Create a Simple Canvas Course

Version 19

    This resource is designed to walk you through building a simple Canvas Course.

    Throughout this resource, there will be references to areas such as Global Navigation, Sidebar, and Course Navigation.  For a detailed overview of these areas, please refer to the video Canvas Interface Overview (Instructors).

    We will use the Freshman Writing Seminar course as our example.  Download sample course materials here to practice with us.  To build a Simple Canvas Course, you need five things:

    1. Syllabus text
    2. Discussion prompt
    3. Assignment prompt
    4. OPTIONAL: Quiz (QTI .zip file)
    5. Course files (.zip file)

    Note: This resource requires an existing course shell.  If your admin did not create a course shell for you, learn how to create a course shell.



    1. Open your Course, and set Course Home Page to Syllabus View

    How do I change the Course Home Page?


    Select your course shell from the "Courses" or "Courses & Groups" drop down menu at the top of your screen.  (You will see "Courses & Groups" only if you are part of a course group or a group that lives outside of a course...such as an internal organization group or a student group.)


    When you first enter the course shell, you will see a banner at the top of the page reminding you that the course is still unpublished as well as the course status in the Sidebar.  You will publish the course when you are ready for students to see course content.  Click the Choose Home Page button in the upper right-hand corner of the home page.  Select the final option, Syllabus, to enable the Syllabus view.  Click Save.


    2. Edit Syllabus Description

    How do I edit the Syllabus description?

    1. Click the Edit Syllabus Description button in the Sidebar.
    2. Copy text from your syllabus or this sample text, and paste it in the RCE (Rich Content Editor).  What is the Rich Content Editor?
    3. Click the Update Syllabus button to save your changes.


    3. Customize Course Navigation

    How do I reorder and hide Course Navigation links?


    Click the Settings link in the Course Navigation.  Click the Navigation tab to customize the Course Navigation.  Remove the following links from the Course Navigation by dragging them to the bottom half of the screen [1]:

    You can also click the cog wheel to the right of any menu item and select Disable.  This will move the menu item down to the bottom half of the screen [1].

    • Collaborations
    • Conferences
    • Files
    • Outcomes
    • Pages
    • People
    • Quizzes
    • Syllabus
    Reorder the links that remain as follows [2]:

    You can also click the cog wheel to the right of any menu item and select Move.  This will allow you to move the selected menu item Before or After another menu item of your choice.

    • Home
    • Announcements
    • Modules
    • Discussions
    • Assignments
    • Grades
    Click the Save button [3].


    4. Create Three Assignment Groups on the Assignments Page

    The Assignments area of your course lists any graded work to be submitted by your students.  Examples of graded work may include (but certainly not limited to): written papers, graded discussion postings, quizzes, tests, or exams.  Anything that is graded in Assignments will show up as a column in your course Gradebook (Grades on the left side Course Navigation).

    How do I add Assignment Groups in my course?

    Go back to your course. Click Assignments in the Course Navigation to visit the Assignments page. Click the Add Group button to create two new assignment groups in addition to the default group [1].Click the Settings icon to name the groups, "Papers", "Quizzes", and "Discussions" [2].Click the Assignment Settings icon to view more options [3].

    After you have created Assignment Groups, you can optionally choose to weight the final grade based on Assignment Groups weights.  Additional information about weighting the final grade based on Assignment Groups can be found here: How do I weight the final course grade based on Assignment Groups?

    4.1. Assignment Groups Settings

    If you want to weight your Assignment Groups, access the Assignment Settings screen (as indicated in How do I weight the final course grade based on Assignment Groups?).  Click the checkbox to "Weight the final grade based on assignment groups" [1].  Enter in percentages.  For this activity, Papers should be worth 50%, Quizzes should be worth 25%, and Discussions worth 25% [2].  Click the Save button [3].


    5. Add Assignment Shells to Assignment Groups

    Click the Add Assignment button to add a new assignment to the Assignment group.  Begin by adding a Paper assignment to the Papers Assignment Group.  Enter the title of the Paper.  Select the Assignment type ("Assignment") from the drop-down menu.  Optional: Enter a due date and time.  Optional: Enter assignment points.  Click Save to save your Assignment shell.  Repeat these steps to add a "Quiz" to the Quizzes group and a "Discussion" to the Discussions group.



    6. Open and edit Assignment Details for the Paper

    Click the Paper assignment on the Assignments page. Click the Edit button.

    1. Copy text from your Assignment prompt and paste it in the Rich Content Editor.
    2. Enter 100 in the Points field. The due date field should be populated.
    3. Select Online Submission from the Submission drop-down menu.
    4. Select File Uploads from the checklist.
    5. Click the Update Assignment button.

    Once you are finished editing the Assignment return to the Assignments page to open up another assignment, quiz, discussion) for editing. Publish the assignments by clicking the gray unpublished icon. The icon will turn green when the assignments are published.

    7. Edit Assignment Details for the Graded Discussion

    How do I create a Graded Discussion for my course?


    Click the Discussion assignment from the Assignments page. Click the Edit button. Click the New Discussion link in the Sidebar.

    1. Title the Discussion and copy text from your Discussion prompt and paste it in the Rich Content Editor.
    2. Click the Graded checkbox.
    3. Enter 100 in the Points Possible field.
    4. Select Discussions from the Assignment Group drop-down menu.
    5. Enter a due date.
    6. Click the Save button.


    8. How do I add a Rubric to an Assignment (or Discussion)?

    A rubric is used for grading student work.  It is also tied to the SpeedGrader.  See What is a Rubric? for more information.

    How do I add a Rubric to an Assignment?

    How do I add a Rubric to a Graded Discussion?

    While viewing the assignment, click Add Rubric.

    8.1. Edit Rubric

    Edit Rubric details [1] or find an existing rubric [2].  Be sure to check "Use this rubric for assignment grading" if you wish to use the rubric in the SpeedGrader to automatically post grades to the Gradebook [3].  Click Create Rubric to save your changes.


    9. How do I add an Outcome to my Rubric for alignment purposes?

    Outcomes can be added to rubrics. Rubrics can be added to Assignments. Assignments that are aligned to Outcomes (via Rubrics) will surface in the Outcomes report under each student user. The next few steps explains how to add an outcome to an Assignment rubric for alignment purposes.Click the Outcomes link in your Course Navigation. Then click the Find button.

    9.1. Search for Account-Level Outcomes and Import Into Your Course

    Search for Outcomes that have already been added to your department.  Select the Outcome you wish to use in your course and click Import.


    9.2. Add Outcome to your Assignment Rubric

    Return to your Assignment and open the Rubric. Click the "Find Outcome" link to add the imported Outcome into your Assignment Rubric.


    9.3. Import Outcome

    Search for Outcomes that have already been added to your course [1]. Select the Outcome and check the "Use this criterion for scoring" checkbox if you want the rating scale to add to the Assignments points [2]. Click Import to include the outcome in your rubric as a new criterion row. [3].


    9.4. View the Outcome Criterion and Update Rubric

    Outcomes stand out in a rubric because a yellow tag appears to the left of the criterion description [1]. Rating descriptions and point values for a Outcome cannot be edited inside of the Rubric. To edit the ratings, you must edit the Outcome first. Click Update Rubric [2].



    10. OPTIONAL: Create or Import Quiz (QTI .zip file)

    If you have any form of a quiz, test, or exam in your course, they all fall under the Quizzes button in Canvas. What are Quizzes for instructors?  There are four types of quizzes in Canvas: Practice Quiz, Graded Quiz, Graded Survey, and Ungraded Survey (What are the different types of Quizzes?).  Each type can have multiple questions and multiple types of questions:


    Further, if you want to randomize your quiz questions, you can do so using question groups.  See this Canvas Guide for more information: How do I create a Quiz with a Question Group to randomize quiz questions?


    This Canvas Guide, How do I create a Quiz with individual Questions?, walks you through how to create a quiz, set your options, and add questions to your quiz.  Additional Canvas Guides about quizzes can be found here:


    QTI Packages

    You may wish to import a quiz into your course.  Download a sample QTI .zip file hereClick the Settings link in the Course Navigation.  Click Import Content into this Course.  Choose the QTI .zip file from the Content Type drop-down menu.  Browse to the QTI .zip file you downloaded.  Click ImportAfter import, return to the Assignments page to delete the original assignment shell for the quiz and drag and drop the imported quiz into the correct assignment group.  Add a due date to the quiz by clicking on the icon pencil next to the imported quiz and editing the due date field.  You may also wish to open the quiz from the Assignments page and edit quiz settings.  (What options are available for Quizzes?)  When you are satisfied with the quiz, click the Publish button.


    11. Upload Course Files

    Click the Files link in the Course Navigation. Click the Upload button in the far right side of the Files browser window. Browse to course files in .zip format. Click Upload File.Optional: Browse through uploaded files. Organize files into folders and practice locking files.



    12. Create a Module

    A Module is a way to organize the different pieces of content (Pages, Assignments, Quizzes, Files, Discussions, etc.) in one place.  Refer to this video for an overview of Modules: Modules: Creation and Management (Instructors)

    1. Click on Modules on the left side of your screen.
    2. Click on the + Module button at the top right corner of your screen.
    3. Give your Module a name.  Examples of Module names: "Week 1", "Lesson 3: Fractions", "Chapter 5: Spreadsheets", etc.
    4. OPTIONAL: If there are any prerequisites that students need to complete, follow this Guide: How do I set up prerequisite Modules?
    5. Click Add Module.  Your new module will be added to the Modules page.  Any additional modules you create will be added below existing modules.



    13. Add Content to Module

    1. Now that you've created at least one Module in your course, click the + button to the right of your named module to add content.  The Add Item window will display.
    2. From the drop-down list, select the type of content you want to add to your module (Assignment, Quiz, File, Content Page, Discussion, Text Header, External URL, or External Tool).  Since you created a Paper assignment in an earlier step, select the Assignment type.
    3. Find and select the name of your paper that you created earlier.
    4. Click Add Item.  Your paper assignment has been added to your module.
    5. Repeat steps 1-4 for any other content you want to add to this module.
    6. OPTIONAL: If you need to re-order any items within your module, refer to this Guide: How do I reorder Module items?


    14. Create New Announcement

    How do I make an Announcement in my course?


    Click the Announcements link in the Course Navigation. Click the Add Announcement button. Add a title to the Announcement.  Add text in the content window. Click the Save button.

    As a teacher/instructor, you have the option to allow your students to comment on announcements you post to your course.  If you do not want your students to comment on announcements, refer to the Canvas Guide: How do I disable comments in Announcements for the entire course?

    15. Publish Course


    How do I publish my course?


    There are several ways to publish a course. Click Home in the Course Navigation [1], then click the published link in the banner at the top of the page or Publish button in the sidebar [2]. All of the example students will receive an invitation to join the course.


    16. Preview Course with the Student View

    Click the Settings link in the Course Navigation [1]. Click the Student View button in the Sidebar [2]. Now browse your Simple Canvas Course through the eyes of a student.  You should browse through:



    Congratulations on successfully building a Simple Canvas Course!