LETU Online Instruction Quick Start Guide

Prepare In Advance

On-ground classes may rarely experience an interruption in the ability to hold in-person sections. Fortunately, technology resources today provide a path for virtually continuing instruction. When the ability to hold classes in person is interrupted, or large numbers of students are unable to attend in person, the guide below can assist in providing alternate methods of continuing coursework until the situation causing the interruption has passed.

Have a Plan

Severe weather or a health crisis can result in missed class time for students and faculty. This may require instructional flexibility with due dates, assignments and excused absences. One way to avoid confusion is by providing clear channels of communication regarding any changes to your syllabus so that the campus closure does not derail educational progress. This may mean adjusting due dates and posting in your syllabus a statement that encourages students to identify an alternative location with strong internet connection, or how to access offline content for completing class assignments.

To successfully continue instruction during an emergency,  instructors, students and course content all need to be prepared for alternate means of course delivery. The information below provides guidance based on a number of categories.

Preparing Students

  • At the beginning of the semester, create an emergency plan for online instruction for each of your courses that are normally taught on-ground and include this plan in your syllabus or within your course Modules. Inform students in advance how to access Canvas remotely at https://courses.letu.edu) , how to communicate with you and any expectations for attendance or excused absences.
  • Consider adding the following statement to your syllabus: “In the event of an emergency class cancellation, please refer to the course materials in Canvas for further instructions. See Student Canvas Startup Guide (https://wiki.letu.edu/display/itkb/?pageId=57476204) for more information on how to use Canvas.”
  • We also recommend creating Announcements if your materials are in a Canvas course site.
  • Inform students of your continued plan for communicating and continuing the course, including plans and policies for when the college is closed and plans and policies for when the college is open, including expectations for absences.
  • Provide clear instructions on how to access the course Canvas site, help resources, and any other necessary electronic resources. Direct them Canvas student tutorials here:
  • This sample Announcement contains suggested wording for a potential campus closure:
    Announcement: Campus is closed but we will continue class online.

    During this time when students are unable to come to campus for class, this class will stay up to date with course materials and collaborate with one another online through Canvas. Access Canvas remotely through this website: https://courses.letu.edu

    Course requirements, classes, deadlines, and grading schemes are subject to change. This may include alternative delivery methods, alternative methods of interaction with the instructor, class materials, and/or classmates, and revised attendance policies, semester calendars and/or grading schemes.

    Take a look at the materials made available under the Modules tab. There will be important information such as [a video, new course materials for this week’s content, and an activity that is due this week etc etc].

    Take note of the updated schedule for when and how to connect online over the next few weeks and let the instructor know if there are any questions. The instructor will hold office hours this week via   

    For questions or assistance with Canvas or other classroom technology, contact the LETU helpdesk at https://servicedesk.letu.edu

    Campus emergency communications will be sent from LETU's ECCS Emergency Communications system. If you haven't already signed up for text or email notifications from this system please do so here: Emergency Campus Communication System (ECCS) - Signing Up and Opting Out

Technical Preparation

Moving Course Activities Online

The material in this section has been adapted from Farleigh Dickinson University’s “Faculty Quickstart Guide” and Virginia Community Colleges' VCCS Golf Plan.


Even though not physically present in class, students may continue to learn subject matter by participating in online discussions, working on problem sets, writing research papers or essays, watching videos or listening to online lectures, and more. Virtual instruction resource provide many ways to hold your class even if an emergency closes the campus. Nonetheless, there will be limitations making certain types of assignments more difficult that you will need to think through and come up with creative solutions for. For example, students will be able to write papers, but if they are used to using the library for research they may need to be reminded of LETU's extensive Online Research Database library. To prepare yourself to take your students’ learning online in an emergency, please complete the following steps.

  • Look at the objectives in your course content summary.
  • For each learning objective, write down the supporting activities you currently use in the classroom.
  • For each activity, consider virtual instruction or learning alternatives. Look at the “Categories for Moving Classroom Activities Online” section of this document for specific suggestions of possible online activities.
  • Also, look at the section “Methods for Providing High-Quality Online Instruction” for guidance on how to create a quality online learning experience for your students.
  • Identify challenges you may encounter for each typical classroom activity during an emergency (e.g. availability of certain support services, access to laboratory resources). For some challlenges, consider alternative methods for achieving the learning objective in question. Be creative, and focus on the desired learning outcome rather than your typical instructional methods. Some classes are heavily weighted towards hands‐on student experiences (e.g. laboratory sciences, studio art, fieldwork). If a majority of your course learning outcomes will be unachievable in an emergency situation, let your Dean know as soon as possible. Such courses must be identified prior to an emergency so alternative plans can be made.
  • Write a description of your current activities and possible emergency alternatives so that you are ready to create new assignments and materials quickly if an emergency does arise.

Categories for Moving Classroom Activities Online

Here are ideas of how you might accomplish your learning objectives online in an emergency:


  • Record short lecture “snippets” using Panopto
  • Record a voice presentation in Canvas and add it to an Announcement or Page
  • Upload PowerPoint Slides with narration
  • Hold class using Canvas Conferences or Microsoft Teams at the exact time class would normally meet
  • Search the internet (or a teaching materials repository) for Open Educational Resources (OER) or websites that teach the same content you would have covered in your lecture. Give students specific instructions on what to review on the website; consider assigning questions they should answer as they review it.

Independent Learning

  • LETU Hoonuit is a great resource for video-based online training in many technology areas.


  • Search YouTube, TeacherTube, TED talks as well as textbook companion websites for videos or interactive websites that show the demonstration you planned to do in class
  • Post a problem to be solved in a Canvas Discussion in and have students post ideas for solutions


  • Delay lab assignments until the college reopens, if possible
  • Create alternative labs that could be safely conducted at home using normal household supplies or virtual resources such as Merlot Free Virtual Labs
  • Find video using YouTube, TeacherTube that shows the necessary principles through demonstration


  • Give quiz or exam through Canvas (use the Time Limit feature to restrict the student’s ability to consult materials while taking the test)
  • Create an open‐book, take‐home style exam, such as in‐depth essays or document analysis

Class Discussions

  • Use a Discussion in Canvas. Post some questions for discussion and have students respond to your question and to each other
  • Create a Conference in Canvas to hold class meetings
  • Host a Microsoft Teams ad-hoc meeting to interact with the class for casual office hours or where more specific Canvas integration is not needed

Group Work

  • Create small group discussions in Canvas for student planning and collaboration
  • Use Google Apps for students to create shared documents
  • Have students present their group work to the whole‐class discussion and let other students post questions and comments in response

Peer Review  

  • Create small group discussions in Canvas for pairs or small groups to post their work and receive feedback from classmates


  • Have students record presentations using Studio in Canvas
  • Have students post presentation documents in a Canvas Discussion and let other students post comments and questions in response

Review a Reading Assignment  

  • Use Canvas Conferences or Microsoft Teams to have a real-time chat with students and review a reading assignment
  • Use Panopto to record yourself leading students through the key points and features of the reading assignment
  • Create a guided question‐and‐answer assignment that lets students lead themselves through the key points of the reading assignment

Review Course Content  

  • Form online study groups via Canvas, see What are Groups?. Give students a specific section of material to review and summarize and have them share their summaries with the whole class in the discussion forum. 
  • Use Canvas Conferences or Microsoft Teams to hold a review session
  • Use a Canvas Discussion to have students post their questions and answer their classmates’ questions

Find Out How Students Are Doing in the Class

Office Hours  

  • Use Microsoft Teams to instant message with students
  • Use Canvas Conferences or Microsoft Teams to offer video office hours or audio conferencing if you do not wish to use your personal phone number when calling students

Provide Offline Resources  



Methods for Providing High-Quality Online Instruction 


The LETU Continuity of Operations Plan has been developed to prepare for an operational emergency that forces the college to cease offering face‐to‐face classes for an extended period of time. A major part of that plan is ensuring that in the event of an emergency, classes could continue via virtual resources. Successful implementation of this plan requires growth in online instruction and Canvas skills to teach online as well as an understanding of effective instruction in this new environment. Please consider the following guidance:

Maintain a High Level of Instruction 

  • Address recall, application, and critical thinking in the learning objectives using Blooms Taxonomy
  • Write learning objectives that are consistent with LETU's course content summary.
  • Describe measurable outcomes and focus on what students will learn in the learning objectives
  • Design learning activities that match the objectives in type of learning and relative importance
  • Provide Active learning in a virtual environment (REF:  UCDavis Active learning in the online environment)
  • Provide practice and feedback before the final assessment
  • Gradually increase the difficulty of learning activities
  • Require approximately the same amount and level of work as campus courses
  • Require active learning beyond reading and viewing
  • Provide student choice where possible
  • Provide a variety of activities
  • Prepare students for assessment with the learning activities. Include assignments that would reduce the possibility of cheating, such as timed tests in Canvas or submission of drafts to Turnitin
  • Include grading criteria and type of feedback to be given in learning activity directions. If possible, use rubrics to facilitate your grading and to communicate your expectations in advance to your students.

Engage Students in Learning and Interaction 

  • Record a welcome video for students as an introduction and course description
    • Make your video short and engaging
    • Show off your personality so that your students get to know who you are
    • Go over your expectations for the students
    • Go over any special instructions
    • Reiterate your office hours  
  • Engage students by challenging common assumptions, by introducing significant problems, and by encouraging personal applications
  • Include community-building activities
  • Include meaningful discussion to support understanding, application, problem‐solving, and critical thinking Include guidance and expectations for discussion contributions 
  • If used, design group activities to include stage‐setting, modeling, guidance, and evaluation
  • Establish communication expectations
  • Provide opportunities for students to reflect on their learning

Promote Active Involvement in the Course Throughout the Semester, Including:  

  • Make regular, proactive contact with each class (for example, make a weekly text or voice announcement in Canvas, send a weekly email message to the class, etc.)
  • Participate in course discussion forums appropriately. You can save time by posting a summary of the discussion instead of reply to each student individually. Intervene by clarifying/refocusing if a discussion wanes or veers off-topic
  • Create an open discussion forum and instruct your students to post questions to the forum and respond to queries posted in it each of the five days per week to show that you are available to students.
  • Establish a social presence (sharing personal information about yourself so your students can get to know you and using a friendly tone in your communications to them)
  • Work to develop rapport with your students, just as you would in the classroom. Find out about your students’ backgrounds and interests and use these to tailor explanations and feedback
  • Deal promptly with disruptive students to restore order and a safe environment for the class
  • Encourage students to communicate with you and to share ideas and cooperate with each other
  • Contact, encourage and follow up with students who are not participating/making progress in the course

Communicate Effectively With Your Students 

  • Post and observe your online office hours. If a meeting, travel, etc., prevents you from holding a normal office hour, announce this change to your students by email and/or Canvas announcement 
  • Respond to student inquiries within 24‐48 hours
  • Provide grades and detailed, constructive feedback on assignments within one week. This can be done in Canvas via comments you post in the Gradebook.
  • Be available and responsive to students five days (of your choosing) per week. Be sure students know which two days of the week they should not expect you to be available. Being “available” these five days a week includes responding to student email, confirming receipt of assignments, logging into Canvas to monitor and participate in discussion forums, and working on grading

Follow Good Practices for Effective Communication in an Online Environment

  • Be aware of the challenges in conveying information by email. Word your messages carefully, use language that students understand, use humor judiciously, and consider using phone calls or voice emails instead of text emails for complicated matters
  • Avoid terse communications—include a greeting and make your messages, even brief announcements, friendly
  • Model and encourage respectful and constructive communication in the discussion forums and in your email messages and feedback
  • Recognize student problems early, work with the student to diagnose the problem, and provide appropriate assistance or referral (e.g., direct students to counselors or assist the student in finding campus or online help resources)
  • Use only your COLLEGE NAME email, and your students’ College email (username@email.vccs.edu), when discussing any personal matters, including grades.

Use Technology Well  

  • Use Canvas for the basic environment
  • Use technology that is appropriate for the learning activities, not vice versa
  • Use technology commonly available to students
  • Support student use of technology
  • Provide alternate technologies for accessibility
  • Plan for technology failures

Use the Canvas Mobile App for Communication, Grading, Assignments, and alternately Microsoft Teams for Communication and ad-hoc meetings.

Canvas and Pedagogy Webinar Recordings with Slides

Visit https://edtech.vccs.edu/webinars/

Here you will find Canvas Webinars that include:

  • LMS Best Practices in All Modalities
  • Canvas Basics
  • Google in Canvas
  • Canvas Gradebook
  • Quizzes and New Quizzes
  • Studio
  • Zoom Basics

Use the search bar on the page to look for specific other topics not listed here. 

Make Your Canvas Course Easy to Use 

  • Provide clear, complete directions
  • Structure course navigation in user‐friendly format
  • Avoid unnecessary and empty menu items and folders
  • Speak directly to students – avoid the third person grammatical style
  • Use imperative mood for directions
  • Be consistent

Provide for Learner Support  

  • Include your current information and office hours
  • Include student technical support information:
    LETU IT Helpdesk:
    (903) 233-3500


What To Do When The Time Comes

If an emergency does happen, here’s how to get started: 

  • Communicate with your students right away. Remind them of your plan for continuing with the class and of how to access class materials online or offline.
  • Go back to your planned alternate activities and begin creating online activities for upcoming class material. Keep your students informed about what you are doing, when they can access the new assignments, and how they should proceed with their work.
  • Contact your Dean immediately if you are having problems making the transition or have questions about the flexibility you should offer your students.

Don’t Panic 

  • You can get help from the CDT Team at (903) 233-4070 for Canvas, Panopto, and other instructional technology issues, or from the IT Helpdesk at (903) 233-3500 for Email, Microsoft Teams or general technology issues.
  • You can also visit the LETU Knowledgebase for more information



This resource is based on excellent work collected by the Virginia Community Colleges, Farleigh Dickinson University, Germanna Community College, Northern Virginia Community College and Piedmont Virginia Community College and Duke University's Keeping a College Class Going During an Emergency.



Article ID: 121835
Fri 12/4/20 9:56 AM
Fri 2/5/21 12:49 PM