The University of Iowa

Teaching Online for the First Time?
Clipart of a computer monitor and a figure of a person.

This page provides a brief introduction to common online course formats and deliveries for instructors teaching online for the first time. (New to UI? Jump to "What You Need to Get Started" below.)

How does an online course work compared to a face-to-face course?


Online courses are presented via ICON, UI's learning management system. All content is digital and may include pre-recorded lectures, Word/PDF files, publisher's online resources, and external materials such as web sites, online media, articles, etc.

Online course content is usually organized into modules. Course objectives, topics, and tasks to be completed are laid out like an agenda. Students can see everything they need to do at a glance.


Online courses may be delivered in synchronous or asynchronus format. In both types of courses students progress through lessons and assignments on the same schedule as laid out in the course syllabus.

In synchronous courses, students participate in weekly virtual meetings (via a web conferencing software) for lectures, discussions or other real-time activities.

In asynchronus courses, students are not required to login or access the course at a specific day or time.


Typical assignments in an online course include papers, participation in weekly virtual discussions, or discussion posts to the ICON Discussion Forum. Other types of assignments may include quizzes, proctored or unproctored exams via the ICON Quizzes tool and presentations (written or in other formats such as recorded PowerPoints with narration).

Instructor Presence

In online courses, especially for asynchronous courses, instructors establish their presence by communicating with class on a regular basis via the ICON Announcements tool, Discussion Forum or email. One common example is a weekly communication that contains items such as a summary or feedback on activities students completed throughout the week and an overview of the topics for the week ahead.

Want to learn more?

  • Enroll in the Teaching Online Preparation Course for step-by-step instructions on how to teach online effectively. The teaching tools, tips and resources in this self-paced course will also help experienced online instructors improve their skills in the online classrooms.
  • Check out the Teaching Resources and Best Practices section for additional tools and tips.
  • Explore the LinkedIn Learning Library for online training resources - login with your Hawk ID and password, then search for courses relating to online teaching. Examples: Learning to Teach Online by Oliver Schinkten.

Support for Online Instructors

Distance and Online Education provides various instructional development services and support to online instructors. Sample resources available include syllabus templates and PowerPoint templates, training tutorials for ICON, Zoom, etc. For more information please contact us at:

New to the University of Iowa?


What You Need to Get Started

  • HawkID/Password - All University of Iowa students, faculty and staff are assigned a HawkID for access to various online applications. If you are brand new to the University, your HawkID and password information will be sent to you by mail. You can also contact the ITS Helpdesk to request your password once your HawkID has been assigned.
  • Two-Step Login - Access to many university online services, such as ICON and MAUI, requires Two-Step Login. If you need to setup your Two-Step Profile from outside of the UI campus, please call the Helpdesk (319-384-4357) to request off-campus access to the Two-Step setup tool.
  • FERPA (Family Education Rights and Privacy Act) Training - To ensure the UI campus community complies with FERPA regulations, all UI instructors, including TAs, are required to complete the online FERPA training module and quiz at least once during their employment at the University. See Faculty and Staff FERPA Information for details. (Note: you will not be able to access your online course site until you have completed FERPA training.)
  • Email and Direct Deposit: Login to HR Self Service to activate your University email account and setup direct deposit as soon as possible.

Online Applications and Services

  • ICON - ICON, or Iowa Courses Online, is the University of Iowa's learning management system powered by Canvas.
  • MAUI - The Office of the Registrar's online application for managing course offerings and registrations. Instructors use MAUI to submit attendance reports, midterm delinquencies, final grades, and grade changes. See Attendance, Midterm and Final Grade Reporting for details.
  • HR Self Service - Online management of employees' HR Information, such as FERPA training, University email account setup, payroll (direct deposit), benefits, leave and more.
  • Office 365 - Online access to Microsoft Office apps including email and calendar.
  • University Calendars - The University of Iowa's academic and other calendars.
  • Information Technology Services (ITS) - ITS provides technical support, resources, training and services to the UI campus. Faculty can contact the Helpdesk for assistance with questions relating to technologies.

Find these quick links on the UI Homepage.