Checklists: Keeping everyone organized in an asynchronous class

When courses are taught in a face-to-face setting, we all tend to settle into a familiar rhythm:

  • Students show up to class, (hopefully) with homework completed.
  • The instructor leads class, and students follow along with whatever the instructor has planned.
  • The instructor concludes class by reminding students of homework for next time and/or students know to look on a syllabus to figure out what is due during the next class.
  • Students and instructors prep individually for the next class meeting, as needed.
  • Repeat.

The key part of this scenario from the student perspective is that students just show up at an appointed time and then follow their instructor’s directions in the classroom. It’s a reactive relationship for students. They show up, and participate. They aren’t making decisions about what to do and when to do it.

When classes move to an asynchronous format, the burden of planning activities and time shifts to the students. Even when the workload is comparable to a classroom format, the number of moving parts can make coursework feel a little overwhelming.

I’ve found that students benefit from checklists in their asynchronous classes. Assuming the course activities are organized around a week, the checklists then help students identify each small task for the week. Yes, I know, the information is probably all on the syllabus — but it’s all so much easier to see on a checklist. Now that I have the checklists for my classes, I find that they help me, too. I even put on there when students should start looking ahead to particular assignments, and remind them about due dates.

I’ve included two samples below. The first is from a checklist created in MS Word and then shared with students as a PDF. I used this format pretty heavily when our LMS was Blackboard, and students reported printing them out and checking items off. The second example is from a checklist created as a Canvas page. It has direct links items whenever possible. The readings link goes to a page with links to all of the readings for the weeks, and the discussion link goes directly to the week’s discussion forum.

If you make checklists, I recommend presenting each task in a logical order, with consistency from week to week. Students have told me that having clear verbs as headings (e.g., READ, DUE) is an effective way to cuing weekly expectations, and that being provided with additional information like running times on videos also helps them manage their time effectively.

Sample Checklist

Sample Weekly Checklist for Online Course




Sample Weekly Checklist Page in Canvas