Adding media (videos, photos, etc) to assignments, discussions, and pages in your Canvas course greatly increases student engagement! It also expands the types of activities you can ask your students to do in Canvas. For example, you could create a reflection assignment that includes a TED Talk video students need to watch without having them leave the page to follow an outside link, or offer a screenshot of code with a quiz question, or provide two images for them to compare in a discussion.
This article provides basic instructions on adding media for decorative and instructional purposes. The instructions apply to any component of Canvas that uses the Rich Content Editor (Discussions, Assignments, Quizzes, and Pages). The Rich Content Editor looks like this, and we will refer to it repeatedly.
Displaying images is a good first step as you learn to embed media in Canvas. The image insertion tools allow you to add still images and animated gifs.
Quick Add: Decorative Images from Flickr
If you simply want to include decorative images to increase visual engagement, you can use the Images tool in the right sidebar. This will allow you to insert images already uploaded to your Canvas course, upload new images, or choose an image from Flickr; however, it is primarily useful for adding images from Flickr. When you click “Images” in the right sidebar, you will first see a menu like the image below.
Select “Search Flickr” to search for generic Flickr images, as seen in the second screenshot here.
Simply clicking on the image inserts it into the content editor. This method is fine for stock or decorative images.
Uploading and Adding a Pre-selected Image
Perhaps, however, you have specific images saved on your computer that you want your students to work from. In that case, it is more straightforward to use the image uploader in the Rich Content Editor toolbar.
To add an image, click the fifth icon from the left in the second row of the toolbar (an icon of a photograph). You will see a dialogue box that looks like this:
Select the second tab, “Canvas”. This tool will allow you to find images already saved in Canvas, or upload your own to Course Files (make sure you are using Course Files if you are adding an image specific to this course, or My Files if you are adding an image you may wish to use in several different courses).
Select the folder you wish to upload to, and then click the Upload File button. You will be walked through choosing and uploading a file from your computer (we are not including a screenshot of this because it will vary depending on whether you use a Mac or a PC).
Under Attributes, you can include alt text. By default, the file name will display in this field. However, it can be changed. Alt text is image description that will be displayed if the image doesn’t load, and will be read aloud by screen-reading software commonly used by visually impaired people. If you have a visually impaired student, editing the alt text is a must! Very briefly, describe the content of the image, including relevant details a visually impaired person would not see. (That is, if you were teaching botany, you would not say “image of a daisy”. Instead, you’d say “close-up of an open flower with a bright yellow center and many narrow, pointed, un-layered white petals”.) If the image is purely decorative, just check the “decorative image” box.
You can also adjust the image size. It is best not to increase the size, as that will decrease the quality; however, it is frequently helpful to decrease the size of a very large image.
Hit update. Your image should appear in the Rich Content Editor. By default, text will not wrap around the image. Text-wrapping is an advanced function that can only be executed in Canvas using HTML (sorry).
Embedding Videos from Web Sources
As with images, Canvas offers multiple ways to embed video, one that allows you to search YouTube from within Canvas, and one that allows you to embed a video using a link you’ve found by searching a video site directly. The second tool is better if you already have a video in mind, including a video you have created yourself and uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo.
First, a note: it is always best not to simply put a link to a video straight into the Rich Content Editor. If you do this, Canvas will produce an automatic embed, but it renders very small and is not nearly as attractive or useful as using the embedding tools we describe here.
Searching for a YouTube Video from within Canvas
The Rich Content Editor provides a direct tool for embedding YouTube content, which you can access by clicking the small YouTube icon in the second row of the toolbar. Clicking the icon produces a YouTube search box, which you can use to find videos and directly embed them. Clicking on the video thumbnail allows you to preview it. Then you can simply click the Embed button next to a search result and it will be added to your content. However, the search tool is simply not as good as searching the YouTube site. In most cases, it is easier to search YouTube (or Vimeo, or do a Google Video search) for what you need.
Embedding a Video for which You Have the Link
If you search on your own, you’ll be able to copy the URL (link) from the address bar once you find a video. But how do you get that into Canvas? As mentioned earlier, it is best not to simply paste the link into your content. The best choice is to use the video embed tool. This is the second icon from the left in the second row of the Rich Content Editor toolbar (looks like film with a “play” symbol on it). It will produce a dialogue box labeled “Insert/edit media”.
In most cases, you can simply paste the URL for your video in the “Source” field. Canvas will detect or assign dimensions to fit the embedded frame. Advanced users can select the Embed or Advanced tabs for more detailed control over the embedded video. Hit “OK” and your video will appear embedded in the content.
Recording Videos in Canvas
You can record video directly into your Canvas course, which is a great way to respond to students and demonstrate that you are engaged with what they’re doing. The University of Kentucky provides a comprehensive introduction to this function here.