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eLearning: Canvas Best Practices

This document outlines the 7 best practices to prepare your Canvas course for teaching.
  1. Set a Home page

    • When students access your class, this is the first page they will see. Make sure that it conveys the most relevant and up-to-date information. If you want to change: How do I change the Course Home Page?
      Home Page Options
      Recommended Not Recommended
      • Course Modules (default) - shows all of the activities by modules, however you organize them.
      • Pages (Home Page) - design your own home page to orient learners around the course with information about you, the course, grades, and buttons that link to content within the course. See Instructure's documentation on how to changes pages: How do I set a Front Page in a course?.
      • Syllabus - a Canvas-specific item that you can edit with instructor information, policies, grade breakdowns, etc. It will also have a list at the bottom with all the assignments.
      • Course Activity Stream - this displays the most recent activities, including announcements, assignments, discussions, and more. This is a relatively confusing view for students because it's difficult to navigate.
      • Assignments List - displays a running list of all of the assignments, quizzes, and discussion forums. This is a relatively confusing view for students because it's difficult to navigate.
  2. Make the Syllabus easy to find and keep it updated

    • Students reference the Syllabus throughout the semester to find instructor information, resources, grade breakdowns, a calendar of due-dates, and other relevant policies. Keep this information updated either on top of the Modules list, in the Home page, or in the Syllabus item. 
  3. Keep naming schemes generic 

    • When naming modules, include either the dates, week, or topic that you will be covering. Examples:
      • Week 1: August 21-27
      • Unit 1: Universal Design for Learning
    • When naming activities, make sure that they convey the information that you want students to know. You can rename files after uploading them, so don't worry about having to change the names of your files before uploading. Examples:
      • Week 1 Homework
      • Week 2 Handout
      • Week 3 Lecture Notes
      • Exam 1: October 13
    • Having a consistent naming convention makes navigation easier for students and clearly outlines what is expected of them.
  4. Set an organization structure first and stick to it

    • Standardize how the information is displayed to students, so that they can navigate your course without much trouble. This will also make modules and activities easy to find, replace, or update.
    • An example of an easily navigable module
      An example of a good course set up, with naming schemes that tell students where to go.
    • An example of not easily navigable module
      A bad example of a course layout where the names of activities don't reflect what students should do.
  5. Go over course settings

    • There are a lot of settings in Canvas that can change how your course functions. Thoroughly look through them, and click more options to see extra features, like showcased below. 
      Red rectangle around the "fewer options" setting.
    • You can organize the items by clicking on Navigation and dragging the items around in the desired order.
      The Navigation feature allows you to move items around to display or hide from students, so only the relevant material is shown.
    • You can have Canvas automatically check links to make sure that they are not broken or redirecting to a resource that is no longer available. Go to Settings, click on Validate Links in Content, and then click on the button Restart Link Validation
  6. Check your Grades setup

  7. Seek out feedback from students

    • Consider having a mid-term survey assessing the course setup (which does not need to be super long). Potential questions:
      • What is working well?
      • What could be improved?
      • How well are the materials organized on the Canvas course site?
      • Is anything unclear on the Canvas course site?
    • The end-of-semester ICES surveys are helpful, but a mid-term survey can provide feedback for improvement or what's working well, and then implement any changes, if needed.

You can also review the Canvas Ready checklist to get you started here: If you have any questions, comments, or recommendations, please reach out to us at

Keywordsgrade, module, teaching, students, organization, settings.   Doc ID129733
OwnerAnya K.GroupEngineering IT
Shared Services
Created2023-07-13 15:00:13Updated2024-03-01 17:22:37
SitesUniversity of Illinois Engineering IT
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