Online Course Essentials (ONCE) is a simple ISU Course Template in Canvas and a straightforward process to aid instructors in including the must-have elements in their online courses.
CELT Teaching Tip • Summer Edition I • May 14, 2020
About the summer editions of the Teaching Tip
CELT is publishing four special editions of the Teaching Tip for summer instructors, department chairs, and academic leadership. If you received this email, you are all set. Do you know someone who should receive it? Use this  subscription web form .
Implement Online Course Essentials (ONCE) with the ISU Course Template
Online Course Essentials (ONCE) is a simple ISU Course Template in Canvas and a straightforward process to assist instructors in including the must-have elements in their online courses. Whether a course is taught entirely online or as a combination of face-to-face lectures with online instructional materials, activities, and assessments, it can benefit from including these essential components. Both the ISU course template and the Plan Your Course Worksheet contain a reference to the following online course essentials:
  • Direct relationship between the course's learning objectives, assessments, learning activities, instructional materials, and technologies
  • User-friendly, consistent, and accessible course navigation
  • Transparent learner expectations
  • Technical and academic support resources
  • ISU-branded course elements (not a necessary feature, but a nice option)
Built around the Essential 3-point Standards (PDF)  of the  Quality Matters  rubric, ONCE gives instructors all the online course essentials. Focus less on the technicalities of creating an online course in Canvas and more on what matters the most – student learning.

Host a CELT Online Course Essentials (ONCE) course design virtual workshop. Upon participating in this workshop, attendees will be able to:        
  • Build a Canvas course using ISU Template    
  • Recognize the online course essentials    
  • Map out the essentials for your online Canvas course     
  • Locate CELT online teaching and learning resources
Submit a request via the CELT ONCE Course Design workshop form .

Need assistance? Contact CELT by emailing  and including "ISU Template" in the subject line.
Associate Provost for Academic Programs
Guidance for virtual classes summer 2020
(May 1, 2020) As virtual instruction evolves from the spring semester to summer, it is appropriate to review the best practices for delivering online education, in particular, how faculty interact with students. Students’ relationships with instructors is a hallmark of the Iowa State academic experience. This document shares new federal guidelines regarding the interaction between instructors and students, and offers tips and resources to help students achieve course outcomes. Updated guidance will be provided for Fall 2020 virtual courses prior to the start of the fall semester.

Federal guidance on student interaction
New guidelines recently issued from the U.S. Department of Education, require that online courses contain substantive and regular interaction between instructors and students. Courses must be delivered in a way that adequately engages students through teaching, learning and assessment and facilitates two-way engagement with students.

For Summer 2020 “virtual” courses, each course should contain at least 1 hour of active faculty-student interaction per credit hour, per week - ideally spread out during multiple sessions. For summer courses that meet in a condensed timeframe, additional interaction is recommended to support student learning during the accelerated course pace. This interaction should include at least two of the following:
  • Direct instruction (synchronous interactive sessions);
  • Interactive feedback regarding a student’s coursework (examples below);
  • Responses to student questions about course content;
  • Facilitated group discussions about course content or competencies;
  • Other instructional techniques that provide similar engagement to an in-class setting.

What are some ways in which faculty can meet these requirements?
  • Hold online office hours during different and regularly scheduled time in which you have an open Zoom, Webex, etc. video conference tool that students can join. (Use the Virtual Student (Office) Hours guide)
  • Activate ‘Canvas Chat’ for immediate feedback. Use it to provide quick, text-based consultations, as well as to post course-wide announcements, give feedback on cumulative test results, or explain confusing concepts students are struggling with.
  • Ask students to comment on a subject-related video using the commenting feature in Studio.’
  • Use the PIAZZA app in Canvas to easily set up a Q&A format.
  • Create peer-review assignments and monitor the quality of peer feedback.
  • Use the ‘Message Students Who’ feature in Gradebook to give substantive feedback to groups of students who performed at different levels. Students included in the groups will not be able to tell who else is receiving the message.
  • Create multiple practice quizzes, and example problem sets that students can complete in their own time, then spend part of your synchronous time demonstrating problems students had the most difficulties solving, as determined by the Canvas Quiz Statistics. (Use the Quizzes and Exams strategies guide).

Do simple adjustments to traditional teaching methods qualify as “substantive interaction” between the student and instructor?
  • No. Posting a video of pre-recorded lectures or providing lecture materials online does not count as substantive interaction. To be considered as such, the instructor might:
  • Require students to watch the lecture ahead of time and then participate in a live text or video chat.
  • Include self-assessment questions for a set of pre-recorded lectures. Use these assessments to guide content covered in an office hour session based on students’ performances.
  • Simply assigning a grade to an assignment does not constitute interactive feedback. The instructor should also do one or more of the following:
  • Provide each student with comments unique to their submission and which refer back to the specific materials contributing to this concept;
  • Utilize mastery paths in Canvas to help students explore additional materials related to the topic;
  • Summarize common issues students are experiencing using a video, announcement, email, or discussion, and distribute to the whole class.

Best Practices for Online Course Design
  • In an online format, students lack the structure of “going to class.” You can help structure the student learning process by ensuring that your course learning objectives, content delivery, and assignments are aligned, and all assignment due dates are posted at the start of the semester.
  • Ensure that your course layout contains clear and consistent navigation. (Use CELT's Online Course Essentials (ONCE) template page).
  • Make sure that your course is accessible.
  • Structure your course content in a Module Format and ensure that each module starts by introducing students to the module learning objectives and ends with an assessment to help students gauge their understanding of the concepts covered.
  • Use a variety of methods to deliver course content, including mixing short discussions, collaboration exercises, video clips, and hands-on exercises with text or brief video lectures. To get started, use CELT’s Teaching with Technology page.
  • Be mindful of the amount of work you assign to students. Sometimes, efforts to increase engagement inadvertently significantly add to students’ workload. (CELT suggests that one way to determine the workload is to use the Rice University Course Workload Estimator web tool.)
  • CELT has detailed several online instructional strategies and engagement strategies to help you involve students in the learning process.
  • Create a feeling of community through acknowledging student contributions, providing positive reinforcement, sharing personal experiences, helping students to share ideas with peers, and encourage networking. One way to foster community in Canvas is to post periodic Announcements that include a brief video in Studio to present new concepts, and engagement opportunities.

Questions about the Guidance for virtual classes memo? Contact your Department Chair.

Need support implementing these practices? Find support via the Where to go for help page or email
Teaching this summer in Canvas? Use the Start of Semester Checklist.
Where to go for support
A red button with a question mark and Help in white writing
For help with the Canvas, contact Canvas Support via the ?Help menu in Canvas:
  • Chat with Canvas Support use the live chat tool
  • Ticket support. Open the ?Help menu in Canvas and click Report a Problem
  • 24/7 phone support. Call 515-294-4000 (listen to prompts to connect to Canvas support).
  • Find answers to common questions in the Canvas Instructor Guides.

For help with the Start-of-semester checklist and using ISU Admin Tools for enrolling students contact the ISU Solution Center:
  • Email
  • Call 515-294-4000 and follow the prompts to receive support from Solution Center staff

To receive one-to-one assistance, contact the CELT Response Team
  • Call us through the CELT Response Team 515-294-5357 (Monday-Friday, 8-4 p.m.). We have staff across campus willing to assist. If needed, the campus partners will meet with you virtually using Webex.
  • Additionally, you may wish to contact one of the support units directly. Please note which program, department, or college each unit serves and contact the unit for your area.
Discover actionable insights
20-Minute Mentors are video-based programs designed to answer a specific question related to teaching and learning. Each video delivers actionable insights in highly focused 20-minute presentations designed to fit busy schedules.

Some of the most popular topics include:
  • Classroom Management
  • Assessment, Grading and Feedback
  • Course Design
  • Active and Engaged Students
  • Inclusion
  • Universal Design for Learning
  • Building Online Classroom Community

Get started on your development via CELT's 20-Minute Mentor Commons page
CELT professional development programs (Due June 1)

This program involves faculty framing and systematically investigating questions related to student learning while improving their teaching through peer-reviewed presentations and publications.

Participants attend monthly sessions that address course design, evidence-based teaching strategies, inclusive classroom practices, peer-review of teaching, and documentation of teaching effectiveness.

This cohort-based teaching and learning community supplements departmental mentoring. It is strategically pairing a new instructor with a senior instructor from a different discipline who is a successful and experienced teacher.
Prefer a Print version?
To view the Teaching Tip as a printable document with the web addresses, download the CELT Teaching Tip for May 14, 2020 (PDF) (