Set up Your Canvas Course for Day One

Whether you plan to use Canvas a lot or a little, it’s helpful to have the major material set up before the first day of class, and it’s helpful to provide an overview of the Canvas site on the first day of class.  Setting up the course before the first day will also free your time later in the semester.

Here are a few Canvas components to have ready for the first day:

  • Publish your course. The course has to be published for students to access.  This is a manual process each instructor has to complete for every course.
  • Create an Introduction Module. The Introduction Module is separate from the modules that provide course content for each unit.  The Introduction Module includes the syllabus, class policies, instructor information, any information about labs or clinicals, and other general course information.
  • Post the syllabus. The syllabus is often posted in the Introduction Module and on the Syllabus page/link.
  • Provide instructions on how to get started. This mostly applies to online courses, but it’s useful to have a “Start Here” or “Read Me First” document that provides logistical course information.  The “Start Here” tag can also be added to the syllabus link.
  • Provide instructor information, including instructor email, phone number, office hours, office location, and some personal or professional information. This information is already on the syllabus, but it’s useful to have on Canvas as well.
  • Create Modules for content units. Online courses are usually organized into Modules that correspond to units, and each module contains links to PowerPoints, reading materials, assignments, discussions, videos, and other materials for that unit.  Alternatively, modules could correspond to weeks, and each module will contain the material for that week.  Another alternative is to set up modules for each major assignment/project or for different portions of the course, such as lecture, lab, clinical, service-learning.  Or, if the instructor does not post learning materials on Canvas, then one large module could contain links to assignments.
  • Post learning materials to modules. Learning materials include PowerPoints, reading materials, videos, instructor lecture notes, and other information.  Instructors don’t need to have a full semester’s worth of content on the first day, but it’s helpful if the material for the first couple of weeks or for the first unit is there so students can become familiar with the course layout.
  • Create assignments and link them to modules. Be sure to add accurate open/close and due dates, the number of points, to “post” the assignment, and to link it to the module.  Having a complete list of assignments on Canvas helps students see the course workload and course expectations, and the due dates help them schedule their semester.  By setting up the assignments, you also set up the gradebook.
  • Deactivate navigation links you are not using. The Canvas course includes many links on the left, including Home, Modules, Assignments, Grades, People, and so on.  Only a few of these are needed; the rest can be hidden to reduce clutter.  To edit, click on Settings, Navigation, drag what you’re not using to the bottom, and click Save.  (Make sure to keep active the links to student resources, such as Office 365 and Google Docs.)

For more information about teaching with Canvas, click on the Teaching or Canvas tags.  You can also contact DAT or the Dean for Teaching & Learning Outcomes.

How do you organize your Canvas course?  Do your modules correspond to units, weeks, major assignments, or other components of the course?  If you create an Introduction Module, what do you put in it?  Feel free to post a comment below.


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