How do I prepare my online course?

Attend online faculty development

All new online faculty teaching for the College of IST are expected to complete the online teaching course available from World Campus Faculty Development. Seasoned online faculty are encouraged to go through the program as well.

Familiarize yourself with Canvas

Canvas is the Penn State learning management system (LMS). Learn how to use Canvas at the online Canvas Learning Center or visit the Canvas page on this site for more resources.

If you are assigned to teach a course and have not yet been added to LionPATH, Penn State’s academic records system, you may not see the Canvas space for your course. For help with this issue, contact

Get to know your course

Course webpages, course committees, faculty leadership, and the Learning Design team can help you get to know your course. Visit the what belongs in my course page, where you can find request forms, email addresses, and guidance to complete the following basic steps:

  • First, request Canvas course shells, content templates, and learning design support from the Learning Design Team.
  • Second, consult course documentation to understand the intent of the course.
  • Third, read the official course description in the Penn State University Bulletin.
  • Fourth, connect with those who have responsibility for managing the course content; they can answer any questions.

The College of IST’s World Campus courses (those courses prepared and delivered to our students who choose Penn State’s virtual campus, World Campus–WC–as their primary campus) all have course templates from which your section will be copied. If it’s your first time teaching the course, you’ll want to go through your course ahead of time to make sure you understand what’s being covered and how it all fits together.

Meet with the course’s instructional designer and Course Committee chairperson who know the course before the start of the semester. They know the course and will be able to explain how the course runs. Refer to the Course Support page to find the instructional designer for your course.

Check with Learning Design before making changes

Instructors may make changes to content the first time they teach a course, but those changes are best limited to changing details in assignments and exams–in order to prevent common academic integrity issues. If you spot mistakes or areas that could be improved, let your instructional designer know. Not all suggestions can be implemented in the course, but they will be considered by the course author and the instructional designer.

To ensure consistency, 80% of course content must remain unchanged from the course template. Instructors may change up to 20% of the content. The course learning objectives established by the course committee must be satisfied. Please be sure to consult with your instructional designer regarding desired changes and additions.

Publish the course and introduce yourself

To publish your course, click on the Home page, then go to the upper right corner and click on Publish. Students can see the course materials after they are published in Canvas.

Once your course is published, send out a welcome announcement. This can be written in advance and scheduled via the Announcement tool.

Know important dates in the semester

Penn State’s Office of the University Registrar Academic Calendars page lists these dates and additional information.

Familiarize yourself with academic policies

Prior to the semester, review information on academic policies and procedures for actions such as academic integrity, course drops, deferred grades, and the grading system. In addition, be sure to consult information on SRTEs and syllabi.