The University of Iowa

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


General Online Course Development Questions

At DOE, the Instructional Development (iDev) Group is a team of individuals essential to the delivery of successful distance education. The team consists of:

1.  Instructional Coordinators: help create your ICON site and assist with instructor and student-related issues.

2.  Instructional Designers: consult with you regarding teaching strategies, development options that best fulfill the course objectives, and assist in course layout.

3.      Media Professionals: work with you to put the technology in place to capture your course content in an effective and dynamic manner.

4.      Examination Specialists:  work with you to provide information on exams, schedule exams, and administer exams.

5.      Continuing Education Librarian: helps make your course more successful and connect you to best databases, e-books, and other research sources for your course and copyright advice.

6.      Marketing Specialist: works with you to develop a marketing plan that targets audiences for your new course.

As you may imagine, there are many differences between online learning and face-to-face courses. As you work with an instructional designer, careful attention will be given to address the differences effectively. Three key topics are addressed below.

Time: In the online course environment, time plays a unique role for both the instructor and the student.

As an instructor, one change will include an increase in  your pre-course workload. This will allow you time to engage and motivate students during the course.

Students will be tempted to procrastinate in online environments, course design will build in time tables and activities to continually keep students engaged in the course.

Engagement: Engagement in the online course environment is critical. Using engagement effectively has shown to build student motivation, increase student time in working with the course content, increase content retention and transfer of knowledge, as well as provide the student with an more overall positive learning experience. Engagement tools will vary depending on course goals and objectives and will be something you and the instructional designer can build together.

Instructor Roles: In the online learning environment, it is helpful to view the course through the various roles you as instructor will provide: pedagogical, social, managerial, and technical.

Due to typical faculty workload and teaching and research commitments, we would suggest starting course development two full semesters before the course begins to ensure the best possible course result. We very strongly suggest that online course development be completed BEFORE the course begins, not only for the benefit of the students but for the benefit of the instructor as well.

Yes. Developing an online course requires a combination of subject-matter expertise and technical skills. By “technical skills,” we refer to your ability to effectively use and manage the tools necessary to: (1) upload and post content to the course site (ICON), (2) edit content pages, (3) manage grades and discussions, (4) set quizzes, and (5) capture content for future delivery (UI Capture). Training to strengthen your skills in the use of ICON and UICapture are provided each semester by Information Technology Services (ITS). Visit the ITS Training page for a complete schedule.

  • Information Technology Services, Training and Events - Visit the ITS training and events page for a complete list of the trainings available on-campus during the semester.
  • Canvas Community page - Canvas is the learning management system currently powering ICON. Visit the “Canvas Community” page to find answers to your questions, share ideas, or join groups. For those newer to the use of Canvas, the “Find Answers” section will be particularly helpful. Posted under this section are the “Canvas Guides,” a collection of step-by-step guides to the completion of all the tasks one would need to do when setting up a course site (i.e. edit a content page, set up a homepage, and/or grade an assignment).

Instructional Designers work with you to design an effective course for online learners.  Once you have completed course development, it is time to focus on effective course DELIVERY.

For example, you should:


  • Provide early access: Open ICON course 1-2 weeks prior to start of class to allow students to review syllabus, and get familiar with course setup and expectations.  Open modules/units several weeks in advance of due dates to allow online learners to prepare/schedule their time.  
  • Be Present in your class: Send a welcome message, weekly updates via announcement, podcast, video, and/or email. Set expectations for reply-time and available office hours.  Provide a strong sense of instructor presence, especially at the beginning of the semester.  
  • Provide timely Feedback: Use Rubrics to clarify assignment expectations, grading and feedback, assignment feedback via SpeedGrader, use “Message Students Who” feature to prompt students who are falling behind and encourage those who are doing well.
  • Foster Student-Student interaction: Use discussion forums, group activities and assignments, peer review or synchronous meetings to develop a sense of community and provide social learning opportunities.
  • Clearly Communicate Expectations: Be sure to provide all the information needed in order to be successful when submitting an assignment.  Remind them that they can ask you for help if they have questions.  Use consistent deadlines, and select assignment due dates on a weeknight so that help is more likely to be readily available.
  • Make Improvements: as a part of an ongoing evaluation and revision process.  Provide a mid-course survey asking your students for feedback.  Ask us for help with major revisions and new ideas you would like to implement in ongoing semesters.

Online Course Technology Questions

We can help. We can advise you on what software to use, train you on how to use it and support your delivery of the course.

We can help, even if only to double check your work. We may also have some ideas that you have not thought about and some research based best practices.

The virtual classroom software we use has the ability to break students up into groups. We can also advise on how to do group work in a course which does not have live meetings.

Online Course Administration Questions

The course development process is outlined at Once you have departmental support to offer your course online, contact Distance and Online Education to begin developing your online course.

Instructional Design Questions

An instructional designer is a specially trained education professional who, through research-based processes, implement instruction for better learning. Working with an instructional designer (ID) can be of great help to an instructor. An ID can help an instructor by consulting and assisting with aligning  learning content, assessments, activities, and learning tools to ensure the achievement of course outcomes. With particular knowledge about the best practices for online learning, an ID can also assist and guide the course development process to improve engagement from online students.

Instructional Designers work with you to select and design effective assessments across your course.  Ideally, a variety of assessment tools are used, such as group work, papers, projects, quizzes and exams.  Clear expectations (via objectives, instructions, & rubrics) and rich feedback should be provided to students in a timely manner. For more information on proctored exams, contact Exam Services.

Online Course Media Questions

Making the recordings at home or in your office is often more convenient, and we can offer feedback online. If you want a little more support, or if you want to use equipment you may not have in your office, we can book time in our studio. We are always willing to train you or refresh your training on the tools we use.

We have a number of options available including pen-based computers, our light board and other innovative methods using our production studio. We can even shoot video of you teaching with the whiteboard. We would be happy to discuss the options and offer advice.