Who are you?

  • I've never used Canvas, where do I start?
  • I've used Canvas some.
  • I've used Canvas a lot, I want to learn new things.



I'm New to Online and Remote Teaching: Where to Start?


First - Read, “Please do a bad job of putting your courses online.”

Throw perfection out the window and move your course materials online as quickly as possible. Reassure students you are there for them, and share your plan on how the remainder of the semester is going to be implemented. Practice providing good communication remotely using a variety of available technologies.

Setting student expectations

Setting expectations with students around communication methods and timelines is key. As much as consistency, it’s helpful to create a communication strategy for the class. You will want to reach out to them with information about how often and how you will be updating them:

“I will be sending an update at the beginning of each week. I ask that you turn on your Canvas email notifications for these Announcements as I will be posting these updates there.”

As well as how they should reach you:

“Please email me if you have a personal concern about completing coursework due to illness or other issues. I will be responding to emails once a day."

Solicit questions. Hold online office hours and encourage students to come and bring their questions. The barrier to entry is lower than it would be coming to your physical office, and it is one of the best ways that faculty members can create relationships with students.

You may want to consider setting some expectations for students as well, although remember to be flexible.

“I hope that you will be able to continue to participate in the course during this time. If so, I hope to see that you are logging in at least twice a week to keep updated on assignments and discussions. If, for some reason, this is a challenge, please email me immediately.”

Other communication and student support suggestions.

For an A-Z Directory of Canvas: visit Using Canvas Tools

Discussions, collaboration and group work

If you use discussion, peer-to-peer interaction, or group work there are a multitude of different strategies that you can implement in an online setting. If you have never used some of the tools and are not sure which ones may be appropriate for your class, check out the Center for eLearning's resources for moving your course online.


There are many ways to hold discussions and small group work online. If you want to hold a live (synchronous) discussion, you can do so through video conferencing (with Adobe Connect or Zoom). Zoom also offers an option to move between large group discussions and small breakout groups, so you can structure a series of small and large discussions in the same session.

Online discussion boards are another useful way to engage students in peer communication. In terms of technology, Canvas offers an online discussion tool.

Other campuses have reported that students really value the student-to-student connection during periods of isolation. Create a social space in your discussion board for students to connect.

Group work

Group work is also possible to facilitate online. You could encourage small groups to meet on their own schedule live via Zoom. Google Hangouts is also an option. In addition, Canvas offers several options to promote group work: an instructor can create groups within a course, which will provide the students in each group with their own Canvas workspace. That can include a discussion board, area for files, etc. Finally, the suite of Google tools (Docs, Sheets, etc.) enable group work and collaborative writing around specific assignments or projects.

Content delivery and lectures

Remember that not all content delivery needs to come from a lecture. If you already have a slide deck, determine whether adding the slides to your Canvas course conveys enough information to guide students.

Other non-lecture ideas:

  • Assign readings or case studies and then use a student discussion to explore topics rather than a presentation format.
  • Create scaffolded notes for students to work through rather than having to watch a recorded lecture

If lectures are a critical piece of your content

Your first consideration is whether you want to use a live (or synchronous) lecture. Using video conferencing tools (such as Zoom) allow you to share content and have interactions with students and even host small group breakout sessions. A live session may help bring continuity to your course (particularly if you host it during the same time as you would your “regular” class). Some drawbacks to using a live session are that everyone has to be online at the same time. Therefore, if you do decide on a live session, it is recommended that you record that session for students who cannot attend at that time. Live sessions are also not recommended for large classes (75 or more students).

A second option would be to record content for learners to engage with at a time best suited to their needs and situation (i.e., asynchronous). This not only gives you as the instructor the flexibility to record on your own schedule but allows students who may not be feeling well enough to participate in a live session to still engage with content. You can record a lecture beforehand (through Studio or Panopto in Canvas) and upload it to the class. These recordings don’t have to show you talking — many recorded lectures record your audio but show slides for the visual component.

Interact with students as they work. Whether it is commenting on a document as it is drafted online, dropping into a chat room or simply acknowledging students in live sessions, make the journey with them. This environment is very appropriate for the constructivist role of “the guide on the side.” Let them know that not only are they looking at you, you are looking at them.

Exams and Assignments

Canvas is a great place to collect assessments and offer feedback to students. To have students submit files, add an assignment in Canvas. Once students submit a file, you can provide feedback through Speedgrader.

If you are accustomed to giving exams, you can do so by leveraging quizzes in Canvas or you may want to think about a different type of assessment, for example, using a case study or a writing assignment.

If there is a large scale disruption, you may need to take into account that many students might need to delay the completion of specific assignments given their personal circumstances. As a result, you may want to rethink different ways for students to demonstrate knowledge.


Labs usually rely on specific equipment and hands-on activities. The following ideas, however, may help you modify your labs so that remote participants can engage or so that you may teach them fully online.

  • Consider altering lab activities. For instance, you may shift the focus from data collection to data analysis. Provide students with sample data, perhaps in the form in which it would have been collected, and ask students to complete the analysis as if they had collected the data themselves. For cases where observations are part of the process, consider recording yourself or an AI completing the lab and ask students to take the necessary measurements and observations from the video. Students can then complete the analysis and reflection as usual. Students can collaborate on analysis and reporting using email, Canvas, or other collaborative tools.
  • Explore alternative forms of instruction. Online simulations, which allow students to interact virtually with the equipment and lab conditions, may offer valuable practice for students. Many online resources are available, including many that are free. A few that may be of interest include (but are not limited to):
    • PhET: Interactive Simulations for Science and Math. All simulations are free and cover topics including physics, chemistry, math, earth science, and biology.
    • Physics Simulations. A free collection of physics simulations with changeable parameters and real-time animation.
    • ACS: Virtual Chemistry and Simulations. A collection of chemistry simulations and virtual labs compiled by the American Chemical Society (ACS).
    • HHMI BioInteractive. Videos and interactive activities provided by HHMI (Howard Hughes Medical Institute) focused on biology.
    • Phone apps such as “Oscilloscope” or “Speed Gun” that allow students to interact with instruments or lab setups.

Sections above have been adapted from University of Michigan's Keep Teaching and Princeton’s McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning.

Additional resources for you and your students

The Provost's Office website has a comprehensive list of resources. Please share this information with your students to help them adjust during this time.

How to get and use the Canvas tools (Center for eLearning)

Steps for a basic setup, download our document showing you how to perform these setup tasks.

  1. Lecture capture
  2. Webinar tools
  3. Canvas tools
    • View our Canvas Quick Start training session (one hour)
    • Use the Canvas Guides - Canvas maintains a library of how-to documents that are easy to follow. Use the Search feature to find the tool you want to learn.
    • Call the Canvas Help Desk (833.277.2150) - If you run into a specific problem using a tool call the Canvas Help Desk 24/7 for assistance.

Wherever you are in moving forward, there is support for your next steps.

Here is a list of resources at a variety of starting points:

Step 1: What’s the first step in moving my course online – where is introductory information?
    • The Center for eLearning (CFE) has created a Canvas shell for each instructor.
    • You can even request a 5-week course template so all you have to do is fill it in with your course content.
      • If you would like to have this template copied into your course, please send an email to [email protected].
    • The Director of eLearning, Bill Jones ([email protected]) has sent you emails sharing this information with you already. Attached at the bottom of this webpage are copies of those announcements

Step 2: I’m ready to start working in Canvas – how do I get training and my questions answered?

    • There are several training sessions you can attend (Canvas Quick Start, ZOOM, Exams, Gradebook, etc.) CFE Training Here
    • The CFE has office hours everyday, M-F. Join at the link below with your questions. (If you have a technical question you should still call the Canvas Help Desk at 833.277.2150)

Virtual Office Hours Monday-Friday

Step 3: I am up and running in Canvas, how do I get help to figure out next steps?

    • Contact the Faculty Development Center - Peggy Liggit ([email protected]) if you need coaching for the following:
        • how to modify assignments and assessments for online learning.
        • addressing student concerns about learning online
        • self-care techniques to keep you sane
    • For writing assignments - Students can get virtual support: EMU Writing Center
    • The Library can support you virtually: EMU Library Support - For questions regarding library resources in Canvas course shells, contact Online Learning Librarian Bill Marino at [email protected] or 734.487.2514

For more in depth details about instructional practices using Canvas, read past announcements from the Center for eLearning:

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