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10 Tips for Using Canvas

This piece is written by Alexandra Mauceri, a communication intern for The Wheel. She is a Phi Kappa Phi honors graduate who earned a B.A in Psychology and a minor in professional writing from UC Davis. She currently works in Santa Barbara and is preparing for the law school admissions test. In her spare time, she enjoys volunteering as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) and writing short-stories.

Whether an instructor is a seasoned Canvas user or a novice, he/she can make teaching life easier by using these 10 tips I’ve compiled with Joey Van Buskirk, an Instructional Technologist with Academic Technology Services (ATS). Work smarter, not harder!

  1. Creating a Video Within Canvas
  2. Editing the Course Navigation
  3. Using the Redirect Tool
  4. Changing the Course Image
  5. Changing the Course Name
  6. Changing the Course Language
  7. Changing the Course End-Date
  8. Using the Student View
  9. Canvas Community
  10. Help Button
  1. Creating a Video Within Canvas

A large proportion of instructors across UC Davis use technology, specifically video, to complement material presented in traditional face-to-face courses. One way faculty do this is by using the “Media Comment Tool” on Canvas– a feature which records and uploads videos directly to courses. This avenue of communication gives instructors a platform to reach students on a more personal level.

Tip from Mark Wilson, Instructional Designer and Educational Technologist with ATS: Try posting a “welcome” video on Canvas before the quarter begins so newly registered students can get a sense of your teaching style and general course expectations. As a bonus, you’ll have less introductory material to go over on the first day of class!

To learn how you can use this tool, check out Canvas Community’s guide: “How do I record a video using the Rich Content Editor as an instructor?

  1. Editing the Course Navigation

Canvas’ layout is highly customizable, so instructors can tailor it to their own needs. They can organize their course navigation, for instance, by rearranging or hiding certain tabs from view. If instructors don’t use some of the links (for example, Syllabus, Quizzes, Discussions), they can remove them altogether to eliminate confusion and simplify the interface.

To learn how more about customizing the look of your Canvas course, check out Canvas Community’s guide: “How do I manage Course Navigation links?

  1. Using the Redirect Tool

Instructors can further customize their course page by using the “Redirect tool”– a function for adding web links directly into the navigation bar (i.e extra references, online citation guides, etc.). This puts important information at students’ fingertips and keeps the course page looking streamlined. Say goodbye to messy folders and cluttered home pages!

To learn how you can use this tool, check out: “How do I use the Redirect Tool in Canvas

  1. Changing the Course Image

When a course is added to a students’ Canvas account, it is marked by a uniquely colored “tile.” This design element acts as an extra visual aid so students can easily distinguish between similarly titled classes.

Instructors may add to this feature by uploading an image to the “tile.” This is a detailed, easy way to personalize the class– plus, it can help students navigate their course lists quickly.

To learn how, check out Canvas Community’s guide: “How do I add an image to a course card in the Dashboard?

  1. Changing the Course Name

To change the name of a Canvas course, all instructors have to do is contact ATS for approval. According to Van Buskirk, this is most commonly requested by instructors who have multiple class sections; as an automatic feature, Canvas will title each one differently (e.g.. MIS 155 A01, MIS 155 A02, etc.). Having a uniform name gives the course a sleeker appearance and groups the students under one heading.

To request a course name change, contact ATS for approval.

  1. Changing the Course Language

Although English is the default setting on Canvas, instructors can change the language preference of any course. This is predominantly done in foreign language classes to encourage student engagement.

For example, an instructor may change her Canvas course to French so that students are exposed to relevant vocabulary terms. When users click on her class, their entire site interface, including everything in the navigation bar, will be presented in the chosen language until they select a different course link. Students’ account settings will then return to normal.

To learn how to change your settings, check out Canvas Community’s guide: “How do I change the language preference for a course?

  1. Changing the Course End-Date

When a Canvas course is created, it has a scheduled “end-date,” or expiration, which puts the page into “read-only mode” once a quarter comes to a close. At this point, content cannot be edited, and people cannot be added or deleted from the class. However, instructors may extend the time in “settings” if they need (such as to accept late assignments).

Tip from Joey Van Buskirk, an instructional technologist with ATS: Old Canvas courses can be shared with other instructors– specifically with those that are new to UC Davis or new to teaching a course you’ve taught in the past. When you give them access to your courses (by changing the end-dates and “adding” them to the class), you’ll provide them with useful examples of how to structure their own pages in the future.

To learn how, check out Canvas Community’s guide: “How do I change the start and end dates for a course?

  1. Using the Student View

Instructors can prevent Canvas mishaps by using “Student View,” arguably one of the most important functions available. Just as the name suggests, it enables faculty to see their courses through the eyes of a student. They can keep their classes on track by ensuring all documents have uploaded correctly and all assignments have opened on time.

To learn how you can use this tool, check out Canvas Community’s guide: “How do I view a course as a test student using Student View?

  1. Canvas Community

“Canvas Community” is an interactive, online forum where instructors can exchange helpful tips and tricks with each other nationwide. Everyone can ask questions, give feedback, or get advice on how to make their course material more user-friendly and organized. If a post gains enough “upvotes” (aka “likes”), Canvas creators may address it directly.

Check out the Canvas Community to learn more.

  1. Help Button

For all other questions, instructors can use the “Help” button at the bottom of their navigation bar! Canvas support is available 24/7 via chat or phone.


Post Author: Alexandria Rockey

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