This article discusses best practices for using Canvas to provide structure to your course, clearly communicate assignment expectations, and manage grading. You can find an abbreviated checklist that clearly indicates what is required and what is recommended (according to the Fall 2021 Course Standards) via the second tab.

Essential Uses of Canvas

Post your Syllabus

The college requires all syllabi to be posted by the end of the first week. You must post your syllabus as a file (Word doc or PDF), or create it directly in Canvas. Google Docs and other cloud documents are not sufficient. Learn more about uploading your syllabus.

Maintain an Accurate Gradebook

In a comprehensive survey of 400 Champlain students, they rate this at the top of their list. Learn how to set up your Gradebook. Using the Gradebook to record and communicate grades is required.

Post Assignments/Quizzes/Other Exercises with Due Dates

All assignments, quizzes, graded discussions, and other graded activities should be created in Canvas, with a clear indication of how they are to be turned in (via Canvas or another method) and an accurate due date. Creating a Canvas assignment for each major assessment and adding due dates will greatly improve the chance that students complete work on time. This is required. Learn more about setting due dates in Assignments.

Use Canvas to Communicate

Canvas’s communication tools — Announcements and Inbox — are an ideal way to communicate with whole classes or individuals and small groups (respectively). These tools help avoid messages getting lost in a flood of emails, because students do receive email notifications, but Canvas also retains an easily findable copy. If you use Announcements and Inbox regularly, your students will be familiar with these tools if you need them to maintain academic continuity during a campus closure or snow day. Learn more about using Announcements and Inbox.

Highly Desirable Practices

Use NameCoach

NameCoach allows all users to record their names and indicate their pronouns. Names are an important part of inclusion! Learn more about using NameCoach.

Streamline Grading with Speedgrader

Using Speedgrader for written assignments and the Gradebook in general expedites grading, saves paper, and keeps students up to date quickly. Utilizing rubrics adds a new level of efficiency and helps preserve objectivity. Learn more about using Speedgrader.

Provide Feedback

Speedgrader is a great way to provide feedback on assignments. Quizzes also allow you to provide automatic feedback for right and wrong multiple choice and true/false answers. Make sure you show students how to access feedback you provide.

Stucture and Support Learning with Modules

Use Modules to organize readings, assignments, discussions, supplemental resources, review items, and more. Learn more about how to use Modules effectively. The CLT provides optional module templates you can import directly into your Canvas courses.

Take Attendance

Canvas’s built-in attendance tool, RollCall, allows you to track attendance and helps you learn names. You can adjust whether RollCall impacts the grade. Learn more about using RollCall.

ALERT! If you would like to join two sections of the same course into a single Canvas shell, you should do that before anything else. Learn more about joining Canvas sections. You must request to have your sections joined no later than the Wednesday before the semester starts.

If you wish to use a Canvas template, you should import that before you begin to add other content to avoid duplicating your work. Learn more about the optional Canvas templates. This also applies to importing past courses.


  1. Create and upload your syllabus (consult the official syllabus guidelines). The syllabus must be uploaded as a Word document or PDF, or created directly in Canvas. Google Docs and other cloud documents are not adequate. The syllabus should include:
    • Basics: Course name and number, meeting times and location, instructor contact information, office hours, etc
    • Course description
    • Required texts
    • Learning outcomes
    • Assignments and grading scheme (methods of assessment)
    • Semester calendar or overview
    • DEI statement
    • Classroom policies on attendance, late assignments, technology, etc
  2. Set up the Gradebook and all assignments:
    • Create Assignment Groups based on the weighting in your syllabus
    • Create all graded exercises — assignments, quizzes, and discussions — with due dates and point values, and add them to the appropriate assignment groups; it is not necessary at this point to post assignment descriptions or quiz questions, but the graded exercises should be created to allow you to set up the Gradebook and add due dates
    • Consider creating rubrics and attaching them to assignments as appropriate (optional)
  1. Set up a communication plan: email through Canvas (Inbox), Announcements, etc., so you are able to communicate consistently with students; see also our information on academic continuity
  2. Put a welcome message on your home page
  3. Set up Modules (optional, but highly recommended)
    • Decide whether to set up your own modules or import one of the pre-constructed module templates (read more about templates and use the gold buttons on the homepage of your course to import)
    • Decide the best pedagogical use of modules for your course
    • Recommended: one module per week, with relevant assignments, course materials, and an overview of the week, plus a student success and course overview module

Useful Resources

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