Iowa State University is dedicated to providing the highest quality of education to all students, wherever and however we reach them. Online courses are taught by the same expert faculty that teach face-to-face courses on campus, and many of our residential students mix online courses into their curriculum.

How do online courses work?

Online courses may be offered in a number of formats. There are many variations, but some basic categories are listed below.

  • Synchronous: You will be online with your classmates and professor at regularly schedule class times, able to interact in real time, just as you would in a face-to-face course. This type of course can involve both on-campus and off-campus students simultaneously.
  • Asychronous/cohort: You will be able to access course materials independently, at your convenience, but assignments and exams will follow a general daily or weekly schedule. Interaction with professor and classmates may be largely though discussion boards and social media, but live chats and video conferences may also be used.
  • Asynchronous/self-paced: You will access course materials and complete assignments at your convenience. No daily or weekly schedule will be required, but deadlines will be established for major course milestones. Interaction with the professor and classmates will be through discussion boards and other electronic media.

How do I access my course?

Nearly all Iowa State online courses are accessed through Canvas, a web-based course delivery portal (also know as a Learning Management System or “LMS”). Using your ISU Net ID, you will be able to login and access all of your courses. Here, you will be able to access course materials, submit assignments, send messages to your instructor and classmates, participate in course discussions, take exams, view your grades, and engage in other learning activities. Canvas help videos are available for students.

Will I be able to talk to my professor and to other students in the class?

Yes. Absolutely! Every online course includes a communication plan that offers a variety of ways you can interact with your professor and classmates. These may include email, discussion boards, chat rooms, video conferencing, blogs, social media, and other forums.

How will I take exams?

Online exams can take several forms, depending on the course, class size, and the discretion of the professor. Online exams may be either proctored or unmonitored. Electronic exams may require the use of on online testing center, either at Iowa State or a satellite location.

Will I have any guidance and support if I need help?

Yes. As an Iowa State student, you will have access to a variety of student support services. See Getting Help.

What will my online course look like?

Just like face-to-face courses, online courses can vary widely in terms of the way that you interact with the professor, communicate with your classmates, access the course materials, take exams, etc. To help you to know what to expect in a given class, your instructor will provide critical details about your course, such as:

  • Technology Plan – specifying hardware, software, and network requirements
  • Examination Plan – specifying how tests and other assessments will be administered
  • Accessibility Plan – specifying the alternative access options for those with disabililties
  • Communication Plan – outlining the expectations for communication with the instructor and classmates
  • Help Plan – Describing the places you can get help with any/all aspects of the class, including technology, academics, accessibility, etc.