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Course Delivery & Management

Course Delivery & Management

Teaching online is not bounded by in-class time. The instructor's time management and resources is very important to both the instructor and the student. These sections will provide information on the expectations of our online instructors before, during and after the semester.

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Course information

Required Course Materials

Review the most updated list of required material and software for your online course.

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Proctored Exams

Academic integrity is of utmost importance to our programs. We use Examity to proctor our online exams.

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Online Teaching Tips

Online Teaching Tips

Review the list of online teaching tips, many of which have been shared by our own faculty.

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Canvas Best Practices: Faculty

Check out these tips for using Canvas in your online course.

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Course Delivery & Management

Course Delivery & Management

Course delivery and management involves getting ready to teach online, strategies to teach online as well as working with the various technologies related to education at a distance.

Use the links below and to the left to read through and think about how you might use some these ideas, strategies or technologies in your own online courses!

Syllabus Template

Syllabus Template

The online and resident courses must adhere to the syllabus policies as outlined by University Faculty Senate policy 43-00.

Click on the following links to see specifics for required and optional topics for your syllabus.

PSU General Syllabus Policies

For the most recent list of required statement view the policy:

Course Information


  • Course Number and Title
  • Semester
  • Instructor: (e.g. name, contact information office hours)
  • Instructor availability & communication (e.g. response times, how to email, Zoom information if applicable)
  • Teaching assistant information (if applicable)
  • Course overview
  • Course goals
  • Course topics
  • Prerequisites (if applicable)



  • Textbooks and other materials for purchase (full citation including ISBN if applicable)
  • Free materials that are required for the course
  • Technology (free or paid) that is required for the course
    • Information on how to download, access or purchase the technology


  • Web materials links (e.g. online notes link, other external sites)

Technical Requirements

Optional (recommended)

  • Technical requirements for online courses on the Dept of Statistics website
  • Examity technical requirements (if applicable)

Student Expectations

Optional (recommended)

  • Participation (what is meant by 'participation' in your course, is it graded?)
  • Weekly cadence (what is the suggested weekly path through the lessons? (e.g. ...Monday: Read lesson notes and book, Tuesday: Start lab...))
  • Student responsibilities (what are they responsible for? reading all announcements? letting you know ahead of time of scheduling issues?)



  • Assessment plan
    • Assignments (what are the major categories? provide general overviews of each category)
    • Exams (how many?, which ones?, general overviews, are they proctored?)
  • Exam proctoring notice



  • Grading scale
  • Assignment category weighting

Optional (recommended)

  • Late and missing submission policy

Additional Policies


  • Disability accommodation statement
  • Counseling and psychological services statement
  • Educational equity/report bias
  • Academic integrity
  • Course copyright
  • Help resources

Optional (recommended)

  • Student responsibilities and conduct
  • Military personnel
  • Netiquette
  • Subject to change statement

Syllabus Template

Preview and download the accessible syllabus template in Microsoft Word.

Online Teaching Tips

Online Teaching Tips

This pages contains various teaching tips and best practices developed by the online STAT instructors.

Click on the links below to expand the selection.

Teaching Tips and Best Practices

Canvas File Upload Assignments can be graded in Speedgrader - BUT there is no timer connected to these assignments.

Canvas Quizzes have a timer. Canvas Quizzes can include a File Upload question type.

We use Canvas Quizzes for assessments. Often there is only one question in the quiz. The one question is a File Upload question. When the student enters the quiz, the timer starts and the student is presented in the first question of the quiz which has a a link to download the Word document with the questions to work on. When finished, they select the filled-in Word file and upload this back into the question. Once they get the message that their file has been submitted, THEN they can submit and exit the quiz. The time the student took to complete this one question is recorded.

Grading File Upload Questions

When you open the Speedgrader for these types of One-Question File Upload quizzes you see the results of the one question - the student's file that they uploaded. The Speedgrader will allow you to enter the points received for this one question but does NOT open the Word document online for comments.

Instead, here is one way to make the grading process efficient.

Grading using the Adobe Acrobat Reader App

  • Enter the Speedgrader and click on the link on the right for Download Submissions. You should now have all of the students submissions in one folder on your computer.
  • Use the web service Online 2 pdf ( to convert all the submitted word files into .pdf files if not already. This site will allow you to drag multiple files at once. If you convert multiple files, make sure you select Convert Files Separately for the Mode.
  • Copy all of your files into a folder in DropBox.
  • On the iPad download and install two free apps from the App Store: the Adobe Acrobat Reader app and Dropbox app.
  • In the Adobe Acrobat Reader app - look for the ability to connect this to your DropBox account.
  • Open the student .pdf files in you DropBox account through the Adobe Acrobat Reader app. Here you can use your stylus to grade the papers just as you would if they were printed out. Be sure to save before scrolling.
  • Once you have graded through all of the papers, they can be uploaded back into Canvas for each student.

Here is a quick overview of what this looks like.

Instructors teaching STAT online courses were asked to describe what their weekly work schedule looks like, a schedule that helps them routinely communicate and interact with students. Below are their responses. Obviously this may change from semester to semester based on the course that is being taught or the students in the course. However, the idea here is to share a basic understanding of what blocks of time are necessary for completing work as an online instructor.

Instructor Testimonials

Below are a few testimonials from the Department of Statistics online faculty.

"I work Monday through Saturday – various times of each day, though I log on at least 3 times a day to check for questions. I let the students know at the beginning of the semester that I will not log on Sunday. Assignments are usually due Sunday so I also request that they try to ask questions for the week before noon on Saturday to receive a response from me before the deadline. Each Monday I send an e-mail out discussing the current weeks events. I check my discussion forum and then e-mail to encourage more use of the forum rather than e-mail. If a day is light with questions, I work on adding material to the course, writing exams, or updating assignments."
"At a minimum, I check in at the beginning and end of each work day. This takes between thirty minutes and an hour in the morning and another half hour in the evening. I also look in sometime Saturday and Sunday morning, if I get a chance, and again early Sunday evening, as that is when assignments are due. This includes both Angel email and the discussion boards. Then, I usually spend most of Monday grading. If I have other conflicts on Monday, this gets pushed into Tuesday. This is important, because the students need feedback before they get too far into the next lesson. If I am going to be any later with the grading, I send a message to the class. Similarly, if I am going to be out of touch due to travel, I also send a note and push back deadlines if necessary."
"In my case, the lessons and assessments are posted during the weekend and collected on Monday, one week later. So, most of the students’ questions come in on the weekends. A daily breakdown for me would be as follows:
  • Sunday: new material is already posted; frequent student questions about the assessment on the current lesson due the following day; 2-3 hours are spent over the course of the day answering questions.
  • Monday: moderate level of student questions over current material due later that day; 1-2 hours spent answering questions; I also post an introductory message about the new material for that week.
  • Tuesday: solutions for assessment just turned in are prepared, along with grader instructions for partial credit; 1-2 hours are spent for this; there few questions over the new material at this point.
  • Wednesday: few questions over the material; 1-2 hours at most spent for this; on weeks of midterms, this day and Thursday are usually spent grading and working on solutions, which would be around 6-8 hours.
  • Thursday: few questions over the material; 1-2 hours at most spent for this.
  • Friday: new week’s folder and assessment are prepared, 2-3 hours spent for this. Saturday: any changes to new material yet to be posted are made at this point, frequent student questions about current material, probably 2-3 hours are spent over the course of the day."
"I usually open a new lesson on Sunday, the day before the previous lesson is due. That gets me working in ANGEL at the same time that many of my students are trying to complete their work that’s due Monday, so I’m more likely to be able to respond to emails quickly. During the week, I check email and contribute to the discussion boards around midday. Students who emailed late the night before or in the morning seem to get responses in a reasonable amount of time that way. I do most of my grading in the early mornings or late evenings when students tend not to be working. I don’t think that there’s any particular advantage to this, it’s just more convenient for me to do more substantive work when it doesn’t conflict with my full-time job."
"This is a rough breakdown for the time I spend teaching online each week:
  • Monday: 2 - 5 hours to grade and give feedback for the weekly lab activity and maybe 1 hour to answer any emails that may come in.
  • Tuesday: 1 hour throughout the day to answer e-mails
  • Wednesday: 2 hours to set up and record my office hours in Adobe Connect. 1 hour to answer e-mails.
  • Thursday & Friday: 1 hour throughout the day to answer emails.
  • Saturday: The assignment is due Sunday, so the volume of emails increases, so I spend maybe 2 hours throughout the day answering emails.
  • Sunday: This is the assignment due date, and try as I might to dissuade them, many of my student let their assignments go until the last day. This results in me spending maybe 3 hours throughout the day answering emails.

Note: When I’m answering emails, I use text if the problem is simple, and video if they ask a more in-depth problem, so I may spend more or less time responding to students depending on the material of the week."

"I check emails several times a day, including weekends, and I pay close attention when the deadline for assignments approaches (Monday night). I try to open up assignments a few weeks prior in case students want to get ahead. In a typical week, if the lessons warrant it, early-to-mid week I create and post one or more short (no more than 15 min) videos covering lesson concepts and working through examples. I then grade the labs completed from the previous lesson (this takes the most time). Weekends are spent mostly answering to student questions. There are other non-regular duties, like creating the midterms, updating the labs, responding to discussion posts, adding resources, etc."
"I check my e-mail at least once in the morning, noon, afternoon, and evening daily to see if I need to answer any question or concern. If I need to send a reminder I send them. If I see a student’s comment or concern is valuable, I share that with the entire class. I check discussion forum once a day to see I need address any issue. I have set office hours Tuesday and Thursday 12:00-1:25, and students call in for any question or comments. If a student calls in other times and leaves a message, I return the call. I do grading Sunday evening, all day Monday and Tuesday afternoons."

Interaction between and among students and the instructor is an important component of any online course. In a discussion all can see and learn from the give and take. How do we encourage discussion in the courses we teach?

Best Practices from Colleagues

For more about the tools to use for online discussion visit Communicating Online

Working with TAs is 90% about communication! Here are comments from experienced instructors:

During the First Few Weeks

Below are a few testimonials from the Department of Statistics online faculty.

"My first email to the grader should is a general description of what to expect over the semester. I add their name to the Canvas roster and provide a weekly schedule of topics and due dates."
"I ask about their experience with Canvas and adding comments in the drop box or Speedgrader. It’s not safe to assume that they know all about grading in Canvas."
"I prepare a short document that introduces the grader/TA to the course and lists your expectations."
"In the first few weeks, I review the way my grader/TA is correcting assignments, and make sure I agree with their point assignment and level of detail given in their feedback for the student."

As the Semester Progresses

"I send my grader a weekly note to let them know specific things you are looking for in that week's assignments. Periodically, and for some of the more complicated assignments, I review their grading and comments."
"I copy my TA when communicating in email. They don’t usually log on as regularly. So use this to keep communication open."
"It is very important for the grader to post scores promptly each week, so the students know when to expect them, especially before an exam."

Also Important to Note

"I provide solutions for the grader and then describe with a point-by-point breakdown what to look for and how to assign partial credit for each question. If anything is unclear, I encourage the grader to ask me about it. Students also appreciate comments whenever any deduction is made---or even if no deduction is made. I ask the grader to make such comments available to the students for every submission."
"I stress the importance of detailed comments – even with solutions available. The TA is often the main point of communication with many of the students."

Required Course Materials

Required Course Materials

Canvas Best Practices: Faculty

Canvas Best Practices: Faculty
Canvas icon

Canvas is the learning management system used to deliver our online courses at Penn State. The information on this page provides some useful tips that we recommend in our online courses. This is not a comprehensive list of how to use Canvas. To see all Canvas documentation visit the Canvas Instructor Guides.


One way to help personalize you in the course is to create a Canvas profile with your picture. The picture appears small in the course so it's a best practice to use a picture where they can see you clearly.

For steps on adding a profile picture please visit the Canvas guide 'How do I edit my profile in my user account as an instructor?'.

In order for your announcements to appear dynamically for students when they first log into your course, set your announcements to appear on your Canvas course homepage.

For steps on adding recent announcements to your homepage visit the Canvas guide 'How do I show recent announcements in the Canvas Course Home Page?''


Communicating with individual students

For the online courses, it's a best practice to use the learning management system (Canvas) email tool (Conversations) for all private communications between you and an individual student. This keeps all communication in one place.

For more information on using Conversations in Canvas visit 'How do I use Conversations as an instructor?'.


For whole class communication, we recommend using canvas announcements. These communications would not contain personal student information related to grades or other information. Use Conversations for individual student concerns and grades.

The announcements provide a full editor as well as the ability to add video or audio posts. The students receive the full text of announcements in their school email and any other email they set up in their notifications.

See the following guides for details and additional information on Canvas announcements.

Canvas Discussions

Canvas discussions allow students and teachers to discuss asynchronously in a threaded forum. When using discussions in your class consider the following tips:

  • Select 'users must post before seeing replies' if you're asking a question and would like to see original thought on the student's replies.
  • If you have a general open question forum then do not make users post before seeing replies.
  • Consider using 'group discussions' if you have a large class. The smaller groups can create less anxiety in some students.
  • Remember that just like in class, students must first build community before you can expect to see a free flow of ideas.
  • Providing them with netiquette rules can help reduce inappropriate or unhelpful posts. (Netiquette - College of EMS)

For more information regarding Canvas discussions view 'How do I create a discussion as an instructor?'.


Adding assignments to the gradebook

Any graded assignment, quiz, or discussion will appear in the gradebook as soon as the item is created in Canvas.

Exporting to LionPath

The 'final grade' listed in the Canvas gradebook may not be the exact grade that exports to Canvas. If you have any ungraded submissions the grade in Canvas reflects as if that assignment did not count. If you export with ungraded submissions, Canvas will turn that score into a zero. One way to verify the score you are exporting is to export the Canvas gradebook into a CSV file. The last column in the CSV file reflects the grade that is exported to LionPath.

The directions on how to prepare your grades for export to LionPath can be found in the STAT Online Faculty guide as well on the Penn State Knowledge Base: Canvas: Prepare Grades for LionPath.

There are two ways to enter the grades into LionPath. View the following tutorials for assistance in each:

There are many ways for students to communicate with their instructor in Canvas. If your notifications are not set correctly you may not receive them. Here are a few of the commonly missed ones that you should set your notifications to receive.

For more on how to set your notifications view the Canvas instructor guide 'How do I set my Canvas notification preferences as an instructor?'

The following are notifications recommended that you should set to receive immediately.

Announcements New announcements posted by your TA
Announcements created by you Great way to verify your announcement went out to the students
Invitation Students or TA may invite you to a collaboration or web conference
Late Grading This will let you know when an assignment was submitted late and requires grading
Submission Comment Students may leave a comment when they submit their assignment. Without a notification, you will not see this comment until you grade the submission.
Discussion Post Will send notifications of any new posts in a topic you're subscribed to. I would subscribe to any 'help' forums.
Added to Conversation When you are added to a conversation
Conversation Message You will get a notification when a student messages you via the inbox
Administrative Alerts I would sign up for this as a daily report


The following video addresses how to update your Canvas quizzes with new or updated questions from another course or master course.


Navigating the course in Canvas should be smooth and not require any extra cognitive load on the student. It also is important to have a consistent navigation across the STAT program as students move from course to course.

The World Campus user interface study recommended the following order for your course navigation (in order):

  • Home
  • Announcements
  • Syllabus
  • Modules
  • Grades
  • People

After people, add ‘Discussions’, as well as any other 3rd party tools like ‘’ and ‘Piazza.’

View the Canvas guide on how to order your course menu links, 'How do I manage course navigation links?.'

The first time students enter the course what do you want them to see? How do they get started? Introduce yourself (video?) and the course to engage their interest both socially and cognitively.

Examples of mobile-friendly home pages with Penn State styling can be found in the STAT Online Faculty Resources Canvas site (PSU STAT instructors access only).

Organize by nicknames

Too many Canvas sections to sift through? Too long of a course title? You can fix this in Canvas by using ‘nicknames’. Course nicknames show up in the dashboard, course navigation menu, ‘all courses’ list, course breadcrumbs, and notification emails. Your ‘all courses’ list will arrange alphabetically by your nickname. So if you like to group by courses you could use ‘415.002 SU19’ or if you want to group by semester you could use ‘SU19 415.002’.

The short nickname is extremely helpful when trying to find your course while composing a message in the inbox.

The nickname is different than the course name in the settings of your course. The names in the settings sync with Examity so it's best to not modify them. This is why nicknames are so useful. Only you see it!

View the Canvas guide to see how to set a course nickname, 'How do I view my favorite courses in the Card View Dashboard as an instructor?'.

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