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!

Managing the Online Course

Managing the Online Course

Expectations for Online Instructors

  • Be responsive, reliable and helpful week in and week out.
  • Respond to queries as soon as possible never leaving the students waiting for a reply.
  • Share explanations that are clear and encouraging.
  • Break down complex material into plain English.
  • Use a blend of videos and animations where needed.
  • Grade homework, quizzes and exams predictably and post results promptly.

Weekly Routines

The guide below is an adaptation of the guide maintained by the John A. Dutton e-Education Institute. Please see their Managing Your Online Class page for additional suggestions and tips.


  • Interact in course discussion forums
  • Respond to course email
  • Grade assignments


  • Introduce topics and post weekly announcements
  • Summarize the topics presented that week and the discussion forum conversations in the announcements
  • Update course schedule
  • Hold 'office hours' (find a way to connect effectively with students that have questions)


You can view the checklist below or download the document: 

Managing Your Course Checklist

Online Teaching Resources

Online Teaching Resources

There are a number of resources that instructors can connect with to get a sense of what teaching online is like or to reflect upon the skills they already bring to the online learning environment.

  • Web Learning@Penn State

    The official Web presence of the Penn State Online community.  Find out about what online learning options Penn State offers, how online learning at Penn State is governed, resources for faculty development, and what the e-Learning Cooperative is all about.

  • World Campus Online Faculty Development

    Outreach at Penn State offers a number of free short courses that focus on Teaching and Learning online. Among the short courses offered at the link above are:

    OL 1000: Overview of Teaching and Learning Online
    OL 1200: Welcome to the World Campus
    OL 2000: Effective Online Teaching
    OL 2600: Course Authoring Accessibility Basics
    OL 3000: Supporting Accessibility for Online Learners

    You need to register to take these courses. Use the link above for information about when they are being offered.

    As always, if you have any questions about any of these resources, or would like to suggest additional resources to list here, please contact John Haubrick.

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.

Technical Competencies

Technical Competencies


Online instructors need to be proficient users of a range of applications related to teaching and learning online. Here is a basic checklist of tools and competencies involved:

Course Space

  • Add a variety of content types (files, links, pages, etc.)
  • Create and manage assessments (quizzes, exams, surveys, etc.)
  • Can rearrange content in Modules
  • Create an accessible home page
  • Can use the Calendar
  • Create and manage groups

Assessment & Grading

  • Can use Assignments and Quizzes to grade and provide feedback via Speedgrader
  • Can create and manage gradebook
  • Use reports to inquire into student activities
  • Can assist students with special learning needs


  • Can use Canvas conversations (Canvas Inbox)
  • Can use discussion forums
  • Can use Announcements
  • Can use live Chat

Live Meetings (Zoom)

  • Can use live office hours (Zoom
  • Can host synchronous sessions with chat in Zoom
  • Can share whiteboard
  • Can share computer screen
  • Can record and post meetings
  • Can use the telephone! (don't forget this one!)

Creating Videos

  • Can create screen captures via Zoom, Kaltura or some other technology
  • Can use Kaltura within Canvas to create quick videos
  • Can post the video to Box, YouTube or some other video host to share with students
  • Can use the Canvas video capture tool in Canvas for discussions, announcements, or grading feedback

File Sharing

If you need assistance with any of these technologies (or are just plain curious), please do not hesitate to contact John Haubrick.



What is Starfish?

According the PSU Starfish website...

Starfish is an enterprise advising tool that integrates with LionPATH to deliver advising notes, early progress reports (EPRs), and online scheduling of advising appointments. Starfish offers the Penn State community—including faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students—access to a robust student success system that can flag students at risk, pinpoint areas of concern, and connect students with valuable services and early interventions.

Every section at Penn State has an accompanying section in Starfish. We highly encourage the usage of Starfish to notify advisors of the student's progress.

Starfish Resources

Penn State provides a robust set of tutorials for using Starfish within your courses. Use the links below to view the various how-to's and demos.

Login to Starfish

Use Cases

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."

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