Course Building Basics in Canvas

Course Building Basics in Canvas

Table of Contents

In this Canvas Course Building Basics video, we will consider three important actions: building your modules, choosing your home page cleaning up your courses menu.

Three simple actions for building a course in Canvas

For building a simple course in Canvas, consider three important actions:

  • Build your modules. Canvas is flexible to accommodate the instructor’s delivery style; however, it favors modular design, in which a course is built in smaller, discrete units. A module is an instructional package built around a concept, unit, week, or another segment of instruction to guide learning. In a modular course, the instruction is chunked up and sequenced through a series of self-contained modules, which have a consistent pattern – that way, your students know what you expect and spend more time on learning rather than navigating the course. This “chunked-up” modular structure makes a Canvas course transparent, clear, and adaptable to the needs of your students.
  • Choose your homepage. Student success in your course begins from the homepage. Canvas has different options for helping your students get started, be informed of the course happenings, and stay organized as the semester develops.
  • Clean up your course’s menu. A course-specific menu contains many options and not all of them might be appropriate for your course. Once you have built your modules and set the home page, consider getting rid of all the extra clicks on the left-side course-specific menu in order to minimize confusion and enhance the navigability of your course.

Build Your Modules

Modular course design advocates for building courses in smaller, discrete units, or instructional packages, known as modules.

A module is a unit, chapter, concept, or segment of instruction. It is a standard unit or instructional section of your course that is a “self-contained” chunk of instruction. A week is a common module length, but it can be shorter or longer depending on content and your teaching style.

A modular structure of a course helps students be more aware of the structure, they spend less time guessing about what is expected of them and more time focusing on the content and activities.

Course and the three modules under it

What to include in a module

Think of a module as an outline or to-do list for your students who must be able to demonstrate achievement at the end of the module. Thus your module may include both instructional information and learning and assessment activities.

A typical module may include:

  • An introduction to the module’s objectives, its rationale/purpose, and context.
  • Activities for students to discover, discuss, and share the concepts and additional information. These can include lecture notes, PowerPoint presentations, readings, and discussions.
  • Opportunities to practice application, analysis, and synthesis of the new skills and information; such opportunities include practice exercises, labs, or case studies.
  • Informal and formal assessment of student performance based on the module’s objectives.
  • The instructor’s feedback on student learning and achievement.

Choose a homepage

Canvas has several options for choosing the entry point for your course. They have different advantages:

  • Course Activity Stream demonstrates important recent activities inside the course, such as announcements, discussions, dues dates, etc.
  • Pages Front Page features a customized page from your course which you designate to be the entry point.
  • Course Modules show a list of all modules inside the course.
  • Similarly, Assignment List enlists all graded activities inside the course.
  • Lastly, Syllabus allows customizing the top of the page and automatically creates a list of all course assignments on the bottom part of the page.
Choose the home page

The Syllabus is a great way to create an entry point: The upper part of the page can be simple (you can place a link to your Syllabus file there) or more developed (you can upload the course’s logo and create several links that have important course information). If you opt for a more developed upper part of the page, please remember that text and images will push down a list of course assignments – this is not a good outcome as Syllabus is designed to help your students have a quick overview of your course and keep on top of all activities.

Canvas Guides: How to choose your homepage

Your course-specific menu

Keep distraction at a minimum in your Canvas course: Your students should see the course-specific menu options that will allow them to quickly and easily navigate all course information. To maximize engagement, only leave the options that are relevant and promote an organized and consistent look and feel of your course.

For example, as you add files to your modules, you will see that they can also be accessed by your students via the Files option on your course’s menu. You might prefer that your students do not have access to your Files area as it organizes your files in a way that is different from your module organization. Another reason why you may prefer that your students do not have access to the Files area is to avoid confusing redundancy in which students can see the same file in two locations (in the Files area and in the module organization).

In addition, as you add content pages to your modules, you will see all pages from all modules posted in the Pages option which again creates redundancy and does not conform to the structure of your modules. Thus, you might opt to hide both Files and Pages from your course’s menu.

Use the Student View mode to experience your course in the student capacity and decide on what makes sense to show in the course’s menu and what does not.

How to clean up the menu in your course

Experience your course as a student

Clean up your course menu

Welcome to our series Course Building Basics.  In this video we will consider three important actions:

Building your Modules, Choosing your Homepage and Cleaning up your course’s menu.

Canvas is flexible to accommodate the instructor’s delivery style; however, it favors modular design, in which a course is built in smaller, discrete units. A module is an instructional package built around a concept, unit, week, or another segment of instruction to guide learning. In a modular course, the instruction is chunked up and sequenced through a series of self-contained modules, which have a consistent pattern – that way, your students know what you expect and spend more time on learning rather than navigating the course. This “chunked-up” modular structure makes a Canvas course transparent, clear, and adaptable to the needs of your students.

Modular course design advocates for building courses in smaller, discrete units, or instructional packages, known as modules.

A module is a unit, chapter, concept, or segment of instruction. It is a standard unit or instructional section of your course that is a “self-contained” chunk of instruction. A week is a common module length, but it can be shorter or longer depending on content and your teaching style.

A modular structure of a course helps students be more aware of the structure, they spend less time guessing about what is expected of them and more time focusing on the content and activities.

Think of a module as an outline or to-do list for your students who must be able to demonstrate achievement at the end of the module. Thus your module may include both instructional information and learning and assessment activities.

A typical module may include:

  • An introduction to the module’s objectives, its rationale/purpose, and context.
  • Activities for students to discover, discuss, and share the concepts and additional information. These can include lecture notes, PowerPoint presentations, readings, and discussions.
  • Opportunities to practice application, analysis, and synthesis of the new skills and information; such opportunities include practice exercises, labs, or case studies.
  • Informal and formal assessment of student performance based on the module’s objectives.
  • The instructor’s feedback on student learning and achievement.

To add a module you will click the Modules link in Course Navigation and Click the Add a Module button.  You will then Name the Module and have the opportunity to Lock until a particular date and Add prerequisites to this module (for instance, you can require the previous module be completed before this module will be seen).  You have to have at least one module before you can require a prerequisite module.  Now you can view the module you have created.  A module can be Edited or Deleted by selecting the Settings icon next to that module.

The order of modules can be changed by either dragging and dropping with this drag handle or by clicking the settings icon and selecting Move To.

Individual modules have course content items that are nested within each module.  To add this content you will choose the Add Item button, choose the type of content you wish to add and either add New content by choosing New or add existing content by choosing from the populated listing, name your Page and choose if you would like it to be indented.

As you add items to your module, use the naming conventions that make it easy to locate them. In this example, I chose to use Chapters.

You cannot create a module inside a module. Use text headers if you want to create a visual distinction between readings and assessments.

When you are ready to publish an assignment, quiz or other item for the students to view you will click on the Publish icon and a green checkmark will appear.

Student success in your course begins from the homepage. Canvas has different options for helping your students get started, be informed of the course happenings, and stay organized as the semester develops.

Canvas has several options for choosing the entry point for your course. They have different advantages:

  • Course Activity Stream demonstrates important recent activities inside the course, such as announcements, discussions, dues dates, etc.
  • Pages Front Page features a customized page from your course which you designate to be the entry point.
  • Course Modules show a list of all modules inside the course.
  • Similarly, Assignment List enlists all graded activities inside the course.
  • Lastly, Syllabus allows customizing the top of the page and automatically creates a list of all course assignments on the bottom part of the page.

Syllabus is a great way to create an entry point: The upper part of the page can be simple (you can place a link to your Syllabus file there) or more developed (you can upload the course’s logo and create several links that have important course information). If you opt for a more developed upper part of the page, please remember that text and images will push down a list of course assignments – this is not a good outcome as Syllabus is designed to help your students have a quick overview of your course and keep on top of all activities.

We recommend you use Syllabus as an entry point to your course.

As you edit the Syllabus description, you can upload and link the electronic copy of your course’s syllabus. From your selector to the right, select Files and upload an appropriate file.

A course-specific menu contains many options and not all of them might be appropriate for your course. Once you have built your modules and set the home page, consider getting rid of all the extra clicks on the left-side course-specific menu in order to minimize confusion and enhance the navigation of your course.

Keep distraction at a minimum in your Canvas course: Your students should see the course-specific menu options that will allow them to quickly and easily navigate all course information. To maximize engagement, only leave the options that are relevant and promote an organized and consistent look and feel of your course.

For example, as you add files to your modules, you will see that they can also be accessed by your students via the Files option on your course’s menu. You might prefer that your students do not have access to your Files area as it organizes your files in a way that is different from your module organization. Another reason why you may prefer that your students do not have access to the Files area is to avoid confusing redundancy in which students can see the same file in two locations (in the Files area and in the module organization). In addition, as you add content pages to your modules, you will see all pages from all modules posted in the Pages option which again creates redundancy and does not conform to the structure of your modules. Thus, you might opt to hide both Files and Pages from your course’s menu.

This can be accomplished by going to settings and Navigation and dragging Files and Pages to the lower part of the screen to hide from students.  Then don’t forget to Save.  They will now appear to be greyed out.  This means that the student will not see the option, but you can still get to it.

You can use the Student View mode to experience your course in the student capacity and decide on what makes sense to show in the course’s menu and what does not. Once you are done using student view, you can click on leave student view.

Thank you for joining us for Course Building Basics.  We appreciate you taking the time to learn about our new system.