Designing Your Canvas Course

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Create a site with a welcoming Home Page and clear navigation for your students.

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1. Add and Manage Files and Content

Files are where you upload course files, syllabi, readings, or other documents. Faculty can lock folders so students cannot access files. Files can be placed in Modules, Assignments, or Pages. Files and folders are listed, by Canvas, in alphabetical order and cannot be rearranged.

How do I add a file to my course?

Upload your syllabus and other files in PDF and Word formats.

How do I move and organize my files?

Files are organized in alphabetical order. While you can still move files into folders, you cannot rearrange the alphabetized structure of the files and folders.

What types of media files can be uploaded into Canvas?

Canvas will accept most media files as uploads. However, not all media files can be played within Canvas.

What document types does Canvas convert using the document preview?

With document preview you can scroll through the document, zoom in and out, and view the document in full screen.

Online Annotation Tools and Supported File Formats in Crocodoc

  • Markup and commenting tools are available via Crocodoc (within SpeedGrader).
  • To best utilize these tools: when creating an assignment in Canvas, limit student assignment submission uploads to the following file formats - .doc/.docx, .ppt/.pptx, and/or .pdf.
  • The Annotation Tools are not yet available for use with text entries or .txt and .rtf files.


See also Instructure's video: Files - Add Content

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2. Create Pages

Pages can contain text, video, and links to your files. You can even make links to other pages. Pages are usually used to provide content and educational resources that don’t necessarily belong in an assignment. Pages can also be used for creating a class wiki.

How do I create a new Page?

How do I use Draft State in Pages?

How do I upload a PDF to a Page?

See also Instructure's video: Pages - Creation and Management

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3. Use Modules to Organize Content

Modules may be used to organize content and help control the flow of your offering.

How do I create a new Module?

Modules are used to organize course content by weeks, units, or whatever organizational structure works for your offering. With modules, you can create a linear flow of what you would like your students to do.

How do I add items to a Module?

You can add an item to multiple modules or multiple iterations of an item to one module.


See also Instructure's video: Modules - Creation and Management

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4. Customize the Course Navigation

The left sidebar is referred to as the Course Navigation menu. It consists of several tabs which may be made visible to or hidden from students. (Tab names cannot be edited at this time. However, additional tabs may be created by adding an external app and/or using the Redirect Tool.)

What is Course Navigation?

Course Navigation is a series of links on the left side of your screen that help you get to where you want to go inside of a Canvas course.

How do I reorder and hide Course Navigation links?

Links to sections that don't have any content and that students cannot create content for will not be shown to students and will be "grayed" for your view. For example, if there are no learning outcomes set for the course, you will see the "Outcomes" link in gray, but students will not see the link at all.

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5. Create a Home Page

The ‘Home Page’ of your course can be customized as you prefer.

  • Our in-house template's Home Page uses the "Page Front Page," which is a page you can design yourself.
  • The Canvas default Home Page is the ‘Course Activity Stream' which displays Announcements and other important course information to your students.
  • See the "How to set the Course Home Page" section below for more options.

We recommend selecting a "Page Front Page" and creating a welcoming and identifying Home Page for your students.

Information to include on the Home Page:
  • Title of program/course, and/or a welcome message or brief offering description (2-3 sentences)
  • A related image (recommended dimensions: 700 pixels wide by 300 pixels high)
  • Indicate where students should "start" in the site, such as using text or an icon linked to the Modules List
  • Meeting day(s)/time(s) and location(s)
  • Faculty name(s)
  • Faculty office hours and location (or create a "Faculty Page" to include more information)


Locate the Course Home Page

The Course Home Page is the first page that students see when they click the Home link in their Course Navigation. As an instructor, you decide what you want students to see and interact with on the Course Home Page.

How to set the Course Home Page

You can change your Course Home Page to show any of the following options:

  • Course Activity Stream: shows important recent activities from a single course including announcements, discussions, assignments, and conversations
  • Page Front Page: a page you can design yourself
  • Course Modules: modules can be used to control the entire flow of your course and its content
  • Assignments List: all course assignments can be viewed at the Assignments Index page
  • Syllabus: this is a Canvas page with an assignments list where you can enter your syllabus information

Where is the Front Page and how do I edit it?

The Front Page is the first page your students will see when they enter your course, if you choose to have the course home page set to the page. Use this page to show a welcome message, links, images, or other information for students.

How do I edit Pages?

A Page may be edited even after it has been published.

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6. Last Steps: Test and Publish

A course is made accessible to students by publishing it. Use Student View before publishing to see the course as students will see it.

How to use Student View

Student View allows instructors to see the course as a student views it.

How to Publish Your Course

A course will not be available to students until published.


See also the Canvas Orientation for Faculty

Use this online self-paced Canvas course as a step-by-step guide for developing your site.

Interested in Individual or Faculty Team Training?