Prepping your Canvas course for Fall

It is time to get your courses ready. Every course has a Canvas course shell available. If you have not learned how to use Canvas yet, or need a refresher, check out the Canvas Workshop Schedule.

Last spring we surveyed our students on their experience with Canvas. The #1 request from students is that ALL instructors use Canvas. Based on their responses, and our experience assisting you in the last two years, we have NEW information and recommendations for setting up your course to make it easier to manage and engage your students.

  1. Every course has a shell. Before a term starts courses are listed as a future enrollment. To see them, hover over Courses and Groups and then click “View All or Customize.”  Scroll down to find your courses for Fall semester. You can also  customize your Course list.
  2. Students are already enrolled in your course shells. For students to see your course:
    1. It must be on or after the course start date.
    2. The course must be published.
  3. Course start and end dates are set by the Registrar’s office. If you would like students to access your course before or after these dates, you can adjust the start and end dates in Course Settings.
  4. Copy your previous course or Import the Basic Template. Follow this Guide to copy a previous semester’s course material. If you used Announcements extensively, you will want to choose Select Content and uncheck Announcements before importing.
    The same copying process can be used to import the template, but search for Basic Template rather than your course name.
  5. Organize your material. The biggest complaint from students in the survey (other than instructors NOT using Canvas) was that it was hard to find materials. Create structure by using Modules and organizing by week or topic. We don’t recommend Files unless you organize it in folders and name your documents clearly. The file structure in Canvas makes it difficult for students to find materials in Files.
  6. Hide tools you are not using. You can customize the navigation bar in a course to show only the tools that students will need to use.
  7. Set your homepage. Canvas offers several options for your homepage. By default it goes to the dashboard, which students in our survey found confusing. You can change what students see when they enter your course. Here are our recommended options:
    1. Modules. This is the best way to organize and structure your information. The template includes basic modules which you can rename and add files, links, pages, and assignments.
    2. Syllabus. If your course is assignment driven, the students will have the basic syllabus information in the heading and links to assignments below.
    3. A customizable home page. This is called Front Page in the template and includes an image you can customize and space for you to convey information to the students, including links to other pages, modules, or files.
  8. Use the Grades feature. This is the #2 request of students. If you are using the Assignments tool for online submissions, columns are automatically created in the Grade book. You can also use the Assignments tool “on paper” submission option to create a column for assignments submitted in class.
  9. Don’t forget to Publish! Both your course, and individual content items must be published in order for students to see them.

If you want to have two or more sections of a course see the same material:

  • Send your request to us at the email below and we will manually cross-list the sections. Include the course and section numbers. EX: DPT-100 sections 02 & 04.
  • Be sure to post time and date information for all sections on the home page of the course. Seeing the wrong information was a complaint we heard from students in these courses.
  • You can customize assignment due dates by section.


You have the option of adding Turnitin plagiarism detection to assignments submitted through Canvas. Submissions will automatically be scanned and provide you with an originality percentage along with the student’s file submission in SpeedGrader.

What you need to know about the integration:

  •  It only works with online submissions
  • Students do not need to set up a separate account in Turnitin.
  • You can access the full Originality report to review any alleged plagiarism
  • Grading still occurs in SpeedGrader with Crocodoc.
  • The Grademark features in Turnitin do not import into SpeedGrader, but you can save and download the file with the marks,  and then upload as attachment in SpeedGrader.
  • If you allow students to see their results, they access their Turnitin results by clicking on Grades.

Learn to set up Turnitin assignments here.


If you have any questions or would like to discuss how these recommendations could apply to your course, email [email protected] or call Carole Currie x3239 or Annette Torrey x2413.