessments, Quizzes, and More

You have many options for online activities, assignments, and assessments (quizzes).

Design and facilitate activities for all learning environments

Identify gaps in comprehension and retention

Utilize more conceptual or applied questions

Overview of viable remote assessment options

6. Grading in Canvas

The Grades function within Canvas allows you to maintain all of your grades online. It provides a robust tool for tasks typically done in a spreadsheet application, making it possible to keep all grading online.

The fantastic part? You can submit your midterm and end of term grades through the ISU Admin Tools in Canvas.

Providing feedback means giving feedback in such a way that students are likely to use it to make actual, practical gains.

Discover how to navigate to the gradebook in your Canvas course shell.

7. Labs, Studios, and More

Explore activities to focus on the purpose of labs

Identify opportunities for at-home studio work

Adapt or enhance activities with the online environment

8. Accessibility

Providing multiple ways for students to gain knowledge, demonstrate knowledge, and interact goes a long way toward making a course accessible to all students, including those with disabilities. Shifting courses online is an opportunity to build in accessibility from the beginning.

To find out how best to help our students with disabilities during a disruption, review ISU’s Student Accessibility Service’s Message Regarding COVID-19 page.

Below are essential resources to get started, and recent posts.

Reduce barriers to learning and facilitate meaningful participation by all students.

Guidance on how to use Canvas in setting up accommodations.

9. Promote a sense of belonging

Designing for equity and inclusion means being particularly proactive about supporting students in a conducive learning environment.

Suggestions and resources to help teach in ways that are equitable and inclusive in an online environment.

Create a compelling, engaging, and enjoyable online learning environment for your students.

Create a compelling, engaging, and enjoyable online learning environment for your students.

10. Additional essential resources

ISU Library Digital Content

The ISU Library makes it possible for faculty teaching remote classes to connect seamlessly through direct engagement with library staff, access to digital content, and collaboration across the University.

  • Discipline-Specific Resources: Populate your course with discipline-specific resources and databases, enable a chat with subject librarians and use discipline-specific FAQs.
  • Streaming Media: Explore ISU’s streaming media collections of documentaries, news programs and news clips, instructional material, and selected feature films on many subjects.
  • To determine the best options for your course, use the Ask a Librarian page.

For assistance with digital course material needs, conversion from print to digital, or additional support with the RedShelf platform or publisher content during the Spring 2020 online instruction period, contact Iowa State University Book Store team via:

Read the most up-to-date information about publishers, access, and more on the Digital Course Materials ISU Book Store webpage.

Find out how you can best advise your students remotely; as well as, additional resources on the SVPP’s Academic Advising COVID-19 page.