Canvas guides

Canvas is a Learning Management System (LMS) that simplifies the organizational aspects that are part of teaching. Using Canvas in your course effectively engages students no matter where they are and supports learning beyond the classroom.

Canvas is your virtual teaching assistant - if you know how to train it! Canvas can help you improve your course by increasing transparency to students and saving you time through:

  • logical organization of course materials through modules and pages
  • assessment management and grade calculation tools
  • various communication channels

We have provided you with some information on commonly used navigation items in Canvas. We hope you find these resources useful and helpful!

  • Grading

    Using the Gradebook

    The Gradebook helps instructors easily view and enter grades for students. Only graded assignments, graded discussions, graded quizzes, and graded surveys that have been published display in the Gradebook. Assignment columns are automatically added every time you create and publish assignments, graded discussions, and graded quizzes and surveys.

    Each column in the Gradebook represents an assignment, graded discussion, or quiz. Each column displays the assignment title, total points, and each student's grade. Icons and colors represent assignments and submission statuses within Canvas. You can sort, resize, and reorder any assignment column. To remove a column from the Gradebook, you must delete the assignment from your course.

    The Canvas help guide, "How do I use the Gradebook?" provides detailed images and descriptions of gradebook views, settings, and assignment options.


    Weighting final grades

    You can weight final grades based on assignment groups. Selecting this option assigns a weight to each assignment group, not the assignments themselves. Within each assignment group, a percentage is calculated by dividing the total points a student has earned by the total points possible for all assignments in that group.

    Note: If an assignment group is weighted to zero percent, any course items added to the group will not count toward the final grade.

    The Canvas help guide, "How do I weight the final course grade based on assignment groups?" provides detailed images and examples of creating assignment groups and choosing to weight your final course grade.


    Muting an Assignment

    By default, Canvas allows students to see assignment grades as soon as the instructor has graded the assignment. In some cases, instructors may wish to hold student grades until all assignments have been graded, and then release grades to all students at the same time. To hide student grades temporarily, an instructor can choose to mark an assignment as muted. Students can still see and submit a muted assignment. Only the grade will be hidden.

    A muted assignment will not send out grade change notifications or any new instructor comments until the assignment is unmuted. A muted assignment displays a Mute icon on the student grades page so students know the assignment is muted. Students will be unable to view their grades, including grade and score changes, instructor submission comments, Canvas DocViewer comments, and curved assignments for the assignment, until the assignment is unmuted. In Gradebook exports and reports, muted grades are part of unposted grades. Muting should only be used to temporarily block grading work in progress from student view. It should not be used to conceal grades for longer than reasonably necessary.

    The Canvas help guide, "How do I mute or unmute an assignment in the Gradebook?" provides detailed images and step-by-step instructions for muting an assignment.


    Using SpeedGrader

    SpeedGrader makes it easy to evaluate individual student assignments and group assignments quickly. SpeedGrader displays assignment submissions for active students in your course. You can access SpeedGrader through: Assignments, Quizzes, Graded Discussions, and the Gradebook.

    The Canvas help guide, "How do I use SpeedGrader?" provides detailed images and step-by-step instructions for utilizing various components of SpeedGrader.

  • Assignments

    Creating an assignment

    You can create assignments on the Assignments page. You can create an assignment shell, which is a placeholder for an assignment within an assignment group, or you can create an entire assignment with all the assignment details at the same time.

    Assignment details include fields for the assignment type, name, description, points, assignment group (if desired), grade display, and submission type, and due dates. You can also specify if the assignment is a group assignment or requires peer reviews in the assignment details lesson. When you add details to an assignment, you can also assign the assignment to all students, course sections, course groups, or individual students as part of the Canvas differentiated assignments feature.

    The Canvas help guide, "How do I create an assignment?" provides detailed images and examples of creating assignments and providing details to your students.


    Assignment types

    Canvas supports five assignment types: Assignments, Discussions, Quizzes, External Tools, and Not Graded. As an instructor, you can select an assignment type when creating an assignment shell.

    Assignment

    An Assignment is a Canvas assignment that can be submitted online through text entry, file uploads, media recordings, Google Docs, URLs, or Canvas pages. This assignment appears on the Assignments Index Page, the Gradebook (graded only), the Syllabus, and on the User Dashboard (graded only). Assignments can be assigned to individual students, groups, or sections.

    Discussions

    A Discussion is a Canvas assignment that will grade student response to discussion topics. This assignment will appear on the Assignment Index Page (graded only), the Discussions Index Page, the Gradebook (graded only), the Syllabus, and on the User Dashboard (graded only). Discussions can be assigned to individual students, groups, or sections.

    Quizzes

    A Quiz is a Canvas assignment that can be used to conduct a survey or assess a student's comprehension of course content. This assignment will appear on the Assignments Index Page (graded only), the Quizzes Index Page, the Gradebook (graded only), the Syllabus, and on the User Dashboard (graded only). Quizzes can be assigned to individual students or sections; they cannot be assigned to groups.

    External Tools

    An External Tool is an assignment that utilizes LTI technology to link to a third-party application or website. This assignment will appear on the Assignments Index Page, the Gradebook (graded only), the Syllabus page, and on the User Dashboard (graded only). External Tools must be configured in your course before they can be added as an assignment.

    Not Graded

    Not Graded is a Canvas assignment with a due date, but no points or grades will be given for completing the assignment. This assignment type can be used for practice assignments as well. This assignment will appear on the Assignments Index Page, the Syllabus, and the User Dashboard. Not Graded assignments can be assigned to individual students or sections; they cannot be assigned to groups.

    The Canvas help guide, "What assignment types can I create in a course?" provides detailed images and examples of choosing appropriate assignment types.


    Extra credit

    Extra credit is currently not a default option in Canvas. However, you can give students extra credit using a variety of options.

    Create new assignment worth zero points

    Create a new assignment with zero points possible and select any submission type. Assignments set to the No Submission type work well for classroom activities, such as in-class discussions or presentations.

    Add extra points to an existing assignment

    Add extra points to an Assignment you've already created. Manually enter the extra points in the Gradebook. For example, this assignment is worth 30 points. Adding 5 extra points will bring the assignment total for this student to 35 points. The added points will increase total points calculated in the Gradebook's final grade. After students complete an online submission or complete and submit work offline, you can add and adjust points in the Gradebook.

    The Canvas help guide, "How do I give extra credit in a course?" provides detailed images and examples of various ways to create extra credit assignments.


    Weighting final grades

    You can weight final grades based on assignment groups. Selecting this option assigns a weight to each assignment group, not the assignments themselves. Within each assignment group, a percentage is calculated by dividing the total points a student has earned by the total points possible for all assignments in that group.

    Note: If an assignment group is weighted to zero percent, any course items added to the group will not count toward the final grade.

    The Canvas help guide, "How do I weight the final course grade based on assignment groups?" provides detailed images and examples of creating assignment groups and choosing to weight your final course grade.


  • Discussions

    Discussion basics

    As an instructor, you can create a discussion for your course. Note: Discussions can be graded or ungraded. If a student attaches a file to an ungraded discussion, the file size counts toward the student's storage quotas. However, attachments added to graded discussions do not count toward the student's storage quotas.

    Discussion groups

    Discussions are organized into three main areas:

    1. Discussions. These are current discussions within the course. Discussions can remain open indefinitely, or you can specify a date range (as designated by the available from/until date). Discussions with replies are ordered by most recent activity. Discussions with no replies are ordered by creation date. Students will only see this section heading if there are discussions within this section.
    2. Pinned Discussions. These are discussions that you want your students to see at the top of their page. Pinned discussions can be arranged in any order. Students will only see this section heading if there are discussions within this section.
    3. Closed for Comments. These discussions have been manually closed for comments, or the discussion is past the available from/until date. These are discussions that are only available in a read-only state. Closed for comments discussions are also ordered by most recent activity. Students will always see this section heading, even if there are no discussions within this section.

    The Canvas help guides, "How do I use the Discussions Index Page?" and "How do I create a discussion as an instructor?" provides detailed images and descriptions of discussions.


    Viewing and sorting discussion replies

    You can view all replies in a discussion by scrolling or searching content. Focused discussion replies are shown in hierarchal order; threaded discussions are hierarchal, collapsable, and expandable.

    In a discussion, you have several options to view and sort discussions. Use the search field to search for replies or specific authors. To filter by unread replies, click the Unread button. To view deleted replies, click the Show button. You can also collapse and expand all discussion replies.

    To subscribe to a discussion, click the Subscribe button. Subscribing to a discussion allows you to follow the discussion and receive notifications as set in your notification preferences. You are automatically subscribed to any discussions you reply to. When you create a discussion, you are also automatically subscribed to the discussion. If you are subscribed, the button will have a green background. To unsubscribe, click the Subscribe button and the background will turn gray. 

    The Canvas help guide, "How do I view and sort discussion replies as an instructor?" provides detailed images and descriptions of how to view and sort discussion replies in your course.


    Pinned discussions

    You can pin discussions so students will see them at the top of the Discussions index page. Such discussions could include short-run discussions, discussions that only run for a single week, and any other discussions that students should specifically pay attention to. You can also pin discussions within student groups.

    If you pin several discussions to the Pinned Discussion section, you can move or reorder discussions within the section.

    Note: Students do not see the Pinned Discussions section when the page does not include pinned discussions.

    The Canvas help guide, "How do I pin a discussion in a course?" provides detailed images and examples of discussions that you can pin in your course.

  • Groups

    Adding groups

    Group sets house the different groups within a course. Before creating a new group set, you may want to view the existing group sets. You can also clone an existing group set. Once you have created a group set, you can manually create groups in the set or automatically create groups in the set.

    Note: Canvas allows you to create up to 200 groups.

    The Canvas help guide, "How do I add a group set in a course?" provides detailed images and descriptions of gradebook views, settings, and assignment options.


    Viewing content and student activity

    As an instructor, you can view what is happening in groups by viewing each user group. You can view student activity within the group and view group-created content. You can also access student groups to create group collaborations and add other group-specific content if necessary.

    As the instructor, you can view all of the student activity within the group by clicking any link in the Group Navigation Menu. You can also participate in any content area in the group, such as creating a collaboration for the group or viewing a group discussion. However, you can still create collaborations and group discussions from the course. Group members can also create their own content for the group.

    The Canvas help guide, "How do I view content and student activity within a group as an instructor?" provides detailed images and descriptions of how to view content and student activity in a group.


    Help guides

    Below is a list of other Canvas help guides that you may find helpful when creating groups in your course(s).

  • Displaying course content

    Course content in Canvas can be displayed using pages or modules. Below you will find examples of how to utilize pages and modules in your course. 


    Pages

    Pages are similar to a web-page. They are a place where you can add content, links to other resources (both within the course or outside of the course), and other information.

    In terms of organization, they are normally used to organize a small chunk of specific information and then added to the appropriate place in the course Modules. Yet, you could technically add ALL course content to a Page - so yes, in theory you "could" use it like Modules. The difference is that it won't display assignment information (so no due date or points) and you can't require students to do things.

    General Guidelines

    • Include text, images, and video.
      • Images make a page more visually appealing.
    • Use a page if you need to use text-formatting (e.g. headers) or line breaks.
    • It's good to have a student-friendly front page — even if you organize the site by module.
    • You can allow students to edit a page.
    • Hide "Pages" in your course navigation to not confuse students.

    Limitations

    • The "View All Pages" button displays all page titles — whether you want them displayed or not.
    • The Rich Content Editor limits what styles you can use.
      • It's not easy to insert marginal comments.

    Help guides

    Below is a list of other Canvas help guides that you may find helpful when creating pages in your course(s).


    Modules

    Modules are a way to organize and display course content. You can display Pages, Assignments, Files, Links, etc in Modules and organize them as you want (ex: Weeks, topic, chapter, unit, etc). The nice thing about Modules is that you can then require students to view content or submit assignments in a specific order and assignment information is displayed (so due date and points).

    Guidelines

    • Can be used to organize course content by weeks, units, or whatever organizational structure works for your class.
    • Provide instructors with a mechanism for using files, discussions, assignments, quizzes, and outside resources into a guided learning experience.
    • Especially useful for learning materials that are best covered in a set sequence.

    Limitations

    • You cannot display images or video.
    • You cannot format the text.

    Help guides

    Below is a list of other Canvas help guides that you may find helpful when creating Modules in your course(s).


  • BigBlueButton

    Big Blue Button (BBB) is a conferencing and collaboration system within Canvas that assists faculty in facilitating effective blended and online learning. You may use BBB to engage students in:

    • Web conferencing
    • Class and meeting participation
    • Online office hours
    • Voice authoring – creating quick lectures, notes, and student feedback

    The Academic Applications Support Team has created a guide for setting up Big Blue Button.

  • Virtual Resource Hub

    The Office for Teaching & Learning's Virtual Resource Hub offers a variety of self-paced modules and trainings related to both teaching strategies and technology. These resources are self-directed, meaning you choose your own adventure through our:

    • Interactive trainings
    • Instructional video series
    • Recorded webinars
    • Additional resources

    The Virtual Resource Hub has a unit of learning on using Canvas effectively. You will be able to take interactive trainings and/or watch recorded webinars of Canvas Basics and Grades in Canvas. All you have to do is self-enroll in our Virtual Resource Hub!