FAQ - Online & Distance Learning

Are Online Courses Right for Me?

If you aren’t sure if taking an online course is right for you, please take this short online quiz to see how well online courses fit your circumstances and learning style. 

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How are Online Courses Offered at Iowa Lakes?

Iowa Lakes uses an online learning platform called Canvas. Canvas is a learning management system that hosts all of our online courses. 

How Do I Find Canvas?

You may access Canvas via the Iowa Lakes by following the steps below: 

  • Select "My Iowa Lakes" from the top, left-hand corner of the page. 
  • Click on the "Canvas" Icon 
  • Log in with your Iowa Lakes Username and Password 
How will I receive my Username and Password?

You will receive your Iowa Lakes username and password by mail or email once accepted to the college.   

What happens once I Log In to Canvas?

Once you have logged into Canvas, the courses you have registered for are located on your Canvas Dashboard (homepage).  

Note: Your online courses will not be available on your dashboard until the course start date. 

Your courses will be displayed as "course cards" on your dashboard, and you select them to access that course.  

You must access your courses on the first day of class to understand the layout. We also recommend reading the course syllabus, so you are familiar with course expectations and policies

Is there a training session on Canvas?

All students registered for Online Courses at Iowa Lakes will have a "New Student Online Orientation" course available in your dashboard.

Although this course is not mandatory, it is an excellent resource for you to practice uploading an assignment, posting on a discussion board, and taking a quiz. There are also directions on downloading the Canvas App on your smartphone or tablet to access your courses.

How Do Online Courses Work?

Timing of Online Classes

Online courses are not self-paced. There will be deadlines for assignments, threaded discussions, quizzes, tests, and projects. You will have the flexibility of working on your coursework as it fits in your daily schedule.

What You Should Do First

The first thing you should do when starting an online class is to log into Canvas on the first day of the course and read the syllabus. The syllabus will explain the instructor's expectations, the grading scale, and deadlines for coursework.

Assignment Submission

Pay close attention to how your assignments are to be submitted. Most instructors want you to submit your work within the Canvas Assignment.

However, there are occasions where instructors request the use of email to submit your assignments. Please refer to the syllabus and the instructions.

Always turn your work in on-time. Many instructors will not take late assignments – some points are better than zero points!

Threaded Discussions

Threaded discussions take the place of in-class discussion. Pay special attention to this section in your syllabus. Many instructors require that you post your initial response to the discussion one day and respond to your classmates differently. Many instructors require that you respond to two classmates to receive all of the points.

Quizzes and Tests 

Most quizzes and tests are online, timed, and can only be taken once. Before starting each quiz or test, note the time limit you have and plan to dedicate that amount of time to take the quiz or test.

Proctored Tests

If your class requires a proctor, it is your responsibility to find and schedule a proctor for each proctored quiz or test. Each of the partnered colleges has a testing center with proctors. The instructor must approve the proctor and testing center. You can enter this information through the "My Proctor" link within the course, or as directed in the syllabus.

Contacting Your Instructor

Your instructor is a great resource. If you have questions or are struggling with the content of the course, contact your instructor. They are here to help you. Your instructor's contact information is on the syllabus, usually at the top of the first page. You can also contact them through the Canvas Inbox. Please pay attention to the response time listed in your syllabus. Instructors are not required to respond immediately.

How Can I Successfully Complete my Online Classes?

Be Aware of Timing with Online Classes

Online classes are not self-paced. There will be deadlines for assignments, threaded discussions, quizzes, tests, and projects. You will have the flexibility of working on your coursework as it fits in your daily schedule.

Tips for Keeping Track of Due Dates

Some students have found it challenging to keep track of due dates with their online courses because they don't attend a regular class with an instructor reminding them when things are due. 

At the start of each class, you could put all due dates in your planner according to the syllabus or course schedule. Another way to keep track would be to put up a calendar, with all due dates, somewhere in your house or apartment that you will see every day. 


Be sure to check your Iowa Lakes email at least once a week. Iowa Lakes Instructors and the college will send all critical information to you through that email.

Announcements in Canvas

Instructors will use the Announcements section of Canvas to update students on any changes to the schedule or as a reminder for upcoming deadlines. Be sure to check the Announcement section each time you log in to Canvas for any new messages or updates.

What to Do if You Are Going to Miss "Class"

If you know that you will not be able to turn in an assignment, complete the discussion questions, or complete a quiz or test on time, please let your instructor know. Most of the time, you will be able to submit an assignment or complete a threaded discussion ahead of the deadline. However, quizzes and tests may only be open for a certain amount of time. By contacting your instructor ahead of time, you may work something out where you can still complete the assignment, quiz, or test.


Barb Houseman
Distance Learning Office Associate

bhouseman@iowalakes.educreate new email