Posts Tagged ‘home_page_layout’

Canvas Course using Most Tools – Student View

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

This discussion is for faculty designing a course in Canvas, but shows the student view. To learn about how to deploy the various tools, please visit the main UMW Canvas support site at

Moving efficiently and effectively from Blackboard to Canvas requires a change in mindset. Canvas is different and works differently than Blackboard. It would be counterproductive  to try to replicate the Blackboard experience inside Canvas.

So the first order of business is to understand the relationship among Canvas Assignments, Pages, Modules, Syllabus, and Calendar.

When the student logs into your course on the first day, they will need some direction. So, you will probably want to set up your course to display the “Front Page“. The Front Page is a web page that the instructor can edit to include text, pictures, and even video. For directions on how to do this, please see First Day Course Design. In this example training course, the home page has been set to be the Front Page:

For many courses (using most of the Canvas tools), the main organizational element will be the Modules tool. This is particularly true if your course is logically ordered into units and students proceed sequentially from one unit to another.

In this example training course, there is one short module, Mary Washington, organized into two areas, “The Person” and “The University”. In this view the user can see a list of items in the module. The icons to the left of each line show a page icon for an internal web page, a world for a web link, an A+ for an assignment, a circle Q for a quiz, and a conversation bubble for discussions. Those items with due dates have the date displayed on the right along with any associated point value.

Note: There are five graded activities listed here; one assignment, two graded discussions, and two quizzes.

The five graded activities shown above can be created (by the instructor) while editing the module or by visiting the assignment area (for creating assignments), the discussion area (for creating discussions), and the quiz area (for creating quizzes).

Important: The instructor can create a graded activity directly while in the process of creating a module. If so, the activity is automatically listed in the module being created. It is also possible to create items such as quizzes, assignments, and graded discussions in those areas. If so, the graded activity will be listed in the appropriate area but not in a Module. These items can be added to the module later.

Here is a view of the Assignments area. In this example course, all the graded activities were created while in the Modules area. The graded activities are placed in the Assignments area automatically by Canvas. Please note that there are five items here: one “assignment”, two graded discussions, and two quizzes. In Canvas, an assignment can be any graded activity. This is somewhat of a departure from the Blackboard assignment which usually involved a file submission.

Here is an alternate view of the Assignments area:

Parts of the Syllabus page in Canvas are also automatically populated. The Syllabus tool has two areas, top and bottom. The top part can be edited by the instructor and any text, images, or videos can appear in this top portion. Many instructors will want to copy and paste their normal syllabus information into this area. Other instructors may wish to upload a syllabus document as a Wrod file and just provide a link to that document in this area.

In either case, the bottom portion of the Syllabus tool is NOT editable by the instructor. The bottom portion of the Syllabus page is automatically populated with items with grades and due dates.

The Front Page is only one (special purpose) page that can be created in the Pages area. This example course has two additional pages, Directions for Module One and Directions for Module Two. These pages are also listed in the Mary Washington module.

The instructor can create any number of pages. All pages (except for the Front Page) can be set so that students can edit them. So they are wiki-type pages. Some instructors may want to save lecture notes here. Another possibility would be to create blank pages and let students fill those pages in with notes that they take.

Another page that is automatically populated by Canvas is the Calendar tool. Note: The calendar is associated with a person. If the person has access to many courses, all dates from all courses will show by default. To narrow the perspective to just one course, the user should un-check all boxes except for the course of interest. In this example all boxes are un-checked save for the Training_Course_100 course.

In summary, there are many ways to organize and design the student experience inn a Canvas course utilizing most of the tools. This page suggests concentrating organizing the course using the Modules tool. While creating the modules, the instructor will also be creating assignments and quizzes, and discussions, and other activities. In most cases, these activities will be automatically placed in the Assignments tool, the Syllabus tool, the Pages tool, and the Calendar tool.

For face-to-face courses not needing to use all the Canvas toolset, please see:

Canvas Course for Submitting Assignments

Tuesday, 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

Tuesday, 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.