Create a Simple Canvas Course

Document created by Renee Carney Administrator on Jun 26, 2015Last modified by on Dec 13, 2015
Version 29Show Document
  • View in full screen mode

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 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.)

If your school is using the new Canvas UI, select your course from the "Courses" button on the left side navigation menu.

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you first enter the course shell, you will see a banner at the top of the page reminding you that the course is still unpublished as well as the course status in the Sidebar.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 (Step #14 below) when you are ready for students to see course content.


  1. Click the Choose Home Page button in the upper right-hand corner of the home page.
  2. Select the final option, Syllabus, to enable the Syllabus view.
  3. 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 an assignment group in a course?

  1. In your course, click Assignments in the Course Navigation to visit the Assignments page.
  2. Click the Add Group button to create two new assignment groups in addition to the default group [1].
  3. Click the Settings icon to name the groups, "Papers", "Quizzes", and "Discussions" [2].
  4. Click the Assignment Settings icon to view more options [3].  (See section 4.1 below.)

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

  1. Begin by adding a Paper assignment to the Papers Assignment Group.
  2. Click the Add Assignment button to add a new assignment to the 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.
  3. Click Save to save your Assignment shell.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 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 Save 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 assign a graded discussion to a course group?


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 are Rubrics? 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. 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?  There are four kinds of quizzes in Canvas: Practice Quiz, Graded Quiz, Graded Survey, and Ungraded Survey (What quiz types can I create in a course?).  Each 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 here.
  1. Click the Settings link in the Course Navigation.
  2. Click Import Content into this Course.
  3. From the Content Type drop-down menu, choose QTI .zip file.
  4. From Source, click the Choose File button to navigate your computer to find the sample QTI .zip file you downloaded earlier.
  5. Click Import.  You will see a progress bar for the QTI import.
  6. After import, return to the Assignments page to delete the original assignment shell for the quiz.
  7. Drag and drop the imported quiz into the correct assignment group.
  8. Add a due date to the quiz by clicking on the icon pencil next to the imported quiz and edit the due date field.  You may also wish to open the quiz from the Assignments page and edit quiz settings.  (What options can I set in a quiz?)
  9. When you are satisfied with the quiz, click the Publish button.


10. Upload Course Files

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



11. 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 add prerequisites to a module?
  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.



12. 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?


13. Publish Course


How do I publish a 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.


14. Create New Announcement

How do I make an announcement in a course?


  1. Click the Announcements link in the Course Navigation.
  2. Click the Add Announcement button.
  3. Add a title to the Announcement.
  4. Add text in the content window.
  5. 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 on announcements in a course?

15. 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!


5 people found this helpful