Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

COVID-19 Update: The library building is open, and first and second floor collections are available for browsing. Click here for more information.

Teaching Using Canvas: Instructional Guidelines

Guidelines for Online Instruction

Getting Started

Keep your work goals realistic.

Work two weeks ahead—this makes it easier to plan and execute your course design while teaching and also allows you to make changes to your course on the fly as needed. It’s important to manage your workload and approach this change in a manageable way.

Change the work, not the workload.

Make strategic changes to your course. Going online will present a significant learning curve for you and your students, so it’s not an ideal time to add assessments or change the course schedule. Similarly, students are already doing a lot of adapting, so this is not an appropriate time to force unnecessary change and adaptation on students.

Request help and support.

The following campus resources are available to support your transition to Moving Instruction Online.

CLIC Instructional Support Team in the Jim Dan Hill Library

Technology Help Desk

Quality Instruction in an Online Course

Be present in your Canvas course.

  • Use the Announcements tool to communicate with your students. Remember that students’ notification settings impact how they’re notified of your Canvas announcements. If it’s critical that students see your message, ensure it’s also sent to their email inbox.
  • Grade in a timely fashion and provide detailed feedback.
  • Reply to students’ discussion posts, questions, and emails within 24 hours during the week. Be thoughtful about students attending class from a different time zone.
  • Set your class schedule: It’s vital that you set due dates in your Canvas Assignments—this will update students’ Canvas calendar and To Do list. Review your syllabus and make sure it matches the deadlines you set in Canvas.
  • Tone and mindfulness: Be warm, friendly, and human. This can get lost when communicating via text. Remind students why you’re excited about the course material.

Respond in a timely fashion.

Prompt responses are vital in an online course. Students are used to immediate texting responses, and while you should communicate with students according to your established schedule, it’s important to provide your input, reassurance, and guidance frequently.


Do not increase the amount of work assigned to students in an attempt to compensate for the difference in connection and engagement or lost course time. Instead, focus on the learning objectives of each assignment and adapt your approach as needed.


Establish a communication policy: Set expectations up front. Remember that student circumstances have changed; students may be taking on additional employment or providing care to a relative. Also, your communication policies may vary to reflect different meeting schedules or learning objectives.

  • Notify students how to contact you: Provide a phone number or quick communication option for students to reach you.
  • Encourage students to use the Canvas Student app: This mobile app makes it easy for students to view your announcements, be notified of course updates, and access course materials.
  • Create and monitor a Discussion for student questions: Use the Discussion tool to provide students with a place to ask quick questions. Some UW-Superior instructors create a “Raise Your Hand” discussion for this purpose. This allows other students to answer each other’s questions and for you to share your answers with the whole class. Remember to turn on notifications for that Discussion and check it daily.
  • Post course Announcements: Post and send out course changes, updates, and greetings via the Announcement Tool. This will remind students of your presence and keep students up to date.
  • Hold virtual office hours: Make yourself available to students. Communicate your virtual office hours and consider using Zoom or Collaborate Ultra in your course to meet via web conference.


Set reasonable and consistent deadlines: Be clear, concise, consistent, and upfront with deadlines. Ensure there’s no ambiguity around course deadlines. If you need assistance configuring deadlines in Canvas, please reference the Canvas Guides page linked below.

Canvas Guides: What is the difference between assignment due dates and availability dates?

Review course policies: Communicate to students how on-campus policies, like how you handle late assignments, will adapt to your new online course format.


Be flexible: Adapt course expectations when necessary and focus on learning outcomes and assessment objectives.

Consider student circumstances: Students may become ill or need to care for someone that becomes ill. Think in advance about how to accommodate these situations.

Review existing attendance policies: Attendance policies may need to adapt to changing situations.


Seek Technology Support: If you need assistance using Canvas or designing your course, please seek assistance as soon as possible.

Scaffold your skills: Don’t try to learn everything at once. Build on what you know, increase your skills as you go.

Don’t reinvent the wheel: If there is something you want to implement or use in your class, reach out to as there may be directions and resources developed to assist you.

Continue to Part Four: Canvas Basics