First time using this site?

To view the initial overview of what this site is and how to use it, see the site overview webinar. To view a shortened overview, site updates, and a focus on online teaching resources, see this update webinar.

Your Initial Message to Students

It’s important to communicate with students right away as you begin to make plans for how your instruction will change. This initial communication doesn’t need to be long, but consider the following elements.

  • Indicate where students should go for updates (e.g., their school email, Canvas Announcements, etc.) and share your expectations for how often they should check it.
  • Confirm when you will be available for office hours and indicate how students can reach you (e.g., by phone or by other web-based technologies such as Blackboard Collaborate Ultra).
  • Because students will understandably have concerns and questions, state how, where, and when (give an approximate turnaround time) you will respond to them.
  • Pass on this Keep Learning tip sheet to help students prepare for the move to online learning.
  • A few words of compassion will also go a long way to help students cope. We are all in this together!

Other Considerations

Before you begin, take a few minutes to collect your thoughts and develop an action plan. Here are some helpful tips to get you started.

  • Review your syllabus and identify priorities. What assessments or activities are critical, and what ones can be set aside or made optional? Will you need to adjust due dates or be flexible on the format of the final product?
  • Brainstorm how you will modify instruction and content delivery. While it may be tempting to simply record your lectures, this may not be the best option; you will find a number of suggestions below for different strategies you could employ. Remember to keep accessibility and all students in mind.
  • Develop your communication plan. When instruction moves online, communication is even more critical. Carefully think through how you will maintain regular communication with your students regarding expectations, content delivery, assessments, and feedback. Part of what you will need to do is help students reset their own expectations regarding turnaround time and modality.
  • You are not alone. Are your students a hidden resource? It is possible that they could help you with some of the tasks at hand, which could be an opportunity to raise the morale of your class community. In addition to students, you have colleagues that are facing similar challenges, and you likely have other instructional support staff eager to assist as well.
  • But wait! My course is unique! There are some unique considerations for how to take a lab, studio or performance-based course online. If your course falls in one of those categories, check out this section with relative links.

Using Canvas

Using Canvas

Canvas can be leveraged to help you centralize your course communications, resources, and activities.

Course Template

The UW Extended Campus – Keep Teaching Template serves as a starting point for course set-up in Canvas. The template contains the essential items needed to facilitate a course online (e.g., announcements, discussions, assignments, quizzes, and student-facing resources). You will need to modify this template to suit your specific course needs. This template contains all of the instructions to get you up and running as quickly as possible with standard course elements. Once it is set up, you will need to publish your course. If you need help with publishing, reach out to Canvas Support by logging into Canvas, clicking the Help button, and choosing one of the chat or phone options.

Take a video tour of the Keep Teaching Template to further familiarize yourself with its contents.

Downloadable Canvas Course Package

To use the template, click the “Download Package” button and follow the instructions to import the template into a blank course shell. If you need help with importing, reach out to Canvas Support by logging into Canvas, clicking the Help button, and choosing one of the chat or phone options.

Download Package

Note: If you have an existing course shell with content already in it, you can edit that directly instead of utilizing the template. If you choose to do this, continue to Key Canvas Tools below.

Canvas provides a wide array of tools, functionality, and documentation for you to transition your course online. We have organized these material below, placing what we think will be most valuable to you during this process first. Under each topic, you will find a brief summary, helpful step-by-step documentation, and tip sheets that provide further guidance.

Using the Announcements tool is a great way to keep students updated on the evolving situation and engaged in your course despite the disruption. This announcements overview video provides a short summary of what the Announcements tool can do.

The following resources will help you get started using Announcements:

For a more comprehensive list of announcement-related resources visit the Canvas Instructor Guide.

Canvas also includes a built-in tool called Inbox that can be used to quickly send messages to the whole class.

Tip sheet: Faculty-to-class Communication

Consult this tip sheet to learn how to communicate with students through the Announcements tool.

Tip sheet: Faculty Interaction

This tip sheet gives examples of how faculty can engage and connect with their students online.

Course files give you the ability to upload handouts, presentations, and more to your course so that you can easily share them with students. Furthermore, you can specify which files are meant for your eyes only, such as answer keys and confidential feedback, and which can be shared with a wider audience. Some examples of digital files you may add to your course are:

  • A PowerPoint presentation
  • A Word document
  • A PDF document
  • An Excel file

For an introduction to how files work in Canvas, see these resources:

There are two steps involved in making digital files available to students. First, you have to upload the file to your course’s Files area. Second, you need to put a link to the file in an appropriate place within your course content.

1) Uploading Files to Canvas

To upload files to the Files area, take advantage of the following resources:

If you’d like to find out more things you can do with files in Canvas courses, see the Files section of the Canvas Instructor Guide.

2) Linking to Files Stored in Canvas

Once you have uploaded files to your Canvas course, you need to set up links within content pages, exam instructions, etc. so students can access the relevant files. Note that you cannot simply add Files to your course navigation bar as the UW System DLE team has chosen to restrict this option (see the “Which Items Cannot be Added to the Course Navigation Menu” section of this KB article for more information).

You can link to course files in any place within Canvas that displays the Rich Content Editor, including:

  • Content pages
  • Assignment instructions
  • Discussion topics and posts
  • Quiz instructions
  • Quiz question content

To see instructions on how to add links, see these resources:

On-campus courses that use discussions can easily be transferred online. You can arrange whole-class or small-group discussions within Canvas, and these discussions can be graded or ungraded. You can also use the discussion tool to create an area for students to ask general questions. See the Discussions Overview video to orient yourself and use the following resources to help you get started using Discussions.

For a more comprehensive list of discussion-related resources, visit the Canvas Instructor Guide.

Tip sheet: Group Work

This tip sheet explains how to create a high-quality, online discussion.

Assignments such as papers, presentations, take-home exams, and projects can easily be submitted through Canvas. For example, if you were planning to have a timed essay final (i.e., a blue book exam), you can recreate that assessment in Canvas by using a timed quiz with an essay question. Assignments can be graded or ungraded. Any graded coursework needs to have an assignment page associated with it in Canvas.

The following resources will help you get started using the assignments area:

For a more comprehensive list of assignment-related resources, visit the Canvas Instructor Guide.

Tip sheet: Unproctored Online Assessments

If you are worried about students cheating on assessments, this tip sheet provides some strategies for creating unproctored assessments.

Tip sheet: People Tab in Canvas

This tip sheet provides an overview of the People tab which you can use to remotely monitor how your students are progressing through your course.


Grading Assignments with SpeedGrader

The SpeedGrader tool allows you to view and grade student submissions in one place using a simple point scale or rubric. In many cases, you can directly annotate the submission and provide feedback to your students with text or media comments. Watch this short overview of Speedgrader to get started.

We also recommend turning to the following resources for detailed instructions:

Tip sheet: Use SpeedGrader to Evaluate Canvas Assignments

This tip sheet explains how you can use SpeedGrader to grade assignments quickly.

If you were planning to deliver an exam or quiz in your on-campus course, you may want to use Canvas quizzes. Quizzes can include both auto-graded and manually-graded questions. The following resources will help you get started using quizzes in Canvas:

For a more comprehensive list of quiz-related resources, visit the Canvas Instructor Guide.

Tip sheet: Writing Effective Multiple-Choice Questions

This tip sheet provides a primer on how to write effective multiple-choice questions?

The gradebook in Canvas will automatically be populated when you create graded assignments, quizzes and graded discussions. Watch the Gradebook Overview video to become acquainted with its functionality. The following resources provide written instructions to get you started:

For a more comprehensive list of gradebook-related resources, visit the Canvas Instructor Guide.

Canvas includes a set of default notification preferences for your courses. For example, Canvas will notify you if a student completes a quiz or submits an assignment. These default settings can be changed by setting your own preferences. These preferences only apply to you; they are not used to control how course updates are sent to other users. This Notifications Quick Tips video describes what will appear on your Canvas To-Do list and how you can customize your notification preferences.

Appears on To-Do list? Instructor receives an email notification?
Graded quiz with manual grading Yes Yes
Graded quiz that is auto-graded No No
Ungraded quiz that is auto-graded No No
Graded discussion Yes Yes
Ungraded discussion No Yes, if the instructor subscribes to discussion
Graded assignment that requires a submission Yes Yes (submission and comments)
Ungraded assignment that requires a submission Yes Yes (submission and comments)

The following resources further detail the process for customizing your notifications:

After you’ve created your course in Canvas, you will need to update your course settings and publish it so students can access it. If you need help with publishing, reach out to Canvas Support by logging into Canvas, clicking the Help button, and choosing one of the chat or phone options.

The following resources describe publishing and setting some of the most relevant course details:

When you think your course is ready for students, it can be very helpful to use the “Student View” feature in Canvas. As an instructor your view of the course is different than a student’s. You can see everything while students only see published items. The navigation menu will also be different. By viewing the course as a student, you can verify that students will see what you want them to see and that the course is truly ready to go. Use the “Student View” button on your course home page.

If your on-campus course involves group activities, you may want to create and manage groups of students within Canvas. Groups are commonly used online for small group discussions and collaborative assignments. To get started, to view this demonstration of the basics of group creation and group management. . The following resources will also help you get started:

Tip sheet: Faculty to Class Communication

Here is a tip sheet on designing successful group work.

Adding Instructional Content

Adding Instructional Content

Once you have created an outline of your course, you are likely going to add content presentations, articles, websites, and other content that will help your students master the course material. This section looks at course content in two categories. First, you will learn how to add files like Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations as well as how to find free online resources. Second, you will consider media files specifically–the audio, video, and screencast information that can boost your presence for students as you connect over distance.

Using Existing Content

You may already have access to resources that you want to share with your students, such as PowerPoint presentations, useful websites, data files, photos, and more. We’ve provided some guidance on how to add these materials to your course.


  • Online articles
  • Online resources, such as writing labs or online dictionaries
  • Websites
  • Publicly available videos

For any online content that is not a video, you simply need a hyperlink (URL). You can add hyperlinks in any place within Canvas that displays the Rich Content Editor, including:

  • Content pages
  • Assignment instructions
  • Discussion topics and posts
  • Quiz instructions
  • Quiz question content

To add a hyperlink within Canvas, see How do I create a hyperlink in the Rich Content Editor? Alternatively, if you want to create a page in a module that redirects to a website, see How do I add an external URL as a module item?

You can also use hyperlinks to link to videos, just as you would for any other online page. However, you also have a second option: embed code. Pasting the embed code into a page makes the entire video appear and play within your page. To do this, you first have to get the embed code from the appropriate site:

Once you have the video link or embed code, you can add it to a content page or any place that includes the Rich Content Editor; see How do I embed a video in a page in a course?.

Open Educational Resources (OERs) provide a good source of content at no cost to you or your students. To get started with OERs, view these tip sheets:

If you have a physical (analog) item, you will need to convert it into a digital form in order to upload it to your online course. There are several ways to do this. The items you may wish to convert could be any of the following examples:

  • A printed handout
  • A printed article
  • A physical photograph
  • A drawing or physical image

If you have access to a photocopier or scanner, you likely can scan the item to render a digital copy, often a .pdf or .jpg file. See your device’s instructions for more information.

If you have access to a digital camera, such as on a smart device, you can likely take a picture of the item and convert it to a form that can be uploaded to your course. Generally speaking, the best file format to convert to is PDF. Most importantly, any printed document should be converted to a text PDF, not an image PDF. Text PDFs ensure that the words are recognizable by screen-reading technology, making them more accessible.

If you can take a photo of a handout or other document that you would like to upload to your course, here are some tools you may find helpful in converting the resulting image into a PDF format:

Audio, video, and screencast recordings give you the ability to connect with your students while allowing them to review information at their own pace. Within the UW System, we recommend using Kaltura Capture for creating media content.

For general information about using Kaltura as we strive to reach students online, please see Kaltura – Continuity of Service.

Getting Started with Kaltura Capture

Kaltura Capture is a tool for recording and uploading content to Kaltura. Kaltura Capture can only be accessed from within Canvas, so you will need to have access to a course to be able to use it.

First, follow the instructions to download and install Kaltura Capture. Next, you will want to familiarize yourself with the user interface of Kaltura Capture. Once you have done both of those things, you are ready to move on!

Recommendations for creating and uploading media with Kaltura Capture:

  • Create a short video first–5 to 10 seconds–and upload it to familiarize yourself with the recording and uploading process.
  • Even when you have a lot of content to cover, try breaking up your videos to no more than 15 minutes in length, as recommended by Quality Matters.
  • Upload your most important videos first, keeping in mind that they won’t be available immediately. Given the strain on Internet bandwidth caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, videos will often take longer than usual to upload. How long it takes to process a video can depend on at least two factors. First, you should check your upload speed, using a tool like Speedtest. Second, video size matters. A 250 MB video can take, on average, a little more than a half hour to upload.
  • Even after a video uploads, Kaltura takes some time to process a video so that it’s playable. During this busy transition period, you may need to wait at least 6 hours for a video to finish processing. Plan accordingly.
  • If you are recording a narrated PowerPoint and know you have a slower internet connection, just record your screen instead of your screen and webcam. Recording both will increase file sizes and significantly increase the time needed to upload over your slower internet connection.

Recording your (or someone else’s) voice is a fairly easy yet effective way to stay connected to students. You can use this option to:

  • Record explanations and presentations of information where visuals are not important.
  • Communicate quick updates.

Note that all media must be ADA compliant. This is easy to achieve with the audio-only option because you can write a script and record it. The script becomes the transcript to fulfill ADA requirements.

Documentation: Using Kaltura Capture to record audio

Sometimes audio alone isn’t enough to communicate everything you would like to. Record full video to:

  • Demonstrate hand gestures and other body language.
  • Show students what you are doing.

Note that recording video requires a little more planning than if you just required audio. For example, you need to pay attention to lighting and background to make sure students can see what you’re doing. Before you start, see 12 Simple Tips for Making Your Videos Look More Professional.

Documentation: Using Kaltura Capture to record videos with a webcam

Screencasts are recordings of the content on your computer screen that commonly have narration. Students report that screencasts are among the most effective learning tools when working online. Use screencasts to:

  • Talk through a PowerPoint or set of slides.
  • Demonstrate software.
  • Use an online writing or drawing tool to simulate writing on a blackboard or whiteboard.

Documentation: Using Kaltura Capture to record screencasts

Accessibility Considerations

It is important that you continue to provide an accessible and inclusive learning environment for your online students. In the event of an emergency disruption, accessibility and disability-related accommodations must be provided so that students, faculty, and staff can fully participate.

Documentation: Accessibility considerations

Teaching Online

Teaching Online

Best Practices

Though much of the preceding content is focused on how you can use Canvas to facilitate transitioning your course online, sprinkled throughout are tip sheets designed to get you thinking about the pedagogy or the theory and practice of learning. Representatives from the University of Wisconsin, University of Washington, and University of California, Irvine, teamed up to develop a resource that focuses solely on this pedagogy: a website called ASG Best In Show – Online Teaching Experiences.

Through the site, “faculty who are either new or experienced online instructors can learn from other experienced online instructors about how to design, develop, and teach online courses. Instructional overview videos and topic-focused interview videos and tip sheets are provided on a variety of topics.”


Special Topics

Lab, Studio, and Performance-based Courses

Naturally, courses that require specialized equipment, materials, and synchronized performance or interactions present some unique challenges when it comes to online delivery. Compassion and communication with your students are critical while making this unexpected transition online, but for lab, studio, and performance-based courses, your communications may require additional considerations in order to maintain equity and inclusion for all.

  1. As with all courses that are making this transition, determine the most important takeaways or outcomes for the course.
  2. Survey your students to find out about their internet access and access to materials or equipment, their learning environments, and their concerns.
  3. Based on what you learn from your survey, you will need to develop plans that will work for the majority of students as well as how you will accommodate those students with differing resources.

In the spirit of “We’re all in this together”, the following collections were created and are being maintained by disciplinary peers. Visit these sites to get ideas for your discipline, and if you have ideas to share, please consider reaching out to the site authors about adding them!

How to Quickly (and Safely) Move a Lab Course Online: This article by a veteran online lab instructor offers great insights on where to begin and how to approach converting an in-person lab to an online environment. The author discusses the pros and cons of instructor-created labs and vendor-prepared lab kits.

Science Labs and Simulations: This spreadsheet contains a collection of resources for STEM disciplines. Each resource is tagged with information about the type, discipline, description, cost, and technical requirements. It’s a comprehensive but large spreadsheet, so remember that you can search using keywords.

Teaching Theatre Online: A Shift in Pedagogy Amidst Coronavirus Outbreak: This site features a collection of online assignment ideas and resources for all aspects of theatre education including acting, directing, lighting, costuming, set design, and other specialties. It’s a large document, but the table of contents allows users to easily scan and jump right to the topics of their choice.

Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE): Resources for Teaching Online: On this site, ATHE has created a venue for discussing the challenges, particular problems, and issues that COVID-19 poses for performance-based disciplines as well as developing best practices and shareable resources. This includes a virtual guest artist program and a YouTube channel where teaching videos are hosted.

Resources for Moving Dance-Based Pedagogy Online: Here the Dance Studies Association shares resources dedicated to online dance instruction including technologies, instructional content, and scholarly research about teaching dance online.

Considerations for Moving University Dance Classes Online: This site discusses considerations for online dance classes and offers pros and cons for a variety of alternatives. Be sure to scroll down to page 3 for practical tips!

Art Prof: The Complete Guide to Teaching and Learning Art Online: This site is a rich resource dedicated to helping art instructors and students manage teaching and learning the fine arts at home. The authors have been teaching art online for three years and have a lot of experience to share. They even offer “office hours” every Friday at 1:00 pm EST via their YouTube channel where you can directly ask Professor Lieu your questions.

Art Education in an Age of Social Distancing: This blog post discusses the nature of engaging in art during this period of coping with COVID-19. The narrative describes how art instructors can navigate the new territory of teaching online and how the arts can actively contribute to societal adjustments resulting from social distancing.


Holding Online Meetings

If your course has a need for synchronous communication with and among students, a tool called Blackboard Collaborate Ultra (BB Ultra) is available. BB Ultra allows live, real-time communication between students and faculty. Therefore, you may find it useful for:

  • Virtual office hours
  • Whole-class meetings
  • Virtual study or collaboration rooms for students

However, BB Ultra is not appropriate for all situations. You may find it less effective if:

  • You want to hold synchronous meetings for very large groups, such as 50 or more people. BB Ultra has a soft limit of 250 users, and can be configured to accommodate even larger groups. However, we have found that, when groups grow to about 50 people or more, you generally need more than one person facilitating the meeting; for example, you may need someone to record and track questions as they come in, and another to troubleshoot technical issues so that you and your students do not spend an inordinate amount of time troubleshooting connection, audio, and video issues. In addition, keep in mind that, by default, only 25 users can dial in to a meeting with a telephone at once, although others can join using computer microphones.
  • Not all of your students have access to a reliable internet connection or a decent microphone.
  • You want to bring together multiple people from different time zones. However, note that BB Ultra does include a recording option that allows you to record sessions and share them with users who cannot attend in person.

If you still feel BB Ultra is a good choice for your course given these limitations, we have provided information on how you can set up a dedicated BB Ultra room and a practice room in your course.

Documentation: Using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra



Converting your course to an online format can feel overwhelming. Thankfully, there are resources both at your campus and beyond you can turn to for help.

Within the UW System

    • You can reach out at any time to Canvas support with technical questions; log in to Canvas, click the Help button, and choose one of the chat or phone options.
    • Each UW campus has a center for teaching and learning that we encourage you to reach out to for guidance.
    • UW System maintains a knowledge base with many helpful articles about how to use Canvas effectively.

Beyond UW

As you begin your online teaching journey, continue to refer back to this website for content updates and new resources.

Questions and comments regarding this website should be directed to Aaron Brower or George Kroeninger. All technical support requests should be directed to the resources in the Support section above.

Published on March 12, 2020 at 1:49:25 pm CDT. Last modified on July 24, 2020 at 2:13:29 pm CDT.