The Teach Anywhere Online Toolkit provides best practices for online learning and course design to support faculty during the transition from residential to remote instruction. Its three main tools are the Do It Yourself Quality Matters Rubric, the CSU Canvas Template, and UDOIT.
Teach Anywhere Online Toolkit
DIY Quality Matters™ Rubric
The Quality Matters™ Higher Education Rubric is designed to provide a rigorous set of Specific Review Standards that can be consistently applied to online courses as part of a commitment to continuous quality improvement. It evaluates course design, not course delivery.
What is Quality Matters?
Quality Matters™(QM) is an international organization that is recognized as a leader in quality assurance for online education to ensure the quality of online course design. QM provides a scalable quality assurance system (QM Higher Education Rubric) for online learning using a widely respected set of standards for the design of effective online courses and a rigorous, faculty peer review process for applying these standards.
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UDOIT Cloud is an accessibility checker that is enabled in all Canvas courses at CSU. The tool scans course content to identify errors and provides suggestion to improve accessibility in Canvas courses. These improvements make it easier for all students to use your course content.
QM Standards to consider during Residential2Remote transition:
When creating your online course, you should take care to consider two important design principles: navigation and readability. A student’s perception of an online course is not just influenced by the content of the course, but also how the content is presented in Canvas. You can have the best-looking videos in the world or the most thoughtful assignments, but if students can’t find the content or if it is on a page that is hard to read, then they are likely to be frustrated by their experience. The following tips provide guidance for faculty to meet QM Standards 8.1 and 8.2
Navigation is how the course content is laid out at a higher-level (e.g. how students will get from one part of the course to the next). There are a couple of features in Canvas you can use to help make straightforward and intuitive feeling navigation.
The course navigation is the arrangement of the items seen on the left-hand side such as Modules, Syllabus, Assignments, and Grades.
It is recommended to only display navigational items in use such as Syllabus, Announcements. Modules, Assignments, Grades, Course Survey, New Analytics. A best practice is to hide Pages and Files.
To re-order and hide navigational items:
- In the Canvas course, clicking on Settings.
- On the top, select the Navigation tab.
- To show items, drag the item to the top box that says “Drag and drop items to reorder them in the course navigation”. Note, that the order the items appear in the list is the order they will appear on the course. Take a moment to check that the items are ordered in a logical manner.
- To hide items, drag the items to the below “Drag items here to hide them from students”. then clicking Navigation. Importantly, you can also hide items from the course navigation by dragging them below – you should take time to consider which items are important for students in the course and hide those that they will not use.
- Don’t forget to scroll to the bottoms of the page and click Save!
First, it is strongly recommended to use Modules list to organize course content- this will give students a single location they can go to in order to find content in the course.
In the Module list, an individual “Module” is added to the list by clicking the large green “+ Module” button at the top of the page and then course content (pages, discussions, assessments, etc…) are added by clicking the small gray “+” button next to an individual Module.
Pages placed in the Modules list will automatically have “Next” and “Previous” buttons on them that go to the previous and next content in the Module list.
For ease-of-use and consistent design, structure the module content on the pages the same and use page names (e.g. first page in a week is Overview and Objectives, next page is Content, and then Assignments after that). If you would like to add a template for a Module to your course, please check out the CSU Canvas Common Cartridge.
Readability refers to how easy it is to read the content in the course.
Specific to online content, take care to make sure course content is formatted in a clear and easy to read style. Tips include:
- Edit and proofread materials for spelling and grammar mistakes
- Group like content together on a page
- Use headers where appropriate to segment content (e.g. separating readings and videos under separate headers of “Readings” and “Videos”)
- Use clean, simple fonts (such as Calibri or Times New Roman) and consistent font size
- Break up content with white spaces (e.g. avoiding a “wall of text” — even if you need students to read a lot, use frequent paragraph breaks to make it easier on the eye)
- Use color sparingly and with enough contrast. Avoid the use of color alone to convey meaning.
Establishing instructor presence is an important part of engaging students in online courses and encouraging student to instructor interaction. The following tips will provide guidance to faculty for meeting QM Standards 1.8, 1.3, 5.3.
Instructor Introduction & Course Introduction
A good start to establishing strong instructor presence in online courses is to post an Instructor Introduction at the beginning of the course. Ideally, the introduction will include your photograph or a video so that students can put a face to the interactions that will come. Tell students about your experience and include some personalizing details. Welcome them to the course and give them a few tips on how to be successful as they navigate the online environment. This Instructor Introduction explains and encourages consistent student to instructor interaction.
In a separate video, the Course Introduction, go over some of the main features of the course. Will you be using announcements or messages to reach out to students? Discuss the grading scheme, and where they can find course details – the Syllabus, for example. Explain navigation within the course. Discuss one or more of the major assignments or projects students can start thinking about
Communication & Details
One key to success in online teaching and learning is communication. Students need clear, explicit instructions about your expectations of them, and what they can expect from you, their instructor. The Syllabus, Start Here pages, and the intro videos can include a lot of course details and expectations. Each assessment should include detailed instructions and a grading rubric. Use module pages to write information about weekly content and activities.
Anticipate Student Questions
Consider the questions students would ask you during a face-to-face classroom session. Add an FAQ page to clarify when you’re available, how students can best contact you, how soon you’ll respond if they email, text, or call you. This is a good place to state changes to policies – will you be more flexible about assignment due-dates? Will those remain the same? Are you uploading a new version of the Syllabus and/or schedule? What do you think they might ask, that you can answer here in a “Top Ten” list?
Regular announcements can also help keep students engaged and up to date in a course. When making announcements, be sure that the announcements are short and relevant. Give updates on upcoming assignments and quizzes or highlight some recent course events. Avoid just sending out announcements to ‘say hi’ to the students. Too many announcements and announcements that are not relevant might teach students to ignore them.
If you have included discussion boards in your online course, it is important to monitor activity and chime in periodically. Monitoring activity will help keep students on track and avoid any potential inappropriate communications. Additionally, students need to know that you’re consistently engaged in the course with them. You’re their guide through content and activities.
Additional ways to establish and increase instructor presence in your online course:
- Include short videos to communicate details about content and assignments in each module
- Short video lectures about specific topics
- Post audio announcements, responses to discussions, or assignment explanations
Sandercock, I. (2014, October 13). The Importance of Instructor Presence in Online Courses.
Kelly, R. (2017, April 4). Creating a Sense of Instructor Presence in the Online Classroom. Faculty Focus.
Setting expectations in your online course is critical for a learner’s success. From the beginning it is important for an instructor to establish clear expectations and to reinforce those expectations during the teaching of the course. The following tips will provide guidance to faculty for meeting QM Standards 1.3, 5.3, 5.4, 3.3, 5.4, and 3.2.
Below are some practical steps an instructor can take to establish clear expectations for an online course.
As a guide for the course, the Syllabus is a key document in communicating expectations to the learner. As an instructor consider providing clear and descriptive expectations for:
Communication – provide your contact information, preferred method of communication, and response time to inquiries
Virtual Office Hours – provide details on if you are holding virtual office hours include the day, time, and virtual meeting technology. If you are not hosting virtual office hours, let learners know how they can get in contact with you.
Grading Policy – clearly state the grading policy at the beginning of the course. Include information on how grades are calculated and the relationship between final letter grades and overall points, percentages, and weights (if applicable). Before the course begins update the grading scheme in Canvas to match the grading scheme listed in the Syllabus.
In addition to a clearly explained grading policy, provide learners with specific and descriptive criteria for how work is evaluated prior to the assignment or assessment. This criterion is most often in the form of a detailed rubric. Providing this information allows learners the opportunity to identify how a grade on an assignment is calculated and the criteria needed to earn they grade they want. Instructors can add interactive rubrics to assignments and discussions in Canvas. After added an interactive rubric in Canvas, these rubrics can be used to quickly grade assignments.
Late Assignment Policy – indicate to learners if late assignment submissions are permissible. If allowed, provide explanation for any point reduction if submitted late.
Feedback – frequent and timely feedback from instructors increases learner engagement and success. Provide learners details on when to expect feedback on assignments and discussions. An example statement included in a Syllabus:
As a student enrolled in this course, one of your responsibilities is to submit course work by the due dates listed in Canvas. With that said, I take my role as your instructor very seriously, and, in fact, I care about how well you do in this course and that you have a satisfying, rewarding experience.
To that end, it is my commitment to you to respond individually to the work you submit in this class and to return your work in a timely manner. Smaller, weekly assignments and quizzes will be returned within _X_ (week) days and major assignments, exams, and essays will be returned within _X_ (week) days. (If, however, due to unforeseeable circumstances, the grading of your work takes longer than the times I have listed here, I will keep you informed of my progress and make every effort to return your work with feedback as soon as I can.)
Institutional Policies – common CSU policies included in the Syllabus are: Student Code of Conduct, Academic Integrity, CSU Honor Pledge, Universal Design for Learning/Accommodation of Needs, Copyrighted Course Materials, Undocumented Student Support, Title IX/Interpersonal Violence, Religious Observances, CSU Principles of Community, and Diversity and Inclusion.
Setting due dates in Canvas for assessments and activities allows learners to manage workload and deadlines.
include clear instructions and expectations for the student including any specific requirements such as font size, length of the paper, APA guidelines, cover page, number of required resources (if applicable), and other pertinent information to assist the student.
in the assessment instructions provide instructions and criteria including course content being assessed, number of attempts, open exam or proctored information, time allocated for the exam, open and closed dates, and due date.
To promote active involvement in the course and allow learners to manager their participation, provide clearly stated requirements for learner interaction. This includes expectations related to frequency, length, timeliness requirements such as initial posting date, number of posts required, number of responses to peers, response posting date, and netiquette expectations.
Kumar, P., & Skrocki, M. (2017, May 16). Ensuring Student Success in Online Courses. Faculty Focus.
Dimeo, J. (2017, November 15). Take My Advice. Inside Higher Ed.
University of North Texas
Frequent and timely feedback from instructors increases learner engagement and success in online courses. When teaching online you can give feedback to learners in a variety of ways, using different online tools, to encourage and support their engagement and success. The following tips will provide guidance to faculty for meeting QM Standards 3.3, 3.5, and 5.3.
The Importance of Feedback
Feedback is essential for learners to know how well they are grasping a course’s subject matter and to allow them to track their progress. The goals of feedback are encouragement, support, redirection, and course-correction.
Quality feedback is never exclusively about improvements that can be made; it should also be positive and constructive. For example, instead of simply stating “good job”, let the learner know exactly what they did well and what stood out. After providing encouragement, give specific and actionable feedback on where improvements can be made. Giving learners specific, detailed improvements allows them the opportunity to improve their performance on future assignments.
Regular and frequent feedback initiates interaction with learners builds instructor presence in an online environment, contributes to the creation of a community of learning, and supports learner engagement. Provide feedback to assignments, reply to discussion boards, and post announcements!
A best practice is to provide learners feedback within one week of the assignment submission. If you anticipate not being able to meet the deadline you set for yourself, for whatever reason, communicate that with learners.
Providing timely and frequent feedback on learners’ work gives them support and guidance that may improve their performance on subsequent assessments. Waiting too long after an assignment or quiz is submitted denies students important information they can use in your course and beyond. Don’t wait until the end of the semester to post comments, feedback, and grades.
Canvas Tools for Feedback
A rubric provides learners with specific and descriptive criteria for how work is evaluated. Using this information, learners know what is required in order to earn maximum points in all criteria being assessed. Rubrics ensure that students are all graded on the same scale, against the same guidelines. Using rubrics to grade assignment, you can also enter specific comments. Instructors can add interactive rubrics to assignments and discussions in Canvas. After adding an interactive rubric in Canvas, these rubrics can be used to quickly grade assignments.
SpeedGrader is the grading tool in Canvas which displays learners’ work submitted through Assignments, Discussions, and Quizzes. Within SpeedGrader is the Canvas DocViewer that allows you to annotate, comment, and provide in-line feedback on assignments. This is another tool that enables you to give frequent and timely feedback specific to support each learner’s success. Learners can review your markups and comments when they access Grades.
The Announcement Tool is effective for providing whole class feedback, especially after a major assignment or exam. Post a brief update of what was done well, topics commonly missed, and resources to help foster improvement and encouragement to re-visit key course concepts.
Beverley, Getzlaf & Beth, Perry & Greg, Toffner & Kimberley, Lamarche & Margaret, Edwards. (2009). Effective Instructor Feedback: Perceptions of Online Graduate Students. Journal of Educators Online. 6. 10.9743/JEO.2009.2.1.
Atkinson, D., & Siew Leng, L. (2013).Improving assessment processes in higher education: Student and teacher perceptions of the effectiveness of a rubric embedded in a LMS. Australasian Journal Of Educational Technology, 29(5), pp. 651-666.
Rottmann, A., & Rabidoux, S. (2017, September 6). How to Provide Meaningful Feedback Online. Inside Higher Ed.
Kelly, R. (2014, February 27). Feedback Strategies for Online Courses. Faculty Focus.
Fiock, H., & Garcia, H. (2019, November 11). How to Give Your Students Better Feedback With Technology. Chronicle of Higher Education.
Giving learners options for how they consume instructional content creates an engaging learning environment (QM Standard 4.5). While textbooks are one of the most common instructional materials, think about including:
- Faculty created short video lectures (less than 10 minutes)
- Scholarly articles
- Open Educational Resources
- Virtual Tours (such as Smithsonian or the Louvre)
- Media resources from CSU Libraries
With so many different types of instructional materials available it is important to select materials that align with and contribute to the stated learning objectives (QM Standard 4.1). To model academic integrity and learner expectation, cite all instructional materials using a standard format (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.) (QM Standard 4.3).
Open Educational Resources (OER)
What are Open Educational Resources?
To put it simply, OER are course and research resources that are free to use because of open licensing. They can often be repurposed, edited, or otherwise altered by anyone who would like to utilize them, providing flexibility to instructors who choose to use OER in their courses. OER range from full courses to textbooks, tests, and interactive learning software.
What are the benefits of using OER in my course?
Here are a few reasons to consider using OER:
- OER are FREE for instructors and students, alleviating some of the financial burden of attending a higher education institution and creating a more equitable experience for students
- Most OER can be repurposed, edited, or otherwise altered by anyone, providing flexibility to instructors who want to tailor resources directly to meet their learning objectives and needs
- Many OER are peer reviewed by experts in the field, which ensures accuracy that often extends beyond the information checks run on traditional textbooks by editors
- The online format of OER allows students and instructors to access these resources anywhere they have internet access (and sometimes, even where they don’t!)
Where can I find OER resources?
The CSU Libraries maintain a comprehensive list of OER resources, as well as individualized support for faculty interested in adopting OER into their courses. Please visit their online guide to learn more.