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Teaching Online


Here are some questions that instructors frequently ask. A few of these have been answered on other pages of this site, but this page will serve as a quickly available resource.

1. Does online attract a certain type of student?

An online class usually has more diversity - from those with Master's to the very unskilled - and you have to account for those differences. According to some studies, introverts have better success. For great coverage on this topic, read "Characteristic of Distance Learning Students" in Online versus F2F.

2. What should I do when a student crashes a test?

First of all, do not used "Forced Completion" for tests. This causes crashing difficulties. Time your tests instead as it satisfies the same security concerns. It allows a student to continue the test after a crashing by reopening the browser. The test timer will continue through this.

If a student crashes anyway, you cannot retrieve student answers unless you go into the test and count correct answers and manually record their score in Grade Center. You must reset the test (unlock it via the Grade Center), then you can allow a retake (with a different pool of questions). To avoid rewarding the rare student who crashes a test on purpose when performing badly, set a limit on the number of retakes you will give or deduct 10% from any retakes. And advise students of the following reasons for test crashes: 1) clicking the wrong buttons or keys - e.g., a "back button" when that is prohibited, 2) clicking too fast and not waiting for the screen to refresh (they need to click and wait), 3) having many programs active simultaneously on their computer and switching between them, and 4) bad or lost ISP connection which crashes the timer.

3. How do I avoid excessive student excuses and anger after they have missed a deadline?

First of all, make it your policies on deadlines and makeups very clear in your syllabus and orientation before the course begins (refer to this in any correspondence). Mention that allowing exceptions would not be fair to other students in the class. Make assignments "unavailable" after the deadline date;  students seem to understand the finality of this and do not make the same mistake twice. Include "extra-credit" assignments in your course which can be used by anyone for whatever reason: to improve their overall grade, to allow more flexibility in your course, OR to makeup for missed deadlines.

4. How do I prevent students from using Wikipedia as a reference?

Explain in your syllabus and at orientation that Wikipedia is not an legitimate source and can be edited by anyone. State that you will not accept work that includes these as sources or references (giving either a zero for the assignment or returning the work for changes).


5. Why can't I read some of the files students send to me?

There can be many reasons for this. Sometimes (rarely) files become corrupted. But the two most common reasons are: 1) Mac users not including a file extension and 2) students saving their file in an unusual format. For the first, you can simply add your own file extension to the file (such as .doc) and open it or you can suggest that Mac users always include the "add file extension" choice when using the "Save as" dialog box. For the second reason, have students always save files to a familiar format such as "rtf." Explain that almost all programs have a drop down list of choices in the "Save as" dialog and give them choice you will accept. Also, be sure to install all file format conversion/compatibility packs in your own copy of word (Also see the sidebar on compatibility in Content)

6. Students think I am rude. Why?

Email is different than F2F conversation. Tone of voice and body language are absent. Sometimes a direct statement can appear rude, robotic, unfeeling. Sarcasm rarely works well online. Use first names in emails, sign your emails, be patient, use humor, be enthusiastic and encouraging - and read your emails, discussions, and announcements before posting.

7. Students only visit a few areas of my site. How can I change that?

If you title a menu button "assignments," students will tend to go to that area immediately when logging in. You might either rearrange/retitle your buttons or include many references to other areas of your course in discussions, announcements, assignments, etc.

8. How do I prepare my Canvas course for the following semester?

Follow the Pre-Semester Checklist.

9. When and how do I drop a student?

Students must complete at least one assignment the first week. If they don't turn it in, try to contact the student and offer assistance getting into the course. If the student still does not complete that first assignment, they must be dropped in Colleague).

15. Do I have to develop a college Web page to teach an online class?

No, but putting information about your online course, how to log in, how to crash the class on a college faculty Web page helps students better decide on whether your course is right for them. (see Orientation sidebar)

16. How do I add a TA, evaluator, or an observer?

Complete the "Add a user form" on the Canvas Request Forms page.

17. Do I get double-pay for each new online prep I teach?

No. Both full-time and adjunct faculty get double-pay only for the first online class taught. After that any new online course (new prep or not) pays at the regular rate. And, double-pay does not apply to hybrid/blended courses (for course definitions see the side bar in Hybrid Courses).

Last Updated: 06/13/2018
  • Grossmont
  • Cuyamaca
A Member of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District