Moving Online

If you haven't taught online before, we suggest you take a minimalist approach. Don't expect to continue course activities exactly the same way with the same intensity. Utilize some basic tools to make sure everyone is connected this week and continuing to study. As you become more familiar with Canvas you can expand how the class interacts. Please review these suggestions for where to start.

For great resources and in-depth discussions on taking your course online, visit the EMU Faculty Development webpage.

Steps for a basic setup

Modules, documents, discussions and announcements are the basic building blocks of an online class.

  1. Create modules - Modules help organize your content and activities. You can create one for each week of the class.
  2. Create an intro page - An intro page outlines what will happen during the week. You edit documents just like using Word.
  3. Upload course documents - If you have Word, PDF, or text documents for your course materials, you can upload them directly to the module for sharing.
  4. Create a Q&A discussion form - Students need a place to ask questions about what's happening in the course. Answering these in a Q&A discussion forum allows everyone to read the answer.
  5. Post an announcement - Announcements send out notifications (emails, text messages if students set them up). Use these to update students on what's going on in the class.

 View a PDF guide to creating these items in Canvas.


  • Create a check-in discussion - Ask your students to post in this discussion early in the week so you're sure you have contact with everyone. Give them a basic topic to discuss and respond to each other.
  • Assign reading and reflection - Most likely your course will need to shift in the direction of individual study. Set an assignment for this week's content that asks students to work on their own and report back with a reflection or summary of what they've learned.
  • Create pilot versions of more complex activities - Create a non-graded pilot version of other activities you need to use:
    • Assignments - Create a pilot assignment during this week where students have to upload an empty Word document. This will make sure they are ready when something is due with a deadline.
    • Quiz/exams - Do you plan to post an exam later in the course? Create a required, ungraded practice quiz with a few items so everyone can check out this tool.
    • Video lectures - Do you need to record lectures with your webcam? Start by posting a brief 2-3 minute topic in a webpage. (Instructions are in the PDF.) Then use Canvas Studio to create longer presentations.
    • Synchronous meetings - If you want to hold online class meetings, schedule a pilot meeting first. Plan it for 30 minutes and let students know it's a check-in to test the technology.

These last two items are worth repeating again. For video lectures and synchronous meetings we strongly recommend you don't use them for content in the first week.

  • Record or run test sessions or videos to make sure everyone can connect in or see the resource. 
  • Favor recording video of lecture-type delivery instead of doing it live in a webinar.  It's more dependable and your students won't lose out if there are technical problems and the live meeting is cancelled. 
  • And favor conducting discussions in a Canvas threaded discussion over doing it live in a webinar.  You may lose some of the rich back and forth, but it won't shut down on them.

Skip Section Navigation