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The following information helps ensure that you build an accessible, well-organized, and interactive online or hybrid course. The key questions and considerations provide insight on how to facilitate an inclusive and engaging online learning experience.

Prepare Your Canvas Course Checklist

MSU’s Canvas Course Template provides a foundation for these components.

Ideally, the following is built in your Canvas course and published prior to the course start date.

  • Has a course homepage (either a Canvas page or Canvas modules) that orients students to the course as a whole and indicates clearly where and how to get started.
  • Has a Getting Started module that may include a link to MSU’s student Canvas orientation course and welcoming activities (e.g., self-introduction discussion, pre-course survey, and/or syllabus quiz).
  • Has a course syllabus that is presented prominently and in an accessible format. The syllabus content matches the Canvas course content (course description and goals, learning outcomes, assignments and grading scheme, required texts, contact info and office hours, course schedule, etc.)
  • Uses Canvas modules that are logically organized (e.g., weekly, thematically) and consistently structured across modules. Each module should include: an orientation to the weekly topic; a content section with links to readings, videos, slides, and other materials; an opportunity for student interaction such as a discussion, collaboration, or group problem solving; and some form of assessment such as quizzes, assignments, or formative assessments.
  • Uses Canvas assignments to allow students to submit their work into Canvas when applicable (documents, media files, links to online work, etc.) and has due dates and points assigned as appropriate.
  • Uses Canvas discussions regularly to facilitate student interaction and has group settings, due dates, and points assigned as appropriate. Canvas Discussions can be used to facilitate many types of interactions such as academic discourse, course logistics, community building, collaboration, feedback, reflection, etc.
  • Provides instructional materials that are easy to access and linked where appropriate within course pages or modules.
Key Questions for Facilitating Your Online or Hybrid Course
  • How Will You Deliver Your Course? Determine what will be asynchronous or synchronous course activities and communicate the expectations for these interactions clearly (e.g., meeting times, due dates, and other expectations for course participation).
  • How Will You Build Community and Social Presence? In addition to welcoming activities (e.g., self-introduction discussion or pre-course survey), provide a space for students to ask and answer each other’s course-related questions in a Q&A discussion board. Encourage photos and the use of video in online discussions when appropriate.
  • How Will You Establish Teaching Presence? Consider creating a course welcome video. Use announcements to regularly communicate course updates and other course information (e.g., beginning, middle, and end of module announcements). Set up regular virtual office hours. Provide ongoing individual and group feedback through various methods (e.g., through Canvas speedgrader on student assignments, in office hours, within discussion boards, and through the announcements tool).
  • How Will You Engage Students? Include multiple, meaningful opportunities for students to interact with each other and the course content as a community of inquiry. Vary course activities to allow students to develop and demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways. Refer to the Technology Toolkit for ideas on how technology can be leveraged to work toward your course’s learning goals.
    • Engage Students with Course Content. Create and share a range of instructional materials that are accessible in multiple formats (videos with closed captioning, live sessions that you record and make available). Share relevant and current media that reflects or illustrates course topics. Use Panopto to create interactive lecture-capture videos for students to test their knowledge or share their thoughts. Try Perusall to have students annotate course readings with questions and insights. Consider having students generate content by prompting them to curate resources in an online space such as a Canvas Discussion or Padlet. If having real-time meetings, consider bringing in a guest speaker and use active learning techniques to allow students to apply what they are learning (e.g., prompt students to post questions and comments in chat).
    • Engage Students in Online Discussions. Use open-ended prompts that encourage students to synthesize their own experiences with course content. Model effective communication to generate ideas and promote critical thinking, such as by asking questions, pointing out tensions, or drawing connections between posts. Consider norm building activities to promote robust contributions (e.g., Help students identify the characteristics of a good contribution by having them comment on sample posts that represent a poor, an average, and a stellar contribution. Use a rubric to give feedback on student discussions) Make initial discussion responses due before the module is complete so students can read and respond to their peers before the week’s end. Break students into smaller discussion groups if you have a larger class (6-10 is a nice size for online discussions). If discussing in real-time, consider using breakout rooms and having students report back a summary of their discussions either orally or through the chat.
    • Engage Students in Collaborations and Group Work. Some examples of group work include working through case studies, delivering group presentations, or creating products collaboratively. Canvas groups can be set up to facilitate group communication and collaboration. For courses that have real-time meetups, consider using some of the time when everyone is together to work on and get feedback on their tasks.
    • Engage Students with Ongoing Support. There may be times in the course when things get difficult, such as busy times in the semester, when you reach expected bottlenecks, or when larger assignments are due. Some ideas to support students during these challenges is to set up synchronous working sessions to check in with students and give feedback on progress. Faculty have also created announcement messages with small pep talks and tips and tricks for success. Regularly invite students to reach out and share your preferred method of contact. Require students (individually or in small groups) to sign up for virtual office hours.
  • How Will You Assess Students? Include both formative (non-graded) and summative (graded) assessments to allow students to demonstrate and get feedback on their learning in a variety of ways. Provide clear descriptions for course assessments and provide accompanying rubrics that define expectations and progress toward learning outcomes. Consider authentic assessments (i.e., assessments that replicate what one might actually do in an academic or professional setting). For example, having an open book test more realistically reflects how one might find, assess, and apply referenced material for a specific purpose. But if you need to use more traditional quizzes, tests, and exams, make them lower stakes and spread them out throughout the course. Consider other tips on how to structure your online assessments to promote academic integrity.
Course Design Guiding Principles

Planning a course for any modality begins with basic course design. Starting with the end in mind, what will students know, value, or be able to do as a result of taking your course? Course goals and learning objectives inform your instructional decisions. Course materials, activities, and assessments should all align.

  • Course goals are clearly articulated
  • Learning objectives are clear, measurable and appropriate to course goals.
  • Assessments provide students opportunity to demonstrate evidence of learning outcomes.
  • Course activities and materials provide students opportunities to develop learning outcomes.
Planning Resources and Support