Canvas is the primary learning management system (LMS) at Iowa State University. It gives you the ability to quickly share course materials, provide easy-to-use tools to communicate and collaborate with students, co-instructors, and Teaching Assistants (TAs). The table of contents introduces you to the key components in your course shell.
Canvas can be accessed through a web browser or through the Canvas Teacher or Canvas Student apps, available for both Android and iOS mobile devices.
Your courses will require you and your students to log in to Canvas to access the materials. To log in to Canvas on a web browser, go to the Iowa State University homepage and click the Sign Ons link in the top-right corner of the page. Select the link for Canvas to be taken to the sign on, which requires your ISU netID and password.
Canvas is compatible with pretty much all major browsers and devices, provided you have updated them. See Which browsers does Canvas support? for a specific list of browser versions that are compatible with Canvas and What are the basic computer specifications for Canvas? for minimum computer requirements.
To access Canvas via mobile app, click the appropriate link below to download the app, then follow the prompts to log in with your ISU Net-ID and password. If you experience trouble logging in, you may need to reset your Net-ID password.
Read the following Canvas guides to learn more about the Canvas mobile apps:
Canvas has two levels of navigation: global navigation and course navigation.
When using Canvas in a web browser, the global navigation is the red bar on the left of the screen and the course navigation is the white column of links next to that.
The Global Navigation Menu contains links to tools that show you information for all your courses. Examples include Studio videos, Calendar, Inbox, Courses list, and Help. The Help menu is where you will find:
The Course Navigation Menu can and should be customized to fit the needs of your course. Here are a few helpful tips to help you understand the course navigation:
Read the following Canvas guides to learn more about each of these menus:
Keep distraction at a minimum in your Canvas course: Your students should see a customized course menu that will allow them to quickly and easily navigate the information they need. 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 Assignments to your modules, you will see that they can also be accessed by your students via the Assignments option on your course’s menu. You might prefer that your students not have access to your Assignments area as it organizes your assignments 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 Assignments area is to avoid confusing redundancy in which students can see the same assignment in two locations (in the Assignments area and in the module organization).
This may be true for all of the following:
Another reason to hide Files is to prevent students from accessing lecture notes, exam study guides, assignment supporting files, etc. ahead of time.
To customize your course menu, see these web guides:
Canvas has several options for choosing the entry point to your course. They have different advantages:
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. Instead, create Content Pages for the information and insert links to those pages into the upper part of the Syllabus.
Review the Online Course Essentials (ONCE) and ISU Course Template to determine what will work best for your course.
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. This “chunked-up” modular structure makes a Canvas course transparent, clear, and adaptable to the needs of your students. Modules can contain:
Read the following Canvas guides to learn more about Modules:
Additional information can be found in the Instructor Guide to Modules.
Explore best practices, via the Once Course Essentials (ONCE) page and Quality Matters at Iowa State page.
General communication in the course is often sent via announcements. Students may choose whether to receive email or push notifications, text messages, or no notifications when new announcements are posted. Regardless of notification preferences, new announcements will always display a red badge on the announcement icon on the course tile on the Dashboard, as shown in the example below. You can also set your course to show the latest announcements at the top of the homepage.
Read the following Canvas guides to learn more about Announcements:
Additional information can be found in the Instructor Guide to Announcements.
Explore best practices, review the Communications Strategies page.
The Assignments tool in Canvas will display anything that results in a student submission, grade or activity. This includes Quizzes, graded Discussions, online submissions, and assigned tasks. Assignments can be categorized using assignment groups. Examples of assignment groups include discussions, assigned readings, practice activities, quizzes, exams, presentation projects, exams, etc. Assignment groups can be used to weight the course grade and to filter the gradebook.
Read the following Canvas guides to learn more about Assignments:
Additional information can be found in the Instructor Guide to Assignments.
Explore best practices, review the Assignments Strategies page.
The Quizzes tool in Canvas can be used to administer online quizzes, surveys, and exams. It includes both auto-graded question types (multiple-choice, true/false, fill-in-the-blank, Likert scale, matching, numerical, formula) and manually-graded question types (essay, file upload). Quizzes include settings to shuffle answers, enforce a time limit, restrict access to external resources, allow multiple attempts, and see quiz responses.
Read the following Canvas guides to learn more about Quizzes:
Additional information can be found in the Instructor Guide to Quizzes.
Explore best practices, review the Quizzes and Exams Strategies page.
Discussions can be created to facilitate engagement and interaction, particularly in online courses. Discussions can be graded or ungraded and assigned to the whole class or individual groups.
Read the following Canvas guides to learn more about Discussions:
Additional information can be found in the Instructor Guide to Discussions.
Explore best practices, review the Discussions Strategies page.
Pages contain content and educational resources that do not necessarily belong in an assignment. Pages can include text, video, and links to files and other content. Canvas keeps the entire history of the page to account for changes over time.
Read the following Canvas guides to learn more about Pages:
Additional information can be found in the Instructor Guide to Pages.
Prior to the start of each semester, follow the steps in the Start of Semester Checklist to create your Canvas course(s). If you are building a course from scratch, you may find useful information in the Course Building Basics webpage.
You might also consider using these other technologies and resources at ISU:
The Canvas Instructor Guides can be a useful resource to you.
Finally, at the end of the semester, follow the End of Semester Checklist to submit your students’ final grades.