Canvas Course for Submitting Assignments

May 31st, 2011

There are some face-to-face classes that use the course management system merely for a place for students to submit their papers (or Powerpoints or some other type of file) electronically. This page discusses using Canvas solely for the purpose of providing students a place to submit assignments.

Step One: In a face-to-face class, the instructor will normally hand out the syllabus on the first day of class. Discussion might happen in the classroom or outside via a blog or some tool other than a course management system. Canvas allow changing the homepage to go directly to a listing of the assignments:

Step Two:Once the home page layout has been changed to point directly to assignments, click on the link to Assignments in the course menu:

Step Three: And click to add an assignment.

Step Four: We want to see all the options for this new assignment, so click on the link to “more options”.

Step Five: There are lots of options. This screen shot is emphasizing changing the title from the generic “Assignment 1”, setting a point value, and setting a due date. Notice that the instructor can decide what format is acceptable for turning in assignments. Here the check boxes are set for file upload and for text entry. The former would be appropriate for lengthy documents that the student would write up in Word. The latter is appropriate for a short submission like a paragraph that could be typed directly into Canvas.

Step Six: This screen shot is showing four assignments. If you have lots of assignments, you may want to group them into some logical organization. To do so, click the link to add an assignment group:

Step Seven:  This screen shot shows the assignments organized by type. The two paragraph assignments are in one group and the two paper assignments are in another group. The assignment group names are in grey bars. Note that you can move the groups and the assignments by grabbing the icon on the left of each line. Just drag and drop.

Course Design Example: Here is an example of a course used solely for assignment submissions. The home page has been changed to point directly to the list of assignments.


Disclaimer: This example is appropriate in a face-to-face class for which the instructor does everything in class (or otherwise outside the course management system) and uses Canvas solely for the purpose of giving students a convenient place to upload and submit electronic files. A blended or fully online course would likely employ a more advanced design including the use of modules, the syllabus tool, discussions, quizzes, and other tools.

First Day Course Design

May 31st, 2011

Here is a suggestion that would be appropriate in a course that is fully online or has a major online component in Canvas.

The instructor can set what kind of page the student sees when first entering the course.  The choices are:

  • the communication (or activity) stream
  • a wiki page (Front Page) designed by the instructor
  • the course modules page
  • the assignment list
  • the assignment list including syllabus

To do this, the instructor clicks on the “Change Home Page Layout” link (upper right):

Click to enlarge

There are several choices, but a good choice for the first day(s) of the semester is the “Page I’ll Design Myself”:

Next, click the Update Layout button.

Now you will need to click the Edit this Page button.

You will be presented with a wysiwyg editor. Create any text, add images, or even videos. This page will be the “Front Page” and it will be the page any user sees when entering the “Pages” area. It is also the page users will see whenever the home page layout is set to the “Page I’ll Design Myself” option.

One possibility for the first day is to create an informational page that tells students what to do. This may not be necessary in a face-to-face class where the instructor is present to answer first day questions. But in an online class this would be recommended. Of course, what you say depends on the class. Here is an example from my EDCI 525 class from summer, 2011:

Example only – first day text varies by course

After the first few days of class, it would probably be best to set the home page layout back to the communication/activity stream or at least rework the “Front Page” to eliminate the “how to get started” info.

Canvas Course for Document Delivery via Modules

May 27th, 2011

Suppose you are teaching a face-to-face class and you would like to use Canvas for the sole purpose of delivering documents to your students. Here’s one way. See Canvas Course for Document Delivery via Files for an alternate approach.

Step One: You may want to hide all the menu items except for Modules (see Canvas Menus for step-by-step directions). Then enter the Modules area and click on the button to Add a New Module.

Step Two: Enter a name for your module. Notice that you can set some options now (or later).

Step Three: Here is a module titled “Word Documents.” To add items to the module, click on “Add item to module.”

Step Four: Notice that the course designer can add assignments, quizzes, files, content pages, discussion topics, text headers, and external web links (url’s). In this example, we are creating a course targeted toward supporting a face-to-face class and it will merely be a place to distribute documents.

Step Five: Choose the file(s) you would like to add to the module. This example shows adding a “Syllabus.docx” file. You can also add multiple files at a time.

Instructor View: Here is the teacher view of a sample course with two modules.

Student View: Here is the student view of a sample course with two modules.

View of File: There are several benefits from using the modules approach. Here the user has clicked on the “Syllabus.docx” file in a module. Instead of downloading, the user gets to see the document directly in the browser. There is a link to download, print, and view full screen. Navigation links at the bottom of the page allow the user to go to the next item in the module or go to the module table of content.

Another advantage to using modules is that the modules may be created prior to the semester but set to release at dates during the semester. Other release criteria are available as well.

Disclaimer: This course design is not advocated, merely presented for informational purposes. Even in a face-to-face course, it might be a good idea to also allow students to have access to other tools that facilitate communication and collaboration between student and instructor and among students.  If grades are recorded in Canvas, access to the grades area would also be beneficial to students.

Canvas Course for Document Delivery via Files

May 27th, 2011

Suppose you are teaching a face-to-face class and you would like to use Canvas for the sole purpose of delivering documents to your students. Here’s one way. See Canvas Course for Document Delivery – Modules Approach for a better way.

Step One: Since you are only going to use the Files area, you might want to hide all non-used menu choices (see Canvas Menus for step-by-step directions) to reduce student confusion:

Click to Enlarge

Step Two: Go to your Files area. Click on “Add Folder” to add some organizational folders:

Step Three: Organize your files by creating folders with meaningful names. This example separates Word documents and Powerpoint files but any meaningful organization (such as into weeks or units) would be effective:

Step Four: Now enter one of the folders (by clicking on the folder name) and upload files into the folder by clicking on “Add Files”:

Step Five: Students can access this Files area too. You may want to create a private folder for files you do not want the students to see at present. This example shows a folder named “Private Documents” that has been locked. Student can see the folder but will get an error message if they try to access it.

Student View: Here is the sample course from the student perspective. Notice the only two menu items are Home and Files. Also notice that the instructor has placed an announcement in the course telling the students to look in the Files area.  Even though the Announcement tool has been hidden from student view, the instructor still has access and can post announcements.

And here is the student view of the Files area:

Here is the student view when they try to access a folder that has been locked:

Disclaimer: This course design is not advocated, merely presented for informational purposes. Even in a face-to-face course, it might be a good idea to also allow students to have access to other tools that facilitate communication and collaboration between student and instructor and among students.  If grades are recorded in Canvas, access to the grades area would also be beneficial to students.

Canvas Menus

May 27th, 2011

Canvas menus have the following properties:

  • Color scheme is set at the institutional level and cannot be changed by the instructor
  • Tools not used are greyed out for instructor and hidden from student view
  • The order can be changed (but why would you bother)
  • Menu choices can be hidden even if implemented
Instructor View Student View
In this example notice that the instructor can see menu items such as Assignments, Pages, Outcomes, Quizzes, and Modules that are NOT implemented in this example course (SP_Discussions). Notice in the student view that any tools not implemented are hidden from the student.

Even tools that are in use by default can be manually hidden from students.To manually hide selected menu items, the instructor should go to the Settings menu and click on the Navigation tab. This next image shows a course (Math for Elem Classrooms) with no menu items hidden. You can tell there are no hidden items because there are no items listed underneath the hiding line (bottom of image just above Save button).

Here is an example course (Canvas) in which many items have been hidden:

Instructor View Student View
Click to Enlarge
In this example the instructor has hidden several items from student view by dragging those items below the line into the hidden area. The student view shows a course with just four menu choices.

Images in Test Questions

May 26th, 2011

There are TWO TIPS here. One is about adding an image to a test question. The second is about adding an image to a test bank question. These are very different.


To Add an Image to a Test Question:

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Tip: While you are creating your test question, look for the link to “Link to Content” in the upper right. Click that link and you will see the area where you can see your files and upload new files. Click the “Images” tab and upload or select an image.

Click to enlarge


To Add an Image to a Test Bank Question:

There are no good choices for adding an image to a test bank question!

It can be done (but its not a good result). You will notice that while editing a question in a test bank, there is no “Link to Content” link. Therefore, the only way to add the image is to use the image icon in the wysiwyg editor. This works okay, but the only choice is to enter a url to an image already on the Internet.

The real problem here is with browser security warnings.  The test will be served via https (secure) and the image is likely to be served via http (non-secure). There is no real security issue here – we are not talking about a money transaction. But the page will have both secure and non-secure data and the browser (depending on security settings) will probably object and pop-up a warning.

If you are using your public Dropbox folder to store images for use in a test bank question, it is possible to avoid the security warning issue. To do so, when you copy the public link change the prefix from “http://” to “https://” when you paste the link into Canvas. Dropbox supports the https protocol but it is not the default choice when copying links.

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If the user is cautious (usually good , but unnecessary here), they will deny the security exception. This will result in the test being displayed without the images.  So, the students must be advised ahead of time to expect this situation and allow a security exception for the test so they will see the images.

Exporting the Gradebook to Excel

May 23rd, 2011

If you would like to download your grades from inside Canvas and use them in Excel, do the following:

  1. Go to the “Grades” area of your course.
  2. Click on “Options” pull down menu at the upper left.
  3. Choose “Download Scores (.csv)”
  4. The resulting file should open fine in Excel

Exporting grades in Canvas

Adding an Image

May 19th, 2011

Suppose you (the student) want to add an image to a discussion post, or wiki “page” in Canvas. In the wysiwyg editor you will notice an icon for adding an image.

This will open a pop-up dialog asking for a URL:

But your image is on your laptop or desktop computer. There does not seem to be a way to just upload the image from your computer to Canvas. You you are correct – students cannot upload images directly and embed them into discussion posts and wiki pages. So you will need to put your image file somewhere on the Internet.

There are many, many places to do this. One place that I think works really well for this is DropBox ( Accounts are free there (for a limited amount of disk space) and you can store files there that are private or public. Let me show you how to store a public file to use with Canvas.

Here is the basic DropBox area:

You will notice a folder labeled Public – that’s where you upload files you want to make public. Any other folders are private. Once you click on the icon for the Public folder, you will see:

Click the Upload icon to upload a file.

Click the Choose files button to locate your file on your laptop or desktop computer.

In this example you can see that I have identified a file to upload that is a jpg image file with filename view-from-old-post-office.jpg. Of course, we need to click the Start upload button.

Now you can see that the file has been uploaded and exists in my public folder at Dropbox. Now we need to discover the link to that file so we can paste it in Canvas.

So what I did was to check the box for the file I needed the link. Then I pulled down the More link to reveal several choices, one of which is “Copy public link”. That is the link you neeed to paste into Canvas.

And here is the link. Notice that even though the file is public, it is not likely that someone will find the image because the URL is complex.

So if you think back to the second image on this page, that is where you would paste this link and then the image would be seen embedded inside your discussion post or on the wiki page.