Preparing Your Winter 2022 Canvas Course

Winter term is just around the corner and it’s time to get your courses set up in Canvas. If you haven’t logged in yet, now’s the time!


Log in and review your course shells.

When you first log in, you will have these kinds of course shells:

For Winter ’22

These shells may not yet contain content, but they will contain all your registered students. (Don’t worry — they can’t reach the course until you publish it!)

From Prior Terms

These may already contain course material copied from D2L by either you or the OAI team. If a shell is empty, it means your D2L course hasn’t been copied yet. These shells will not contain students.

Sandbox Courses

You may also have sandbox courses that were created for you during the Consortium, requested from OAI, or that you created on your own.

If you would like to get started with course development or want to try moving a course on your own, creating a sandbox is a great place to start.

Missing Courses or Course Content?

If you are missing course shells or course content that you need for teaching Winter 2022, you will need to contact OAI with the URL for the D2L course you are missing. Here’s how to do this:


Get content in your course.

Now that you have a course shell, you’ll need to decide how to fill it. Choose from these three ways:


Build Your Course

If you have a new course offering or just want to build your course from scratch, these resources are a good place to start.


Copy Your Course from D2L to Canvas

D2L is going away, so make sure all your hard work is safe and sound. Whether you need a little help or are ready to take on the work yourself, these resources will help you get where you need to go.

If you move a course from D2L to Canvas yourself, please let the OAI Faculty Support desk know so they don’t duplicate your work.


Copy from One Canvas Course to Another

You have a D2L course copied into Canvas, but now what? These resources have what you need to get ready for winter term.


Publish your course.

Once you check off all the steps on your Canvas Course Checklist, you’re ready to publish your course. You must publish a course before students can access it and its contents.


Explore Canvas features.

You’ve got the basics down, but now you really want to make your course shine! These resources highlight some of the new features and tools in Canvas.

More Canvas Support

Don’t forget the other resources OAI has to offer!

Get ideas about how to elevate your course design and enhance your teaching.

Email, call, chat, or drop by to get support or schedule a consultation.

Join us for workshops not only about Canvas, but also a plethora of other teaching and learning topics!

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in STEM

What are diversity, equity, and inclusion, and how are they related to higher education?

You have probably encountered these terms a lot over the past few years. Although they are popular, their application varies depending on the situation. Overall, the primary goals of diversity, equity, and inclusion work are to:

  • Promote the value of a wide variety of identities, abilities, value systems, and life experiences.
  • Recognize that these experiences have not been valued equally and make changes to promote justice and healing.
  • Create long-term, sustainable changes that allow everyone to fully access opportunities for success.

By being mindful of common hurdles such as textbook cost, different styles of learning, and diverse life experiences, you can find out what students need for success in class. This article offers some resources to promote a collaborative, equitable learning environment where students and instructors alike are fully engaged and feel successful.

Diversity and Inclusion in STEM Programs

Researchers have tried to understand why some students are more successful in STEM classes than others. Some evidence suggests ZIP codes play an important role. Knowledgeable teachers and healthy physical environments for development tend to link together in resource-rich areas. Some of these areas are rural and some more urban. The most common factors are the quality of available education and social determinants of health (Tate, 2008).

These resource-rich areas have benefitted from STEM leaders and innovators, so the emphasis on strong STEM education makes sense. However, this also means early STEM success has more to do with a student’s environment than personal interest or ability. Disparities that begin in K-12 education inform the opportunities available to students in higher education, both in college access and student engagement in classes. And as some ZIP codes progress while others stagnate, students with similar life experiences will continue to reinforce assumptions about who is “good” at STEM and who is not (Tate, 2008).

Socio-economic factors — such as physical environment, family system environment, family income and occupation, and teacher experience at the K-12 level — impact not only who has access to higher education, but also the future of STEM fields (Phillips, 2019). “…[W]e note that
STEM is the only field where Black and Latina/o youth are significantly more likely than their White peers to switch and earn a degree in another field…. In summary, we find evidence of White privilege in STEM degree attainment that is not mirrored in other major fields. (Riegle-Crumb et al., 2019).” Similarly, women who graduate from STEM programs are less likely to continue into STEM careers than men. Trans and genderqueer students are heavily under-represented. This means an even more homogenous group than the STEM student body is designing future technology and changing the world for everyone else.

An important approach to innovative STEM classrooms is to include and support students from varied backgrounds and lived experiences. Inclusive classrooms help everyone stay engaged and passionate, pursuing their interests in the field.

Anti-racist and inclusive practices, in the classroom and in STEM teaching, can be grounded both in pedagogy and in the instructor’s personal experience. Here are some reflective practices along with some resources available at PSU.

Incorporating Inclusive and Anti-Racist Practices into a STEM Course

Anti-Racist Reflection, Research, and Action as an Act of Self and Community Care

“Teachers must be actively committed to a process of self-actualization that promotes their own well-being if they are to teach in a manner that empowers students (hooks, 1994, p. 15).”

Teachers can only go as far in the classroom as they have in their own growth and cultivation of well-being. Creating equitable, diverse, and inclusive classrooms is not one-size-fits-all. Arguably, it’s most effective when instructors have grounded their approach in critical reflection and continued learning. bell hooks describes emphasizing the community of the classroom and instructors leading with vulnerability to create an environment where students are empowered, curious, and engaged in learning.

The more instructors pay attention to their own well-being, the more vulnerability is possible in the classroom. Here are resources for fostering an inclusive, responsive classroom environment that invites instructors to care for themselves and learn about anti-racism practices.

Personal Reflection

Our identities and life experiences inform the way we teach and learn; it can be easy to accidentally alienate students who have different life experiences. Approaching students when maintaining a growth mindset and reflective teaching practice can help instructors engage in the classroom as learners themselves.

Researching Anti-Racist Practices


Inconsistencies in Inclusion Practices

You might find diversity, equity, and inclusion discussed in ways that conflict with each other. This can be frustrating when you want to engage in this work effectively but without causing harm. When looking at DEI efforts abstractly — without the context of your own students in mind — choosing techniques may seem impossible. It can help to ask, “What does my learning community need to fully engage?”

You might reflect on some of these questions as you think about how to best support your learning community:

  • What are the traditional research or learning methods in your field? Do these methods create barriers based on race, gender, class, age, or ability?
  • What are some guidelines for class engagement meaningful to you as an instructor? How can you create space for others with different values to express themselves?
  • Are there elements of your job that limit or broaden your ability to create an inclusive classroom?

Engaged Pedagogy in the Classroom

Resources and Tips for Building an Inclusive Course

Campus resource centers provide sample syllabus language and additional resources:

Adding Diversity to Your Syllabus

Reach out to STEM subject librarians for assistance finding resources from diverse authors and sources to supplement your syllabus.

Some external lists to consider:

Additional Resources for Structuring Courses and Incorporating Student Feedback

Surveys can be useful for gauging student interests, needs, and familiarity with the course material both before and throughout the term.

Consider scheduling mid-quarter student feedback (a teaching consultation) through OAI, to collect qualitative student feedback anonymously.

Universal Design for Learning emphasizes creating more opportunities for students to learn course material by offering multiple means of representation, expression, and engagement.

Consider assignments that can both help you get more inclusive material and engage student interests. Some ideas:

  • Ask students to find information about scientists of color or how the field has impacted groups who have been under-invested in.
  • Ask students to write their own quiz or learning goals and discuss as a class how you can support each other to meet the objectives.
  • Ask students to update the curriculum, or build their own curriculum based on what they learned in the course and their lived experiences. (Consider a negotiated syllabus.)

Beyond the Classroom: Structural Changes

You might feel limited by what you can do in the classroom, knowing the structural inequalities that contribute to a lack of diversity. Here are some ideas for thinking about equity, diversity, and inclusion outside of a class environment.

Promote National and Local Community Initiatives

Movements making historically and systemically marginalized STEM professionals more visible are growing. Promoting these initiatives can be a great way to support marginalized students and expand everyone’s thinking.

Build a Network of Support with Students and Faculty

Students are often looking to instructors for guidance on how to create change. You may get questions about diversity already. Collaboration can be powerful and can help identify what is needed to prevent exclusion based on gender, race, class, ability, and other identities. Here are some suggestions for supporting this collaboration:

  • Complete OAI’s Certificate of Innovation in College Teaching. This program helps current and future instructors think about accessibility, develop their own teaching pedagogy, and build a support network with other educators.
  • Check out other professional development opportunities offered at OAI.
  • Build a network of former students who want to speak to your class and mentor students in the course.
  • If you have access to a Teaching Assistant (TA), promote hiring TAs who have different experiences than instructors, and work with your TA to build the syllabus.
  • Meet with other instructors in your department to share resources and discuss opportunities to make the program more equitable and inclusive.


hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. Routledge.

Phillips, A. (2019). The Quest for Diversity in Higher Education. Pepperdine Policy Review, 11, Article 4.

Riegle-Crumb, C, King, B., & Irizarry, Y. (2019). Does STEM Stand Out? Examining Racial/Ethnic Gaps in Persistence Across Postsecondary Fields. Educational Researcher, 48(3), 133–144.

Tate, W. F. (2008). “Geography of Opportunity”: Poverty, Place, and Educational Outcomes. Educational Researcher, 37(7), 397–411.

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This article was last updated on Jun 17, 2021 @ 11:06 am.

D2L and Canvas: Tool Comparison

The primary tools in D2L and Canvas are similar — but Canvas is more user-friendly, with additional or streamlined features. This comparison will help orient you to the Canvas user interface.

Green boxes highlight interface elements, with arrows indicating how they change. On a few Canvas screenshots, red callouts indicate that course navigation changes slightly (or goes away).

You can explore these tools in more detail with your Canvas Sandbox. If you want to start experimenting, check out the Canvas Essentials page for tutorials.

The Home Page

The Canvas homepage is more flexible than in D2L – it can be formatted like a regular HTML page. The only “widget” used in the Canvas example below is for Recent Announcements at the top, the rest was added using the rich text editor. But you don’t have to create this from scratch – Canvas home pages are easily shared and added using Canvas Commons.

Canvas Course Navigation is also more flexible: items can be hidden when unused. In the example below, Quizzes are not in the navigation because they’re not used in the course.

Canvas sample home page

Index Pages

Each content tool in Canvas has an Index Page. These are automatically-generated lists of each item you create with that tool (like the Manage [Activity] areas in D2L). There is an index page for Modules, Discussions, Quizzes, Announcements, Assignments, and Pages. Links to these can appear in the course navigation.

The Canvas Assignments index page lists any activity you create that will be graded, including discussions and quizzes. This gives students one index page that shows every graded task for the course.


Canvas modules are located in a Module Index Page. This is the equivalent of D2L’s Table of Contents. You can hide/show modules, add materials, reorder, nest, and set date or prerequisite conditions for them.


The D2L Table of Contents = Canvas Modules index page.

Adding Content to Modules

This process is very similar to D2L, but the menus and options in Canvas are simpler. Media is added via URL or in a Page.

User interface to add content to a module in D2L
User interface to add content to a module in Canvas

Adding module content in Canvas is similar to, but simpler than, in D2L.


The Canvas Assignment index page automatically shows any graded activity, including quizzes and discussions. These can be grouped and given a percentage for weighted grading. This gives students one index page that shows every graded task for the course.

User interface to an assignment in D2L
User interface to add an assignment in Canvas

Adding a score automatically puts a new assignment in the Assignment Index Page and Grades. Assignments are organized in Groups.

Assignments Index Page

The Canvas Assignment index page automatically shows any graded activity, including quizzes and discussions. These can be grouped and given a percentage for weighted grading. This gives students one index page that shows every graded task for the course.

D2L Manage Assignments page
Canvas Assignments index page

All graded tasks are shown on one page. Assignment Groups make weighted grading easier to set up.


In Canvas you don’t create a separate Forum and Topic, as in D2L. Discussions are ordered by most recent activity unless “pinned” in position. Graded Discussions automatically appear in the Assignments index page and Gradebook.

Discussions in D2L
Discussions in Canvas

Creating a new discussion in Canvas is done in one step. Graded Discussions are added to Grades and Assignments.


Quiz question types in Canvas match those in D2L with some additional options. Question Library is called a Question Bank. Graded quizzes automatically appear in the Assignments index page and Gradebook.

Quizzes in D2L
Quizzes in Canvas

Question types and banks are like those in D2L. Graded quizzes are included in the Assignment index page.


In Canvas the default display is spreadsheet-style. Individual view is by student. Grade items are automatically added to the Gradebook when you create a graded activity. Assignment Groups/weights also appear automatically.

Grades in Canvas

Grades appear in spreadsheet or Individual view. Graded activities/groups are added automatically.

Submission Grading / SpeedGrader

The Canvas SpeedGrader tool is like the D2L assignment submission view. It shows any rubric used and has annotation tools for feedback. Navigation is from one student submission to the next.

Submission grading in D2L
SpeedGrader in Canvas

SpeedGrader has inline annotations, scoring, and rubric access like the submission view in D2L.

Wrapping Up: End of Term Procedures

As the term concludes, you may want to complete the following tasks.

D2L Gradebook

If you’ve been using the D2L gradebook, make sure you’ve entered all of your grades, double checking to ensure the D2L grades accurately reflect the grading parameters you intend. Then release the calculated grade to your students.

It’s also good practice to download a copy of the gradebook for your records.

Submit Final Grades

The grade in the D2L gradebook is not official, so you will also need to enter your students’ grades into Banner.

Student Access to Course

By default, students will no longer have access to their D2L courses beginning the first day of the following term (i.e. Winter term courses will be available to students until the first day of Spring term). If you would just like students to have access to your course for longer, you can change your Course End date.

Thinking Ahead...

Now that the term is over, take some time to relax and celebrate your course success! In most cases, this won’t be the last time you teach this course. Take a moment to reflect on the past term and think about ways you might be able to enhance your course for future terms. OAI+ has many articles that can give you ideas about new teaching strategies that you may want to try to implement.

This is also the time to start planning your student communication for the next term. Early and regular communication with your students is more important than ever during remote learning, and can start weeks before the term officially begins.

Teaching in Inclement Weather

In inclement weather, PSU may have a delayed start, an early closure, or a full-day closure. Here’s how to:

  • Reduce impacts to class meetings and learning outcomes.
  • Accommodate hardships and safety needs — for yourself and your students.

In Advance

At the beginning of each term, discuss the University Closure Policy and Inclement Weather Procedures (Campus Closure) with your students. Include any alternative plans or instructions in your course syllabus, so students fully understand:

  • How to get closure information before traveling to campus
  • What to expect if classes are cancelled or final exams are impacted

During Inclement Weather

When PSU remains open, exercise normal flexibility and make reasonable accommodations for students who miss class, miss an exam, or don’t submit coursework as a result of inclement weather — including effects from other community closures.

When PSU is closed, don’t require or even suggest that students be on campus. This includes early closures. When a closure occurs during a class or exam, release students immediately.

In all cases, it’s important and helpful for you to communicate course expectations to concerned students. You can send your entire class an email through your PSU Gmail account.

During campus closures, OAI and OIT offices will continue remote support. You can submit a support request or chat with the OAI Faculty Support Desk Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Please direct students to OIT phone or chat support.

Considerations for Online and Remote Courses

Because online and remote courses don’t require campus attendance, they may continue during inclement weather closures — at your discretion. Although your virtual class may remain open, the library and most other university buildings will be closed. Please exercise normal flexibility and make reasonable accommodation for weather related impacts such as:

  • Loss of access to Internet connections and devices, or even electricity
  • Changes in students’ and instructors’ work hours, childcare schedules, and more

Plan ahead for how you might accommodate power outages or other weather-related impacts. This could include:

  • Extending deadlines
  • Rescheduling exams
  • Recording class meetings
  • Not requiring students to have cameras on
  • Alternative learning activities instead of scheduled class meetings

No matter how you approach your remote or online class during inclement weather, remember to clearly and quickly tell students your expectations and any changes. Email and online course announcements (in D2L or in Canvas) are two good options for communicating with students.

Email Templates for the Start of Term

Many students are anxious for information about their classes before the term starts. By communicating early, you can help establish an encouraging online environment and alleviate some of their anxiety.

Use these templates to craft a message you’ll send to students as or before the term starts. Consider also adding a short introduction paragraph or video.

Welcome Email (Faculty to Students)

Dear Students,

Welcome to [term/year]! I am excited to get the term started, but I want to first share some details about how our course will be organized this term.

Course Materials

  • All course materials will be posted online and will be available on [date].
  • I will send you the syllabus on [date]. // The syllabus is attached to this email. // The syllabus will be available online.

Class Meetings

  • The class will meet via Zoom on MTWF from [time] to [time].
  • The Zoom link for this course is [enter link].


At some points in the term, my inbox gets quite full — but I do want to hear from you. If you don’t hear back from me within two weekdays (not counting weekends), please send a follow-up email. I will appreciate the gentle reminder.

Now for a little about myself…

[add a brief introduction paragraph or video]

For questions related to advising for the undergraduate major (e.g. degree requirements, petitions, graduation), please contact [enter department advising email]

For all other questions related to undergraduate courses (e.g. technology, library, PSU resources, PSU policies, and practices), please contact [department email].

Staff will either answer your question or direct you to the relevant person or resource.

Thank you and I look forward to meeting you all soon.

Faculty / instructor name

Sharing Student Resources (Department to Students)

Consider sending this the first week of the term, to remind students of the resources available to them. Also, consider sending a department newsletter with videos to build community and connection.

Dear Students,

Your instructor will be in touch to explain the details of your course. This may involve using the learning platform, as well as other tools such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, email, and more (all free to students using a PSU Odin ID). Watch for an email from your instructor, and check the learning platform if you have access.

In the meantime, here are some resources available to you.

  • If you are new to D2L, you can log in at and find tutorials by selecting Student Help from the login page.
    Also, an introductory D2L course is available to all students. After logging in, search for “Online and Remote Readiness.”
  • If you need additional accommodations during remote instruction, contact the Disability Resource Center (DRC) at 503-725-4150 or
  • If you get sick or have mental health needs, you can book an appointment with Student Health and Counseling (SHAC).
    Call SHAC first! Students who have respiratory symptoms and fever should contact SHAC’s Nurse Line at 503-725-2515 or the 24/7 Nurse Advice Line (after hours) at 844-224-3145.
    If you miss an appointment or need to cancel at the last minute due to respiratory and fever symptoms, SHAC will waive the $25 fee missed appointment/late cancellation fee.
  • The Learning Center offers academic coaching, tutoring, and more. Contact them at or 503-725-4448.
  • The Cultural Resource Centers (CRCs) provide student leadership, employment, and volunteer opportunities; student resources such as computer labs, event, lounge and study spaces; and extensive programming.
  • The Library is renting out laptops, webcams, and WiFi hotspots (available for pickup and home delivery). Visit the Library from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. (It’s closed Friday and Saturday.)

Also don’t forget to visit the [enter department] website to stay connected!

Start Your Term Right: Essential Student Communications

Early and regular communication with your students is very important. This guide offers key contact points and ways to help students get the support they need before the term even begins.

If you’re new faculty, make sure to use your Gmail account at This is also where you can access the Google suite of education applications. If you’re new to remote teaching, contact the Office of Academic Innovation as early as possible for help preparing your course.

Email Your Students

Approximately two weeks before the start of each term, a Google Group is created for each course in Banner. You can use your class group to email all students enrolled in your course. Some tips to save time and effort:

  • These groups are maintained for two terms — so make sure to select the email address for the correct term.
  • You don’t need to work from scratch. The Office of Student Success has created helpful email templates with information for an initial email, along with a course syllabus.
  • Don’t wait until your syllabus is absolutely final. You can label it clearly as a “draft” and provide as much information as possible.

Include Student Service Links on Your Syllabus

Throughout the term your students may need PSU services. Linking to services on your syllabus is a great way to let students know what’s available. These could include free e-tutoring, disability resources, tech support, library help, and more.

Publish Your Course and Open It Early

You can publish your Canvas course before the term starts. This can help students who may have concerns about course requirements or who are new to online learning. Even if you don’t plan to teach online, it’s where students expect to find your syllabus and course materials.

Post an Announcement and Share Instructor Information

Your home page is the “megaphone” of your course. It’s reassuring for students to know you will post important announcements here, along with your contact information. If your home page is not configured for this, you can get help from OAI Support or modify it yourself.

Learn about Your Students with a Google Form Questionnaire

You can create a Google Forms Survey to learn about your students before the term starts. Along with their academic experience, during remote teaching it’s important to know whether your students have any significant constraints on their coursework.

Schedule an Early Zoom Office Hour Check-in

It can really help students to have a brief “in person” conversation before term starts. This will alleviate anxiety for students who have questions about course requirements or structure. It can also foster engagement and make your first week more productive.

Add a Zoom Check-in to the Google Class Time Calendar

Our Google Calendar automatically generates events for courses you teach. These are shared with everyone on your Banner roster. You can add your Zoom meeting link as a course event so all your students will find it there.

Keep Teaching Kit

You and your students have been asked to teach and learn remotely during a crisis, which means that everyone is dealing with a lot of unknowns and new stressors. During this time, compassion, patience, and flexibility will go a long way, as will having tools to help you keep teaching and supporting your students. This article provides you with tips and resources to support your move to remote teaching.

Creating a Supportive Remote Learning Experience

Leaders around the country are sharing advice to help us rethink what our courses might look like during these unprecedented times. Tips such as making exams open-book/open-Internet, emphasizing that health and safety are first priorities, simplifying your curriculum, and including COVID-19 in your coursework can make a positive difference to your students.

“Really, what we’re doing is we are trying to extend a sense of care to our students and trying to build a community that’s going to be able to work together to get through the learning challenges that we have.” Robin DeRosa, Plymouth State University, “Panic-ology: Teaching Online Classes During the Coronavirus Pandemic


  • You and your students may have little or no experience teaching and learning remotely, or during an ongoing crisis.
  • Your students are facing new challenges daily such as lack of technology access or skills, illness, unemployment, lack of privacy, uncertain housing arrangements, increased childcare responsibilities, heightened stress, etc.
  • You and your students have limited control over many of the stressors you’re facing, and this impacts everyone’s ability to make decisions, learn and attend to the complexities of life.

Recommendations and Resources

  • Communicate with students regularly and transparently.
  • Simplify your teaching using the rule of two. Adjust your expectations of what you and your students can reasonably accomplish this term, using this worksheet as a guide.
  • Include a statement about COVID-19 on your syllabus stating your plan to address possible student absences, the possibility of your absence, alternative assignments, grading, etc.
    • Some instructors have a policy that anyone not present on the first day of class is automatically dropped. Consider removing this requirement, or create a grace period.
    • Exercise flexibility and make reasonable accommodations for students who miss class, miss an exam, or are unable to submit coursework.
  • Transform COVID-19 into a Learning Opportunity for Your Students. This pandemic affects all of us. It can be a distraction from your students’ learning or you can incorporate it into your course. This resource provides methods for teaching about COVID-19 across disciplines.
  • Consider trauma-informed care in your course. While everyone will experience the stresses and traumas of this time differently, enacting the principles of trauma-informed care with your students will help them feel supported and to persist in the face of challenges.
  • Share the Student Guide to Learning Remotely. Students will need information to assist them in transitioning to remote course formats. This guide provides tips and resources they can reference all term.
  • Talk to your students about COVID-19. Research shows that in moments of crisis, students are comforted by teachers who address the crisis, help them stay informed, and show compassion.

Choosing Tools for Communicating and Teaching Remotely

The recommendations that follow focus on simple solutions to facilitate a few key teaching and learning activities: supporting students during a crisis, facilitating communication, and providing asynchronous access to course content. Wherever possible, err on the side of simplifying the technology expectations, and maximizing accessibility and flexibility for students.

Assess Technology Needs

Before the first day of class, email a short survey to your students asking them about their access to technology and ability to use the materials you plan to require during your course.

  • Read these brief instructions for creating a survey in Google forms.
  • Watch this three-minute video for a guide to building a survey in Google forms.
  • In your survey, be sure to ask students what forms of remote learning technologies they’re most familiar with (Canvas, Zoom, Google docs, etc.), what technologies they have access to (smart phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, webcam, speakers, etc.), and what forms of learning they prefer (class discussions, lecture, quizzes, presentations, etc.). This will help you shape your course.
  • Using students’ survey responses, determine what technology will accommodate most of the students in your class, and work with students who don’t have ready access to the Internet.
  • Choose technology that is supported at PSU. (Use our tech tutorials.) Choosing supported technology means that PSU staff will be able to assist if you have questions or run into challenges.

Set Up a Simple Course Site in Canvas

Canvas is PSU’s learning management system, the hub for your remote course. It’s mobile friendly, so students can complete tasks via smartphone. To build a course quickly, we recommend focusing on sharing content, facilitating discussions, and collecting assignments.

As you develop a course, ensure your content remains accessible to students with disabilities. Use the Accessibility Checker in Canvas or contact the Disability Resource Center to learn more.

Record Your Lectures in Advance

This works well for classes of any size, and may be especially helpful for large lectures. We recommend using Kaltura Capture and Media Space to record and share your lectures. Media Space is mobile friendly, and can be accessed from smartphones. Note: In order for videos to be accessible for students with disabilities, please use the captioning services mentioned below.

Use Zoom for Optional Class Meetings or Study Sessions

While requiring all students to meet synchronously during this time is not recommended, Zoom is a good option for times when students request meetings or when groups would like to get together to study. Zoom is virtual meeting software that is already integrated into your Canvas course shell. Learn more about using Zoom via Canvas.

Recommended Practices

  • Use Zoom via Canvas. This will help your students stay organized and find the Zoom information they need.
  • Record all class meetings and make them available to students. This is an important practice for accessibility. Compare best practices for recording Zoom meetings.
  • Although you might encourage students to show their faces on camera, avoid making this a requirement. Some students have religious or other concerns about being filmed, and their preferences should be followed.
  • Communicate your expectations ahead of time (use suggested tips in the “Include Zoom Basics in Your Communications to Students” section).
  • Set participation guidelines at the start of each Zoom session. Remind students to mute themselves when they’re not speaking, and set expectations for how they should participate and ask questions. In larger meetings, the Zoom chat might prove especially useful.

Include Zoom Basics in Your Communication to Students:

  1. Zoom works best via the Zoom app (available for computer and mobile). You’ll be prompted to download/install the app when you join a meeting. If you cannot download the app, Google Chrome is the only browser that will work for Zoom meetings.
  2. You can give zoom a test run at
  3. Use a computer that is in a quiet room, without other computers that are accessing Zoom.
  4. In our D2L course, click on People, then Zoom meetings to access Zoom. Join the meeting from the list of available meetings.
  5. When/if prompted, download and install the Zoom computer App. It’s the best way to use Zoom. If you can’t download the app, use Google Chrome. Zoom does not work well on other browsers.
  6. Approve your audio and/or video when prompted, or by clicking the buttons at the bottom of your Zoom screen.
  7. When you are not talking, mute your audio.

Use Video to Stay Connected to Your Students

Note: This approach requires practice and patience.

  • Use two-minute intro-to-the-week videos to help personalize your remote course. (Consider tips for creating media for teaching.)
  • Use synchronous tools such as Zoom for open communal office hours.
  • Set-up alternate options for communication – phone, email, text, etc.
  • Send out an email, text or video on a weekly basis with updates to your syllabus, feedback on student work, and announcements about what’s next. This is a good way to humanize remote learning.
  • Remember that students might be new to digital learning. Be patient, give instructions more than once if necessary, and encourage students to form study groups for peer support.

Assessing Student Learning

Remote Assessment Strategies

As remote teaching continues, it’s a good idea to think about what it might look like to assess your students’ learning during these unusual times.


You and your students:

  • May have little or no experience teaching and learning remotely, or during an ongoing crisis.
  • Are facing new challenges daily such as lack of technology access or skills, illness, unemployment, lack of privacy, uncertain housing arrangements, increased childcare responsibilities, heightened stress, etc.
  • Have limited control over many of the stressors you’re facing, and this impacts everyone’s ability to make decisions, learn and attend to the complexities of life.

These considerations are important as we decide how to assess our students during this crisis. If we maintain our standard ways of assessing student learning, we may inadvertently assess their privilege — their access to resources, the stability of their home environment, and other external factors that they have little control over — rather than their ability to learn and engage with new information and skills.

Questions to Inform Your Assessment Decisions

  • What does it look like when students are learning?
  • How can you clearly communicate your expectations to students?
  • How can you give students opportunities to reflect and assess their own learning?

Here are guidance and resources for how to assess students in a variety of contexts.

Remote Assessment Strategies

Student Learning Outcomes: Link your assessments to the student learning outcomes for the course. This helps students perceive how each activity connects to larger assignments and helps them better understand the course goals. Check out this OAI+ assessment article for guides to writing effective student learning outcomes, creating rubrics, and implementing assessment techniques.

Feedback: Give students regular feedback on their process work that is not linked to points or a grade. Students are more likely to remember feedback and incorporate it into future work if it is not paired with a grade. Check out these five research-based tips for providing students with meaningful feedback. Low stakes, formative assessments that give you and your students feedback about their learning come in many forms:

Guidelines: Provide students with clear guidelines, examples, and rubrics that inform them of the desired learning outcomes for a given assessment. Allow time and flexibility for students to ask questions and make suggestions about how they might meet the learning outcomes in more than one way. Employing a Universal Design for Learning strategy will serve a diversity of learners.

Student Self-Assessment: Give students an opportunity to continuously reflect on their learning in their remote course through self-assessments that count toward their final grade. Students can self-assess in large online courses when they are taught how, and doing so deepens their learning and motivates them to keep learning. Self-assessment can happen in a variety of formats:

Peer Reviews: Asking students to give feedback to their peers gives them an opportunity to learn from one another and think critically about their work. Consider giving students specific elements to focus on during peer review and model what good feedback looks like. It helps to provide students with a rubric, checklist, or series of questions to answer as they examine their peers’ work. This OAI+ article on Active Remote Learning has a section on peer review and includes example prompts.

Alternative Assessments: All students may not have the technology needed to take online exams, so be ready with alternatives or exceptions. Consider what you hope to measure through these exams, share these goals with students who don’t have the necessary technology, and brainstorm alternative assessments that might measure the same learning in a different way. This will help to cultivate student motivation and will foster a caring learning environment. Many creative alternatives are available to students who might not be able to meet the learning outcomes in traditional ways:

Remote Exams

You can give students remote exams that don’t use a proctoring tool.

Use Canvas to create and administer an exam. Canvas exams (called “quizzes”) enhance academic integrity through features such as randomized questions and exam time limits. During these difficult times, we recommend allowing students to take exams more than once for an improved grade. If you are new to Canvas quizzes, please contact the faculty support desk before administering a quiz.

Use Canvas to distribute and collect exams via Canvas Assignments. Optionally, use date restrictions to set time limits. Consider whether the exam should be open-book. If you feel you can assess students’ learning outcomes with an open-book exam, we highly recommend it.

In limited circumstances, such as for very high stakes exams or when required by accrediting bodies, remote proctoring may be suitable. Learn more about remote proctoring.