Canvas, the learning management system (LMS) we use at Champlain, is a robust toolkit that lets you manage content delivery, student interactions, assignment submission, grading, and much more in a centralized location.
If you need to contact Canvas support, which is available 24/7 for faculty at institutions using Canvas, please call 1-800-209-6112. You can also chat with a Canvas support rep 24/7 here.
If you are looking for either beginner resources or help with a very specific issue, continue reading. If you want a guide to resources on key Canvas tools, jump to our overview below.
New to Canvas? Take a “tour” created by theater educator Ashlee Espinosa on her YouTube channel (which includes great Canvas tutorials). Instructure, the maker of Canvas, also provides tutorials, but they may not begin with the functions you need most. Fortunately, many large universities have produced their own public “getting started” guides. A good example is the Canvas Basics Faculty Training Course by Xavier University, which you can explore. (Out of respect for Xavier’s staff, please do not use any interactive elements like surveys and help links. Contact Canvas Support or the CLT for assistance with your course.)
Tip for Experienced Users! The Canvas Guides, produced by Instructure, include detailed tutorials of almost anything you might be able to do with Canvas. If you are searching for instructions on using a particular function, you may wish to start with the guides or search the CLT’s Tutorials.
For Fall 2020, Champlain is requiring that courses include a few more uses of Canvas that many faculty typically employ. This will help students navigate your course, meet deadlines, and feel that they understand expectations. For you, these standards mean smoother, more centralized communication, digital alternatives to in-person experiences that still emphasize interaction, and fewer logistical questions from students. These required uses include:
- Canvas must be the base or hub of the course
- All assignments and asynchronous discussions must appear in Canvas with due dates
- The Gradebook must be properly set up and regularly updated so students have an accurate understanding of how they’re doing in your class
- Course materials, activities, and assignments must be organized in Modules
- All-class communications must use the Announcements feature to ensure there is a durable archive of these messages and avoid email bloat
- The instructor needs to be visibly present in Canvas via announcements, contributions in any asynchronous discussions, prompt grading and feedback, and prompt answers to student messages
More information on course standards and guidelines for semesters after Fall 2020 is forthcoming.
Key Functions of Canvas
To meet these standards, you will need to master the basics of creating Assignments, setting up and maintaining the Gradebook, uploading, linking, and organizing course material via Files and Modules, and communicating via Announcements and Inbox. You may also need to learn Discussions if you will have asynchronous discussion forums. To manage most of these components, you will also need to familiarize yourself with the Rich Content Editor.
Common Feature: Rich Content Editor
Most of Canvas’s features, including Announcements, Assignments, Discussions, Quizzes, and Pages use the Rich Content Editor to create and format instructor-created content (e.g., assignment descriptions, discussion prompts, content pages, etc). The RCE can format text for accessibility, embed media (images, videos, content from Panopto, etc), manage links within and outside your course, insert special symbols, and more.
Presently, our Canvas courses still use the Old Rich Content Editor (Canvas has recently released a new version, not yet implemented at Champlain), so if you search for additional resources in the Canvas Guides, make sure you choose the appropriate tutorials!
Note: the RCE for Champlain has slight variations, in that it includes options to embed materials from Panopto and Google Drive. Otherwise it operates as seen in the video.
We provide a tutorial on Canvas Announcements (the best option for all-class communication) and Inbox (for one-to-one or small-group communication) here.
Assignments allow you to create several important things all at once: an assignment description, dropbox or other instructions for submission, an item in the Gradebook with point value, and a due date that appears in students’ Course Summary, Canvas calendar, and to-do list. Without using Assignments, it is impossible to meet the Course Standards; therefore, this may be the most essential tool in Canvas for Champlain faculty.
To get started, learn about creating Assignments and setting up grading at the same time from theater educator Ashlee Espinosa, who has created an excellent set of Canvas walkthroughs on her YouTube channel.
Our “Five Steps to Gradebook Setup” tutorial also covers much of the assignment setup process, since the Gradebook and Assignments operate in tandem.
Discussions are a very robust tool set that can be designed and leveraged in different ways. Your options for learning more about Discussions include:
- Our tutorial on using the Discussions function (coming soon!)
- Instructure’s extensive and detailed guides to Discussions
- Our Course Design – Discussion-Based Courses page on how to create pedagogically sound discussions activities, including creative ways to leverage Discussions
Files is Canvas’s storage area for anything you upload to Canvas. It contains storage areas for each course and for materials accessible to you across your courses. Anytime you upload something, it lands in Files automatically. For this reason, we recommend that you do not make Files visible to your students, but rather ensure that you include all relevant materials in Modules.
You can learn more about the Files system from Instructure’s Canvas Guides here.
The Gradebook is Canvas’s centralized area where students’ grades appear. Items (columns) in the Gradebook are automatically generated when you create an assignment, a graded discussion, or a quiz; this is part of the reason it’s important to assign each graded item a point value. The Gradebook also weights grades by assignment group; you can create assignment groups and assign them a proportion of the final grade in the Assignments area.
The Gradebook automatically imports grades entered through SpeedGrader, or you can enter grades manually. It’s important to keep up with this, because students will check to see how they’re doing in the course.
You can learn more about setting up your Gradebook here.
We provide a tutorial on Canvas Announcements (for all-class communication) and Inbox (for one-to-one or small-group communication) here.
Modules are the best way for students to navigate your course, especially if you create modules organized by week or unit (as described in the Fall 2020 Course Standards). The Modules area in Canvas does not store anything; rather, it is an organizational tool for presenting items created or uploaded elsewhere in Canvas. That is, any Assignment you choose to display in Modules “lives” in the Assignments area. (Essentially, Modules is a collection of shortcuts arranged so that students can find things easily.) Well-organized modules also allow students to move seamlessly from item to item, simply by clicking a button; for example, students could move directly from a reading to a relevant discussion forum, and then straight to a linked video intended to further their thinking.
The CLT now provides customizable templates you can import into your Canvas course to expedite setting up your Modules area and other items in your course. See our guidance on importing templates and deciding which template to use for your course. We also provide information on how to create outstanding modules here.
Further information on Modules is available from Instructure’s Canvas Guides.