These instructions are regarding the College of Social Work (CoSW) welcome template for Canvas. To see a public preview of this template please click here.

This one template is being distributed to your courses in Canvas using the “blueprint” tool. It includes 3 modules:

  1. A “Welcome! Please Start Here…” Module (welcome page, initial discussion, policies.)
  2. Student Sucess Resources (accessibility and technical links, technology tutorials and helps)
  3. Extra Resources (water cooler discussion, APA & writing resources, etc.)

The purpose of this welcome template is to incorporate some best practice design, navigation, and information into your course and help bring a consistent look and feel to the college of social work online and hybrid courses. This template is to help you, the instructor, take care of some of these details but also to help us be more consistent in our delivery. These will take some editing, especially in the “Start Here – Welcome Page” but I’m happy to help you do this (see below for more instructions).

If you can’t figure out how something works, please contact me:

Please understand this is a work in progress. I would love to hear any comments, pointing out of errors or ways in which I can improve this template.

~ Jason Johnston

Director of Teaching & Learning
University of Kentucky
College of Social Work


A. My Four Most Important Directions:


  1. Some text, images, and links are simply “place-holders” so make sure you read all text on every page unlocked page and follow all links before publishing that page or the course as a whole. Make sure to update the very first page (the Welcome Page) and Syllabus Page with your own information.


2. Delete anything in a blue box like this – these are instructions and tips for instructors and course designers and not intended for students


  1. Just unpublish anything extra you haven’t updated yet/not sure about using.
  2. However, please leave the policies, the accessibility links and Canvas help.




B. Welcome Module Walk-through / Support

Start Here – Welcome Page

Make sure to include here any ways that might help the students navigate the course more effectively.

Further Reading:

From OLC OSCQR Rubric 3.0 Annotation #2 

An orientation or overview is provided for the course overall, as well as in each module. Students know how to navigate and what tasks are due.

Review These Explanations quoted from OSCQR:

Adult learners benefit from knowing what they are about to learn, as well as the scope of work and time commitment expected from them. Providing an overview of the online course will prepare students for what, when, where and why they will be learning, and an overview of each course module will provide information on, in advance, what content, interaction, and assessment will take place within a specific period of time.

These “advance organizers” will help students plan around conflicting priorities (school, family, children, work) and better manage their time.

The overall course orientation and/or overview should relay the same type of information that would be provided in a face-to-face class, including information from the syllabus, such as:

  • Course objectives
  • Required readings
  • Interaction Guidelines
  • Expectations
  • Due dates

Taylor, Dunn, and Winn (2015) write that ensuring that students feel comfortable within the online course setting – knowing how to navigate, and what is expected – will set students up for success. Providing course and module overviews provide students with a means to navigate the course so that they can stay on track and succeed in their learning.


Taylor, J. M., Dunn, M., & Winn, S. K. (2015). Innovative Orientation Leads to Improved Success in Online Courses. Online Learning, 19(4).

Refresh Your Course with These Ideas

Course Overviews

  • Provide a detailed written description of the types of learning activities learners will engage in, including all content, interaction, and assessment types included in the course.
  • Be sure to include the expected time required to participate and engage fully in the course each week throughout the term (e.g. “Please expect nine hours per week…”).
  • Create a short video introductory overview tour of your course within the LMS using a screencasting tool (i.e. Jing, SnagIt, Captivate, Mix). This can help students better navigate the course space, by letting them see the structure of learning modules and how to locate and access all course materials.
  • Create a course map or calendar to visualize the sequence of course modules, types of learning activities, anticipated duration of each activity, and indications of when assignments are due.
  • Bring attention to the most important elements of the online class, such as learning objectives, communication channels, required outside resources, and due dates.
  • Consider the questions students might ask about the course (access, navigation, learning materials, due dates) and try to answer them within the orientation/overview.

Explore More Refreshing Ideas from the Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository (TOPR) at the University of Central Florida (UCF)

These Pedagogical Practices from TOPR explore the purpose and benefits of creating a course orientation module and advance organizers for your online course, including links to example artifacts and scholarly references:

Explore Related Resources:
Candy, P. C. (1991). Self-direction for lifelong learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Syllabus Quiz

Instructors: Add your own syllabus specific questions to this quiz then delete this box.

What is important to you? What will tell you that the students at least opened it up and read some parts? It shouldn’t be too long.

Need to know how to create a quiz in Canvas?

Watch this tutorial video:

Or read the instructions here: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.


Consider making this quiz a prerequisite to moving forward and unlocking the Week 1 module or other parts of your course. This part is optional and will need to be setup using this process: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. Ask your instructional designer or the office of e-learning if need further help.


Welcome Module – Ice-Breaker Question

Instructors: Be sure to delete this box when you have updated your ice-breaker question

Best practice in online learning includes an “introduce yourself” or “ice breaker” discussion. This is up to the instructor, but could contain light personal discussion regarding favorite animals, music, movies, Netflix shows, hobbies, interests, etc. Not only does an ice-breaker discussion reduce the transactional distance between teacher and students and increase connection between students, but it can also give early indication of student success. (see Miller, M. (2014). Minds Online: Teaching Effectively with Technology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 296 pp.) We need to transition away from online courses being simply a transference of information from teacher to student to become a true online community of learning.

Further Reading:

The following is from the Quality Matters. rubric and explains it well:

Learner introductions at the beginning of the class help to create a
welcoming learning environment and a sense of community. Learners are
asked to introduce themselves and given guidance on where and how they
should do so.

In a few situations, such as when a class is very large, learner
introductions may not be feasible. Instructors are asked to indicate in the
Course Worksheet if there is a reason for not providing an opportunity for
learner introductions.

Instructors may ask learners to respond to specific questions (such as why
they are taking the course, what are their strategies for success, what
concerns they have, what they expect to learn, etc.) or may choose to let
the learner decide what to include. Instructors may provide an example of
an introduction and/or start the process by introducing themselves.
Instructors may give learners the opportunity to represent themselves by
text, audio, or visual means.

The Quality Matters™ Higher Education Rubric 
Fifth Edition, 2014

From the OLC OSCQR Rubric 3.0 Annotations #41 (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Course contains resources or activities intended to build a sense of class community, support open communication, and establish trust (at least one of the following – Ice-breaker, Bulletin Board, Meet Your Classmates, Ask a Question discussion forums).

Annotated Explanations:

Building a sense of community mitigates the solitude of the online learner.

Courses that promote class community help learning occur “in a social context” (Dewey) and mitigate the perception of a correspondence course.

Refresh Resources:

Build and encourage rapport with and between online learners and the instructor via the communication tools available in the LMS.

Create opportunities for social, non-course related discussion. Design a way for learners to introduce themselves personally (requesting a profile/contact image/avatar, likes/dislikes, hobbies, interests, etc.).

See also:

  • Jones, P., Naugle, K., & Kolloff, M. (2008). Teacher presence: Using introductory videos in hybrid and online courses. Learning Solutions. Retrieved on March 26, 2014 from (Links to an external site.).
  • Russo, T. C., & Campbell, S. W. (2004). Perceptions of mediated presence in an asynchronous online course: Interplay of communication behaviors and medium. Distance Education, 25(2), 215 – 232.
  • Widmeyer, W. N. & Loy, J. W. (1988). When you’re hot, you’re hot! Warm-cold effects in first impressions of persons and teaching effectiveness. Journal of Educational Psychology, 80(1), 118-121.


Prior Knowledge Survey

Instructors: Make sure you delete this box when you have updated your prior knowledge quiz

Especially with adult learners, understanding and building upon prior knowledge is important. (much research supports this including Merriam, S. B. & Caffarella, R.S.(1999). Learning in adulthood: A comprehensive guide. San Francisco, CA: Jossey- Bass Inc.)

A short, zero point quiz at the beginning of the course can test for prior knowledge on the subject, check for needed competencies and also cue the learners into key concepts that they will be learning throughout the course. This step is optional but recommended! Questions can either be worth zero points each or this quiz could be put into a category called “Ungraded” and weighed as 0.

This could also be setup as an anonymous survey by choosing “ungraded survey” and  then selecting “Keep Submissions Anonymous.” This might be especially important when determining student bias toward a particular subject.

The Water Cooler (Off Topic / Hallway Discussions)


Instructors: Be sure to delete this box after you have personalized the information above. You may want to communicate to the students how much you will or will not be monitoring or joining in this discussion board.

We should not diminish the importance of student to student interaction. As teachers, we are not simply communicating information but facilitators of communities of learning.

As Garrison says, “This sense of community has shown to be crucial for student satisfaction and persistence” (p.127). To learn more about the Community of Inquiry model of education, click here (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site..

Garrison, D. R. (2011). E-learning in the 21st century: A framework for research and practice. Taylor & Francis.

C. Best Practice Foundations for these Templates


I would encourage every teacher to inform their practice through continual research. However, the planning and grading demands on an instructor make it difficult to spend time reading a lot of articles dedicated to pedagogy. Thankfully, there are some organizations that have compiled many best practices into rubrics that can be applied to online courses. Here are the two leading rubrics that I rely upon in creating and updating this template:

1. Quality Matters


Summary: Using over 1000 articles as the foundation for their rubric, QM stands at the front of the line. They not only provide a system for assessing quality, but training on how to evaluate using the system and a network of over 8,000 reviewers who can help evaluate courses.

Helpful perspective: Their best-practice approach focuses on course design, not course delivery. Their 43 standards are helpful, but may seem too exhaustive. Among these standards they have chosen 6 as critical course components. A course can not met expectations if it does not “align” with these critical components. They are:

Learning Objectives:

2.1 The course learning objectives or course/program competencies, describe outcomes that are measurable.

2.2 The module/unit learning objectives or competencies describe outcomes that are measurable and consistent with the course-level objectives or competencies.

Assessment and Measurement:

3.1 The assessments measure the stated learning objectives or competencies

Instructional Materials:

4.1 The instructional materials contribute to the achievement of the stated course and module/unit learning objectives or competencies.

Course Activities and Learner Interaction

5.1 The learning activities promote the achievement of the stated learning objectives or competencies

Course and Technology

6.1 The tools used in the course support the learning objectives and competencies


Download a one page with the Quality Matters Higher education Rubric, 5th Ed.

A more detailed rubric is copyright protected. I would encourage anyone who is interested to consider their first course, Applying the QM Rubric.

2. Online Learning Consortium (OLC) OSCQR


Summary: OLC has been a leader in encouraging quality in online education. It is helpful to read about their 5 pillars of quality online education, which forms the basis for all they do.  They have a great open source rubric they call OSCQR (pronounced like Oscar). Quoting from their website:

The aim of the Open SUNY COTE Quality Review (OSCQR) Rubric and Process is to support continuous improvements to the quality and accessibility of online courses, while also providing a system-wide approach to collect data across campuses, institutions, departments, and programs that can be used to inform faculty development, and support large scale online course design review and refresh efforts systematically and consistently.

Helpful perspective: Their course design rubric covers : Course Overview and Information, Course Technology and Tools, Design and Layout, Content and Activities, Interaction, Assessment and Feedback. The OLC rubric is creative commons, which is nice. So even if you are not a member (University of Kentucky is) you can use their material for free.


Download the OLC Quality Scorecard Suite – (or download PDF here OSCQR Course Design Review if that link does not work )

This is a checklist type scoring card with 50 standards that can be used to review online courses.