UW Continuum College Instructor Resources

Instructional Expectations for Real-Time Online Instructors

Developed by Malia Morrison and Ashley Kim, April 28, 2020

Teaching in the real-time online format is a dance between live sessions in Zoom and asynchronous content in Canvas. The entire learning experience is remote so materials need to be organized and communications need to be explicit in both platforms. During Zoom sessions, the students can ask questions and have a nuanced discussion in real time but during the rest of the week they interact with the course only through Canvas, so both experiences need to be effective and complementary. 

Below are instructional expectations for both platforms that will ensure that students have an exceptional real-time online learning experience. Below the expectations are links to Zoom and Canvas tutorials.

Before First Zoom Class Session

Zoom Setup

  1. Set up Zoom Pro Account and find Zoom Room: Go to UW IT’s website  to set up your a Zoom Pro account with your UW Net ID. Use your personal Zoom room for all the class meetings.
  2. Share Zoom Room Link: Either on the homepage or in a “Zoom Class Meeting” page within the course orientation module, include a schedule of the class meetings, the Zoom link, and instructions for how to join Zoom. Also include this information in your welcome announcement.
  3. Check Zoom Account Settings These can be done at washington.zoom.us/profile
  4. Practice: Test your Zoom room with someone, practice being host, sharing screen, etc. (feel free to ask your program manager)

Canvas Setup

  1. Build or Adapt Your Canvas Site: Creating an organized and thorough Canvas site is essential for a real-time online course. If you previously taught the course in the classroom, you will need to spend some time adapting Canvas for an online learning experience.
    • Content: Ensure your Canvas site contains all relevant content for each lesson (i.e. slide decks, links to readings and videos, quizzes, assignments)
    • Provide Context: Make sure that there is adequate supporting text for each lesson. Consider doing this by creating an overview page for each lesson module.
    • Assignments: Set up all homework instructions and due dates using the assignments feature in Canvas
      • The assignments feature allows you to view, comment on, and grade most file types within the browser using “speed grader,” which is a feature that will streamline your grading significantly.
      • Alternatively, consider using graded discussions as assignments, which allows students to see all submissions and your comments.
    • Discussions: Create a general course discussion board and encourage students to post questions so all can see answers and contribute. Determine if lesson-specific discussion boards are needed – they are most effective if they contain a specific prompt and are graded. Be sure to set up a discussion board in the first lesson asking everyone to introduce themselves. Discussion boards encourage thoughtful engagement with course material and collaborative learning with peers. Moreover, discussion boards make a student’s understanding (and interpretation) of the material more visible.
    • Organization: Make your site navigable so students can easily find what they need. Let your program manager know if you need help getting your Canvas site organized or would like to see examples. Here is a recommended structure:
      • Home page  
        • Instructor(s) name, contact info, meeting dates, Zoom link, Zoom help link
        • “Getting started” note or video including your expectations from students, prep work, Canvas navigation, etc.
        • Textbook and technology requirements
        • Course learning objectives
        • Course grading structure
      • General discussion board for questions
      • Lesson Modules
        • Content – learning objectives and supporting text, readings, curated links, videos, slide decks
        • Assignment with submission deadlines and points – include grading rubric
        • Lesson-level discussion board – include prompt, consider whether graded or ungraded (optional)
        • Activity (optional)
        • Quiz (optional)
  • Review Your Canvas Site: If you are using a pre-existing Canvas site, access the site early to check content accuracy for the upcoming course. *Students will get access to Canvas one week before the class starts.
    • Check dates and links
    • Update content, syllabus and bio as needed
    • Delete outdated files and discussions
    • Confirm that all assignments have accurate due dates
    • Publish all content for upcoming lesson at the start of the week (Friday night is best for working students) or earlier as some students like to look ahead. You can set release dates for modules ahead of time.
  • Other Canvas Admin:
    • Set up notifications for conversations (which is what Canvas calls its internal email), discussion posts, submission comments, etc. so that you are able to respond to student questions within 72 hours. Canvas allows you to set up these notifications on a course-by-course basis.
    • Post welcome announcement a few days prior to class and weekly announcements at the start of each new lesson.
    • Ensure that the correct Zoom link and the time of the Zoom sessions is in your course overview in Canvas. Include the Zoom link in your welcome announcement.

During Your Zoom Sessions

First Class

  1. Zoom Orientation with Students: Introduce the following Zoom features on the first day of class
    • Audio: selecting microphone and speaker, mute, un-mute, host can mute all (click “participants” to find “mute all” button)
    • Video: turn on/off, hide self-view, instructor camera should be on the whole time, encourage students to turn video on when speaking at the least
    • Participants: non-verbal response icons, re-name feature (they can change to first name only for privacy)
    • Chat: chat with everyone vs private, tell students if you want them to type questions into chat during lecture
    • View: Screen sharing, Different screen views (full screen, fit to window, etc.)
  2. Canvas Walkthrough: Share your screen and orient students to your Canvas site on the first day of class. Consider having them do a navigation activity such as a Canvas scavenger hunt.
  3. Communication Outside of Zoom: Let students know how to communicate with you and other students outside of the Zoom session. We suggest Canvas inbox and discussion boards to keep it contained in one platform. Also provide students with an expected response time.  
  4. Communication in Zoom: Indicate how you want students to ask questions during your lectures and don’t forget to pause to look at the chat. When you ask questions, you will need to specify how you want students to respond. Here are some options:
    • Yes/no question: ask everyone to use non-verbal yes/no icons (under participants)
    • Open ended question with short response: ask everyone type something into the chat
    • Open-ended question: ask anyone to jump in and answer verbally
    • Open-ended question: ask students to raise hand using non-verbal icon and then call on someone

Every Class

  1. Admin: Having a set routine will help both you and students stay organized
    • Weekly announcement: Use the “announcements” feature in Canvas to tell students what to expect in the coming week and remind them of upcoming due dates.        
    • Welcome Students: Start the Zoom room at least five minutes before class and have your video on so you can welcome students and build rapport. Consider doing an icebreaker while you wait. For example, ask a question and have everyone put a short response into chat (e.g. fun thing you did on the weekend, last thing you ate, something you’d like more clarification on, etc.) You can do this while you’re waiting for folks to log in at the start of class. It should generate some fun conversations. Building community in online classes is important!
    • Take attendance: Determine how you will track attendance. Students in real-time online courses are required to attend 60% of class sessions in real time. Two options: Set up Canvas attendance tool and take roll (be sure to disengage default setting that assigns 100 points to attendance). Or have people type “here” in chat and track it before you log out.
    • Record session to the cloud:  After the session you will receive an email to your UW email address with the recording link, which you can post to Canvas.
    • Take breaks: Take a 10 minute break each hour. Consider setting a timer to remind you to do this and don’t worry if breaks don’t align with lesson segments.
  2. Online Learning Best Practice: Remote learning sessions can feel isolated and disjointed, making it hard for students to stay focused. Here are some tips to keep students engaged and connected during your sessions.
    • Session Overview: Present learning objectives and agenda at the beginning of each session so students know what to expect
    • Use Visuals: Have visual aids such as slides or whatever program or website you are referring to for all key parts of your lesson.
    • Change Interactions every 20 Minutes. Examples of different types of interactions on Zoom: lecture, demonstration, whole-class discussion, small group activity or discussion in breakout room, poll, quiz, student presentation, homework review, activity outside of Zoom (see below)
    • Incorporate Individual Work: Try to do at least one individual activity outside of Zoom during your session (e.g. in Canvas, using other software or a website, using pencil and paper). Give detailed instructions and a specific time to return to Zoom before sending students off for the activity. Tell them to stay logged into Zoom and that you are there to help via chat during the activity. Leave instructions on screen during activity and discuss after calling everyone back together. If you prefer the students to do the activity on their own time, reduce the Zoom session time accordingly.
    • Structure Group Work: If doing a group activity in breakout rooms, give detailed instructions and a time limit and describe what they will do with their deliverable at the end of the activity. You can break people into random or pre-selected groups and assign roles if relevant. During the activity, visit each group in their breakout room. Give yourself time to test breakout room feature beforehand.
    • Review Homework Submissions: Use time in each live session to review a few assignment submissions – you will find that this often generates rich discussion. Not reviewing successful attempts and examples of common challenges keeps major learning moments locked up. Make learning visible!
  3. Wrap Up: Make sure to leave yourself enough time at the end to wrap up your session.
    • Preview Homework: Don’t just tell them about the homework – pull up Canvas and show them where to find it and go over the instructions and the due date.  
    • Open Time: Consider having the last 10 minutes of each session as open Q&A time or to give students the opportunity to chat with each other either as a group or privately.

Training Resources


Instructor Guide:  Getting Started with Zoom  (written instructions on Zoom features with links to how-to videos)

How-to guides for key features in Zoom:


Instructions for Canvas Features:

  1. Work within Modules to view, edit, and organize course components
  2. Upload course files (Hint: you will be given the option to replace an old version of a file if you upload the new one with the same file name)
  3. View user detailsaccess student view, and see course analytics
  4. Edit due dates and assignment details
  5. Organize the Gradebook and use SpeedGrader
  6. Interact with students via ConversationsAnnouncements, and Discussions
  7. Edit pagesinsert web URLs, and insert links to files
  8. Set up and manage Student Groups
  9. Set your Profile and Notification Settings

UWC² Tech Support

Contact ctnmhelp@uw.edu or call 206-685-6372. There will be evening/ Saturday staffing during the first two weeks of the quarter

Working With an Instructional Assistant

Some real-time online courses are assigned an instructional assistant (IA). If your course has an IA, you and your program manager should work together to clearly delineate what the IA will do. This should be clearly documented and communicated to the IA. Following are common responsibilities for an IA in a real-time online course:

  • Zoom Admin
    • Upload class session recordings to Canvas. Make sure students know to download videos before they expire
    • Log into all class sessions via Zoom
    • Monitor chat during class session, alert instructor as needed
  • Student-related administration
    • Record class session attendance.
    • When a student misses two class sessions, reach out to student to find out how they’re doing, encourage them to stay in class or refer them to student support specialists – enroll@pce.uw.edu
  • Canvas Discussions
    • Monitor main course discussion board and relevant weekly discussion board.
    • Respond to questions and notify instructor of more advanced questions that the instructor needs to respond to.
  • Grading
    • If grading is a part of the IA’s responsibilities, how grading will be divided between instructor and IA should be clarified (e.g. will IA will cover certain assignments or a certain set of students or do first pass with instructor doing final review)
    • Midway through the quarter check students’ progress and email those who have several missing assignments to encourage them to submit and see if they need help. Copy the instructor on these emails.