Design Your Canvas Course

Design Your Canvas Course

This page is designed to help you build a new Canvas course using best practices so that the result is sound both technologically and pedagogically.

Integrated Course Design

Whether you're creating a course online or for a traditional classroom, the principles of integrated course design will help you build a coherent learning experience for your students.

  • Begin at the End: Start by writing 5-10 Learning Goals for the course. What should the students know by the end of the course? What new skills should they possess? How should their worldview be different? Think about the kind of person you want your students to become.
  • Make an Assessment Plan: Now that you have goals for your students, you need a way for them to supply you with evidence that they have reached them. What will they write, create, or do to document their learning? Establish your plan and set the standards to which you’ll be holding your students.
  • Develop Learning Experiences: Once you know what you want your students to achieve and have a way of knowing if they’ve achieved it, you can then design lessons and select materials for the course. Structure all your learning opportunities so that they equip the students with everything they need to succeed at your assessments.

Structure your Online Canvas Course 

Whether you are teaching an in-person course or teaching an online course synchronously or asynchronously, here are some things to consider as you’re designing your Canvas course:

  • Email: consider how students will get ready for your course. For example: you could send an introductory email from Canvas Inbox to welcome students and communicate key information about the Canvas course on the first day of class.
  • Home Page: consider putting instructions on the Home page on how to get started and where to find various course components.
  • Modules: create Modules that are consistent with meaningful titles and logical structure. For example: your modules can be organized by weeks, unit, chapters, or whatever structure that makes sense for your course. This makes it easy for students to navigate the Canvas course and to know how to find materials easily.
  • Building community: this can be done from the early days in the course. Here some ways to create a community and make your course more interactive:
    • Create a welcome video on the Home page.
    • Create an “introduce yourself” discussion to allow students to interact with each other.
    • Ask students to respond to each other’s posts in the discussions, and be part of that discussion.
    • Provide feedback in a timely manner using the SpeedGrader.
  • Provide clear instructions for assessments.
  • Due dates for assignments, quizzes, or discussions should be consistent: this will help students manage their time better. For example, if you have weekly reflective activity, have due by the same day and time every week (e.g. Wednesday at 9:00 pm)
  • Student resources: provide clear information on how students can find help, this could be in a page. This includes information about the Writing Center, the Disability Resource Center, the Learning Center, Help Desk, etc.

Getting Started with a Canvas Course Template

The Office of Digital Education has created two course shell templates to help you start building your online/hybrid course in Canvas. These templates promote best practices for designing and structuring online courses.

Here are the resources to help you build your course in Canvas:

These templates provide a minimum course shell with just the essentials for creating a Canvas Course.  You can download and save this file to a folder on your computer. IMPORTANT: You do NOT have to open the downloaded file on your computer. Instead, follow this procedure:

  1. Once you've downloaded the .imscc file, go to your Canvas course.
  2. Go to Settings (normally at the bottom of the left hand menu in blue).
  3. Click on Import Course Content, which will be on the right.
  4. From the pulldown menu select Canvas Course Export Package.
  5. Use the Choose File tool to find your..imscc file. (If you don't know where you saved it, check your Downloads folder.)
  6. Select All Content.
  7. Click the Import button to begin the template process. This will take a few moments.

For more detailed step-by-step instructions with illustrations, follow these "How do I import a Canvas Course Export Package?" instructions (link to an external site) to import this file into your Canvas course.

General Education Program: In addition to the resources listed above, there is a Canvas Course Template designed specifically for GenEd courses available here.