Just-in-Time Support Resources for Teaching Online

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Course organization

Every aspect of a course – whether online or on ground – places cognitive demands on learners. In the physical classroom, things like consistent, user-friendly floor plans, signage, and class schedules help reduce this demand so learners can focus on course content. In an online course, we need to design these structures.

Below are some resources to get you started designing your course in Canvas.


One of the most important things you can do to reduce barriers to learners’ success is to design resources and experiences that are accessible. Here are some resources to get you started:

Synchronous sessions

Synchronous sessions can be a terrific way for you to connect with learners. But as the COVID-19 crisis highlighted, required synchronous sessions can disadvantage learners who work, have small children, or struggle with low-bandwidth. Instead of defaulting to Zoom for every class session, consider using synchronous sessions strategically. For example:

  • Schedule a couple of synchronous “check-in” meetings with each learner.
  • Confine synchronous sessions to the first couple of class meetings to help learners develop a sense of who you are and to build a sense of connection.
  • Schedule a couple of open, live optional exam review/study sessions.
  • When a learner shares an issue or complex question by email, offer to meet with them synchronously.
  • Schedule an optional synchronous get-together (e.g. Conversation Café) where everyone can drop in to chat and socialize.

Here are some resources to help you design and facilitate synchronous sessions:

Community building

In any course, community rests on the feeling that everyone in the course is working toward something together and that people in the course matter to each other. Here are a few resources to get you started building a sense of community in digital learning environments:

  • Manifesting instructor presence – The sense that the instructor is actively engaged in the course and invested in learners’ success is key to fostering a sense of connection.
  • Netiquette guidelines – Setting course norms can help create the space learners need to freely share their thoughts and ideas.
  • Icebreaker ideas – These activities can foster connection and lay the foundation for your course community.

Group work

Having learners collaborate is an effective way to foster active learning and build connections between learners. Collaboration structures that work in face-to-face settings may work equally well online, but instructors should remember that online learners may be collaborating asynchronously, so you may need to create the digital environments in which learners will collaborate (e.g., Canvas groupwork space, Google doc or Hypothes.is) and submit their collective work (e.g., discussion thread, group assignment submission).

Here are a few examples of ways that learners can collaborate in online learning environments:

  • Brainstorming. Groups can work together to solve a problem or unpack a complex idea and can report out to a discussion forum or submit a group assignment.
  • Concept-mapping. Groups can collaborate to visualize the relationships between key concepts, perspectives, or evidence. The group can share their visualization with the class through a discussion post or with the instructor as an assignment submission.
  • Peer reviewing. Learners can evaluate each other’s work using the peer review function in Canvas.

Here are some additional resources to help you create groups and facilitate group work in online settings.

Assessment and grading

Canvas has a number of grading features that can help make your grading more intuitive and efficient. Here are some resources to help you design and grade assignments: