The University of Iowa

Student success is influenced by a student's hard work and commitment and by the course design and facilitation decisions that instructors make. Supporting student success is not a one-time activity, but a set of strategies that impact how we: 

The content and resources on this page aim to provide guidance on strategies to support virtual learners. When used effectively and consistently, these strategies positively impact the time invested in facilitating and managing your course.  

Orienting Students 

Onboarding students is key to success in a virtual learning environment. This process involves activities and information that help students better understand course expectations, meet the community of learners they will engage with, and become acquainted with the resources available to them. 

Communicating with Students 

Students benefit from frequent and consistent communication. In the absence of a face-to-face interaction, instructor communications provide timely reminders of course expectations and help students overcome feelings of isolation. The following applications can be used to communicate with students: 

  • ICON is the best way to connect with students about their learning.    
    • Use Announcements to send messages to an entire class. Take advantage of the Delay Posting setting to plan your communications. 
    • Communicate to students about setting their Notifications in Canvas to ensure that they receive messages.  
    • Use the Students Who... function in the Gradebook to contact students with specific characteristics, such as those who haven’t turned in an assignment. 
    • Provide students with grades and actionable feedback using the SpeedGrader and/or the Gradebook
  • Use UICapture to create short video updates and add them to your ICON course site.  
  • Use your UI email address if you wish to communicate via email.

Virtual Office Hours 

  • Zoom is a web conferencing tool.   
  • The Waiting Room feature prevents other students from inadvertently interrupting or overhearing private concerns.   
  • Canvas Appointment Groups can help students sign up for times within a given period to meet with you.
  • You can also use email/Office 365 to connect with students asynchronously. 

Planning Communications

Plan your communications during the design phase of your course or prior to the start of the semester to ensure that you provide students with meaningful, timely, and consistent communications. 

Taking a proactive approach to student-instructor communications allows you to write a detailed plan for how, when, and why you will reach out to students. The template below offers a potential approach to planning your communications.  

FileDetailed Communication Planner. Identify how you typically want to interact, weekly announcement or video, as well as how you will respond to specific course tasks, SpeedGrader or Gradebook. Once you have determined your communication pattern, add those details to your syllabus and clearly communicate them to students. 

Struggling Students 

In this section, we will highlight some of the services and offices that are available to help support students.  

  • Academic Support and Retention provides a central referral location, through Excelling@Iowa, that helps connect faculty to various campus resources. 
  • Tutor Iowa is resource for students searching for academic assistance and mentoring for UI courses. The site includes learning strategies, academic tip worksheets, and videos with new resources to support virtual learning. 
  • University Counseling Service is available to support students’ emotional health.  
  • Drive-up wireless service provides students, faculty, and staff with access to high-speed internet without entering campus buildings.

International Students

Students with Disabilities

  • Contact students who are using accommodations to see if any adjustments need to be made. 
  • Encourage students to contact you if they experience challenges learning in a virtual environment. 
  • Minimize the number of tools a student must access to participate in your course to help students who must adapt the tools for their use. 
  • Contact Student Disability Services if you have any questions about meeting a student’s accommodation need.   
  • Visit Accessibility and Online Immersion for more information.

Other Resources Available to Students

Technology Solutions 

Not sure which tool will best fit your needs? Get help using technology for your classes. Contact the ITS Help Desk or the Office of Teaching, Learning & Technology.