In helping folks with Canvas, I got a lot of common questions, so I put together and sent out a FAQ. Feel free to adapt this Canvas FAQ for your own college or school. If you have any suggested additional questions, resources, or edits, feel free to comment below or edit this document. Items in red would need to be customized for your school. Double check items which may not apply to your school - for example if you do not have access to the Canvas webinars, or you switched from a different LMS than Blackboard.
**NOTE** Please double check for any broken links every so often if you adapt this FAQ to your own school.
- How do I access Canvas?
- How do I get help with Canvas?
- Are there online tutorials for learning Canvas?
- Where is the student view?
- How do I create a sandbox course space? What is a sandbox?
- What are the differences between Canvas & Blackboard?
- How do I get my courses to show up on the short list in the Courses menu?
- Will Canvas work with my browser and computer?
- Does Canvas work on my phone?
- Can students see my course before the start date?
- What do I need to do to get my course ready at the start of the semester?
- How do I email my students?
- Where are my different sections?
- How do I add or change a link in the left-hand navigation menu?
- What is the difference between Pages and Modules?
- How do I check for plagiarism?
- How can I use math equations and formulas in Canvas?
- How do I manage and access my test banks?
- How do I delete or undelete items?
- How do I give bonus points or extra credit?
- What third party apps work with Canvas?
- What are some sample Canvas courses and templates?
- How do I make my course accessible?
- What new features are in Canvas? How can I stay up to date?
- How can I join the Canvas Community?
How do I access Canvas?
At [Name of School], you can access Canvas directly with this link:
How do I get help with Canvas?
You can get help with Canvas by clicking the [Name of Help link] in the Global Navigation Menu. If your institution has purchased a support package, you may be able to contact Canvas support directly through email, live chat, or phone (###-###-####).
Are there online tutorials for learning Canvas?
You can also search for answers to any questions you may have on the Find Answers page in the Canvas community site.
Where is the student view?
Go to your course home, and you will see a "Student View" button on the right sidebar. Click that to switch to Student View.
You can also find a Student View button in the right sidebar of the course Settings area.
See How do I view a course using a test student? for more details.
How do I create a sandbox course space? What is a sandbox?
A Canvas sandbox is an empty course space which you can use to play around with and learn Canvas or build a course before copying it over to the actual course space.
Contact your IT support or Canvas support to request a sandbox. Specify the course ID to use and your name.
What are the differences between Canvas & Blackboard?
Ivy Tech has a Blackboard vs. Canvas comparison table (PDF) that highlights the differences.
See also this guide to Converting from Blackboard to Canvas (PDF) from California's Online Education Initiative.
How do I get my courses to show up on the short list in the Courses menu?
Click “All Courses” under Courses in the left global navigation menu. Here is a direct link to the list of all your Canvas courses: https://link.to.your.canvas.site/courses Then you can “star” the courses you want to show on the short list.
Will Canvas work with my browser and computer?
Canvas is compatible with pretty much all major browsers and devices, provided you have updated them. See Which browsers does Canvas support? for a specific list of browser versions that are compatible with Canvas and What are the basic computer specifications for Canvas? for minimum computer requirements.
Note: If you are using features that require Flash, such as media submissions, media commenting, or BigBlueButton videoconferencing, you may need to enable Flash in your browser for these features to work. In Chrome, if Flash is not working, click on the "Secure" button to the left of the URL box and set Flash to always run on your Canvas site. If Flash is still not working in Chrome, see Adobe Flash isn't working. The default BigBlueButton videoconferencing tool in Canvas currently also requires Java to be installed if you want to share your screen, although eventually Java will no longer be required. Neither Flash nor Java features will work on mobile devices. Canvas and BigBlueButton are in the process of moving from Flash to HTML5 to address these issues. See BigBlueButton - Open Source Web Conferencing to try the beta version of BigBlueButton that does not use Flash or Java anymore.
Does Canvas work on my phone?
You can access Canvas using your mobile phone's web browser, but there are also Canvas apps for Android and iOS primarily designed for students. Teachers can use the Canvas Teacher app for Android and iOS, and Parents can use the Canvas Parent app for Android and iOS. You can find documentation for mobile apps in the Mobile Documentation page.
Can students see my course before the start date?
Only if the course is Published (button on top right of course) AND you have unchecked the course setting: “Restrict students from viewing course before start date.” See How do I restrict student access to a course before or after the course dates? for more information.
What do I need to do to get my course ready at the start of the semester?
See this Start of the Semester Checklist by Kona Jones and this Semester Start Checklist for some items to check before your course starts, such as making sure everything is published in your course that needs to be published. Kona Jones also made an End of Semester Checklist.
How do I email my students?
You can post an announcement in your course that will go out to your students, or click the People link in your course to contact a student individually. Otherwise, click the Inbox link on the left, and you can compose an email to your class or any individuals using the Conversations tool in Canvas. See How do I use Conversations as an instructor? for more information.
Where are my different sections?
Different course sections by default may or may not be combined into one Canvas course (check what your school decided about combining sections or not). There are pros and cons for each option. See also: How do I add a section to a course as an instructor? and How do I view enrollments in a course section? and How do I cross-list a section in a course as an instructor?
How do I add or change a link in the left-hand navigation menu?
In Canvas, you cannot add new links to the navigation menu; you can only remove, hide, or change the order of links.* If an item is grayed out, it means you can see it, but students can’t. See How do I reorder and hide Course Navigation links? for more information, and use the Student View (see above) to double check how your course and navigation looks to your students.
*There is a 3rd party app that allows you to add links to the Canvas navigation menu. See these instructions on using the Redirect tool.
What is the difference between Pages and Modules?
Pages are static web pages. They are meant to hold content, like text, embedded videos, links to outside resources, etc. Modules let you sequence and organize your content and activities. A module might contain one or more pages, plus an assignment, a pdf file, a quiz, and so forth. With a module, you can set the sequence and whether or not students are required to view or complete an item in a module. Modules help students understand what they need to do in your course.
How do I check for plagiarism?
Edit this for whatever plagiarism detection tool you are using (or none).
There is currently no plagiarism detection tool built-in to Canvas. There are some free tools available online, such as Plagiarisma, which allows you to paste text to check for plagiarism. Some other free plagiarism detection tools are listed here.
There is some documentation for using TurnItIn in the Canvas Guides, including:
- For instructors:
- For students:
To learn how to use Unicheck (formerly Unplag), see:
- Using the Unicheck Plagiarism Checker in Canvas - video and handout from Valencia College
- Unicheck Plagiarism Detection - instructions from Emory University
How can I use math equations and formulas in Canvas?
When editing text in Canvas, click the square root icon in the rich text editor toolbar to open the math editor and insert math equations and chemistry formulas. You can click on 'Switch View to Advanced' in the math editor to paste in LaTeX. For more details and examples, see How do I use the Math Editor in the Rich Content Editor as an instructor?
Additionally, Canvas quizzes have a type of question called Formula Question that lets you enter variables and formulas that will be varied from student to student, to handle homework copying. See How do I create a Simple Formula quiz question? and this video presentation: Using Mathematical Formulas in Canvas Quizzes to Improve Formative Assessments.
How do I manage and access my test banks?
If you click on Quizzes in the navigation for your Canvas course, you can then click on the 3 vertical dots ("kabob") icon on the top right and select "Manage Question Banks" to see the test banks. See also How do I create a question bank in a course? and Creating and Using Question Banks.
And if you bookmark a question bank, it will be accessible in other courses. See How do I bookmark a question bank in a course?
How do I delete or undelete items?
Click the 3 vertical dots ("kabob") icon to the right of any item to delete it. Example: How do I delete an assignment?
Note, however, that when you are on the Modules page, it says 'Remove', not 'Delete'. That is because modules only contain links to items, not the actual items. If you remove a page or file from a module, the page or file is still in your course, just no longer listed in that module. To delete it, you need to go to the Pages or Files area, or to the actual item to be able to delete it.
You can undelete and restore items that were accidentally deleted. Add "/undelete" (no quotes) to the end of the URL to your course. See Undeleting things in Canvas. You can also ask your IT department or Canvas support to recover a deleted or erased course for you.
How do I give bonus points or extra credit?
You can add more than the maximum points to an assignment in the gradebook or SpeedGrader (example: 105/100). If you use assignment group weighting, however, and you create a zero point 'bonus' assignment, make sure it is in a group with at least one other non-zero point assignment, or the bonus points will not be counted (because zero points times percentage weight equals zero).
See How do I give extra credit in a course? for more details and more techniques for bonus points and extra credit.
What third party apps work with Canvas?
There are hundreds of apps compatible with Canvas listed on EduAppCenter. You can add them by going to your course -> Settings -> Apps. One example third party app is the Piazza question & answer forum tool. To add some third party apps, you may need a consumer key, shared secret, and launch URL (for example, see these instructions for adding Piazza to Canvas). If you cannot find these through a search or through contacting the third party vendor, please contact your IT support.
What are some sample Canvas courses and templates?
You can also find publicly shared Canvas courses through Google search, by restricting the search to the instructure.com or canvas.net domains. Example query: "public speaking" syllabus (site:instructure.com OR site:canvas.net)
In the Canvas Commons you can search and find several Canvas course templates and resources, including:
- Humboldt State has a detailed 16 week course template (preview) aligned to their Quality Learning and Teaching (QLT) Best Practices: download template in Canvas Commons
- Santa Rosa Junior College has a Quickstart Course Template (preview): download template in Canvas Commons
- Oregon State University also has a Canvas Template (preview): download template in Canvas Commons
This Visual Design in Canvas course has some tips on creating your own visual page and module designs.
How do I make my course accessible?
Canvas recently added an Accessibility Checker to the Rich Content Editor that will check your pages and other text for accessibility issues such as images without alternative text and insufficient color contrast. See How do I use the Accessibility Checker in the Rich Content Editor?
The General Accessibility Design Guidelines page has tips for making your Canvas content and pages more accessible, such as:
- Adding alt tags to images
- Checking color contrast
- Captioning videos
- Making Word, PowerPoint, and PDF documents accessible
Accessibility within Canvas describes how the Canvas interface itself is accessible, including MathML support with the equation editor.
Join the Accessibility Canvas Community group for more tips and resources.
What new features are in Canvas? How can I stay up to date?
Canvas updates their production version regularly. Here are the notes for each Canvas release on the Canvas Community site. Click the Follow button on the top right to subscribe to release notes.
How can I join the Canvas Community?
You can join and follow several groups on the Canvas Community site, such as groups dedicated to Accessibility, Canvas Migration, etc. To follow and contribute to the site, you need to be logged in with your Canvas account. See How do I log into the Community with my Canvas Account?