Quick Start Guide (Instructors)

Quick Start Guide

Table of Contents

Person using a smartphone has headphones and wearing face mask

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

Internet access

Internet access is a prerequisite of successfully working remotely. Contact your local internet provider if you are having issues, and have your students do the same. If it is unresolved, follow suggestions on ISU’s Working Remotely site.

It is vitally important to recognize that our students may not have internet access at their location – consider how you will accommodate them, review our Be Flexible page.


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).

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

Extend your learning in 6 or 30 minutes

How to access 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: You have access to the Canvas-ISU page that contains information on how to use Canvas.

Create your course, preload the ISU Template, specify course settings, choose a homepage, enroll students, and make it available.

  1. To see if you already have a course, log in to Canvas.
  2. 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.
  3. If any of your classes do not have a Canvas course, create one now using step one in this Start of Semester checklist guide.
  4. When requesting a new course shell, choose to pre-load your course with the ISU Course Template. Whether a course is taught entirely online or as a combination of face-to-face lecture with online instructional materials, activities, and assessments, it can benefit from including these essential components and the ISU Course Template.

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

Once you have completed the checklist, use the Prepare to Teach in Canvas and the Build Your Course page.

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.

  • Webex – online conferencing tool in Canvas, use the how-to connect Webex to your course guide
  • Conferences (ISU no longer recommends this Canvas tool)
  • Inbox (Canvas) – used to send questions, answers and information to your students
  • Discussion Board (Canvas) – communication tool for class assignments and collaboration
  • CyBox – is the FERPA compliant file storage system at ISU
  • Google Suite – used to create documents, papers by individual students or groups

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. Establish methods 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.

  • If you are using Canvas to distribute grades to students throughout the semester, carefully read through each section of the Key Concepts for Grading in Canvas guide to ensure that you are using the gradebook appropriately.
  • It is important to note that Canvas uses a grading scheme to assign letters to percentages. Once this is in place, the score is calculated based on all points accumulated in the course or on a weighted total of the assignment groups.
  • Additionally, specific how -to information on the sections below may be found in the Canvas Instructor Guide.

If anything is unclear or confusing, please contact Canvas Support – Canvas offers 24/7 support options listed in the ? Help  icon on the Global Navigation to the far left or call the Canvas Support Line (call 515-294-4000 then follow the prompts to connect to Canvas).

As an instructor, SpeedGrader allows you to view and grade student assignment submissions in one place using a simple point scale or complex rubric. Canvas accepts a variety of document formats and even URLs as assignment submissions. Some document assignments can be marked up for feedback directly within the submission. You may also provide feedback to your students with text or media comments.

Watch a video about SpeedGrader (2m 58s)

7. Other experiential learning


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 recent posts, and basic accessible teaching strategies:

Shifting courses online is an opportunity to build in accessibility from the beginning. This resource provides tips for basic accessible teaching strategies and ways of checking in with your students. In addition to the tips provided, consider encouraging students to use text-to-speech apps if there are concerns about so much “screen time”. Accessible Teaching in the Time of COVID-19 (Mapping Access)

Additional resources:

9. Promote a sense of belonging

During this unprecedented time, it is helpful to survey your students about their needs, challenges, and concerns moving face-to-face instruction online. Your questions can include those related to course materials, as well as factors that may influence students’ participation.

Survey distribution options include: Qualtrics, Canvas Quiz, Email, or importing the quiz from Canvas Commons, preview the Check-in Survey in Canvas (PDF).

Note: Some students may receive a version of this survey from multiple sources. Therefore, recognize that you may not receive a high response rate, but rather that you will hear from students that need to communicate with you.  

To import from Canvas Commons:

  1. Log in to Canvas site
  2. Locate the ISU “survey” (quiz) in Canvas Commons, via the Check -in for the shift to online course delivery Canvas Commons link.
  3. Then follow the steps in the How do I import and view a Commons resource in Canvas? guide.
  4. Once it is imported in your course, set it up using the What options can I set in a quiz? web guide.
  5. Publish it for your students, How do I publish or unpublish a quiz as an instructor? guide.
  6. Once you receive responses, use the How do I view survey results in a course? guide.  Pay particular attention to the View Student Analysis Report area of that document.  The results will download into a .csv file that you can open up in your spreadsheet.

If you become aware of a student’s specific needs,

This resource is an adaptation of the extensive work of Lauren Cagle’s COVID-19 Online Teaching Contingency Planning along with the Mapping Access website with input from Megan Myers (World Languages and Cultures) and Jeremy Best (History), ISU Student Accessibility Services, and ISU Student Assistance.

10. Additional 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.