Skip navigation
All Places > Canvas Admins > Blog > 2020 > March

Bob the BuilderHow many of you have seen the show "Bob the Builder"?  One of Bob's mantras is to use the right tool for the job.  This holds true for so many things in life and is not just limited to building things.  It's something we should definitely try to do as much as possible in academic technology as well.  


Over the last month or so hundreds of thousands of educators are trying to get up to speed with how to conduct their classes in remote learning mode.  There are lots of tools available and in many cases a lot of overlap from tools meant to do very different things.  I want to focus here on video and using the right video tool for the job whenever possible.  


I like to break down the creation of video into three main categories:

  • Solo recorded video: such as a lecture done for people to view on their own time
  • Video Conferencing: a live synchronous event which may or may not be recorded for playback later
  • Group recorded video: a recording that needs to be made by more than one person who are not together.

What I've been hearing a lot recently is "I want to just use one tool for everything" meaning all 3 categories listed above.  And on the surface I agree with that statement, the fewer different tools the better.  And the tools that will do all three of those typically are Video Conferencing tools such as Zoom, Adobe Connect, or Big Blue Button (the conferencing tool built in to Canvas).  But for the first category of Solo Recorded Video, using a video conferencing tool can be overkill pulling resources away from others who need it for synchronous activities, and in some cases providing undesirable results.  


There are various tools which can be used for solo recorded video, some for screen capture and some for just plain video.  Examples include VidGrid, Canvas Studio, Screencast-o-matic, Camtasia and even the built in Canvas video recorder or your mobile phone/table.  When you use a tool like these virtually all of the "work" is being done by your device.  Only when the recording is done is it sent over the interwebs to a system to be hosted for viewing.


When you use a tool like Zoom to just make a solo recording, (especially a cloud recording) it is having to connect through the internet to Zoom servers to do the work.  That connection is like hopping on the highway with your car AND needing to maintain a speed of at least 45 miles per hour.  If you run into a traffic jam, (network congestion), the recording can suffer because not all of the data can get to Zoom in that constant minimum stream (bitrate).  Plus, just being out on the highway you are causing more congestion for everyone who might be holding a synchronous event. The other issue with some systems such as Zoom when using the Canvas integration; the cloud recordings are made available to your students as soon as they are processed. 


In comparison, when a solo recorded video gets sent up to a server over the interwebs, there is no need to maintain a minimum speed.  During times of congestion it may take 30 minutes instead of 10 to upload, but again that is not a problem because the recording has already been made. It just needs to get all of the data to the server eventually so the server can assemble them into a video presentation to be accessed by people on their own schedule. 


So obviously there are no hard and fast rules. Do I use Zoom sometimes to make solo recordings?  Yes. Does everyone have multiple tools available? No. So by all means use what you have available.  But if you are in a case where there are multiple tools available to you through your school, consider what the best tool is for the job. In these times of exponential increase of usage of various products, keep these things in mind and know that picking the best tool for the job can help improve your results, and impact work that others are doing as well.



The Rickster

With the education landscape rapidly changing, many of us are exploring ways to enable online teaching and learning opportunities to an increasing cohort of students.  This blog will explore best practices to consider when teaching large Courses within Canvas.


Sections are a great way to subdivide students within a Course.  Using sections can enable easier facilitation of teaching, communication, and grading processes, as well as the opportunity to provide differentiated content and due dates for students. 

Assignments, Quizzes and Graded Discussions

When creating Assignments, Quizzes or Graded Discussions, they can be assigned to a specific section so that only students in that section will be able to access the activity.  This can be a great way to provide differentiated learning activities should you choose to create sections based on student ability. 


It is also possible to set an activity for the entire Course, but with different availability and due dates for different sections - a great solution when sections are created for students who usually have class at different times.  Keep in mind that students will only see the dates that you have set for them, so they will not know that other students in the course may have different due dates.



Announcements are a simple way to provide targeted communication to specific sections, meaning students will only receive the information that is relevant to them. Using the ‘Post to’ box, Announcements can be sent to individual or multiple sections.  Combining this with the ‘Delay posting’ option and links to relevant Course content can be another way to streamline admin time, with the added benefit of supporting students to engage with course content.



Gradebook and Speedgrader 

Using sections as a filter in the Gradebook can allow teachers to more easily monitor student engagement and progress within an individual section.


Filtering by Section within the Speedgrader can be another way to streamline the grading process by completing grading one section at a time.  If you have multiple graders within a Course, consider creating Sections based on grader allocation again for ease of filtering.


Creating Sections

It is possible for teachers to create sections and enroll students to those sections within Courses.  However for large Courses, using a SIS import for section creation and enrollment is a far more time efficient workflow.  Reach out to your institutions Canvas Admin to action this, and the below guides provide further detail on how to create sections via either of these methods:


A few additional considerations for sections:


Groups provide collaboration opportunities for students to work together.  In large Courses, Groups can provide students with a smaller circle of peers to interact with, which may be more engaging and manageable than interaction across the entire cohort.

Group Area 

Groups are given sub areas within the Course, where students have space to independently interact with each other.  In Groups, students can facilitate their own Discussions, create content with Pages and Collaborations, share resources with Files, communicate with Announcements, submit Group Assignments, and even host online meetings with Conferences.  Groups can therefore be an efficient way to allow for peer-to-peer interaction, as well as student-led learning, even within large Courses.

Group Discussions

Another way to facilitate interaction is to use the Group Discussion tool. With just one additional click, teachers can create identical Discussion topics for each group of students.  When students reply to the Discussion, they do so within their Group environment, allowing simultaneous Discussions on the same topic to be held across all Groups.

Creating Groups

There are many options for creating Groups depending on your teaching preference - allowing students to create their own groups, to self sign-up, asking Canvas to automatically create Groups, or manually assigning Groups as the teacher.  Full guides on these different options can be found in the links below, however there are a two key things to consider with this process:


  • For students to be able to sign up to or create their own Groups, they need to be able to access the People tab in the navigation menu of your Course.  If you would like to allow self sign up, make sure the People tab is visible - it can be adjusted in the Navigation menu of the Course Settings.
  • Placing students into a Group adds a tab to the Global Navigation Menu, allowing them to navigate Groups without needing to be in the Course first.  Using a naming convention that identifies the Group as belonging to a specific Course will make it a lot easier (and more likely!) for your students to navigate in to.  

Large Courses Considerations

Canvas courses are optimised for 3,000 - 5,000 enrollments, and will remain performant with these numbers.  As will all online tools, there are implications to be aware of when dealing with larger volumes, particularly with regards to load times and navigation.  It is important to be aware of this, and really consider whether reaching the upper limits of student numbers is necessary in your context, or if other solutions could be found.  Areas in particular to be aware of include:

  • Gradebook - using Sections, Modules, or Groups as filters will help  

  • Discussions - navigation can become suboptimal when thousands of topics are in use, though the search and sort options can be of assistance here

  • Analytics - large student numbers will extend load times, but only up to a minute so hang in there!

These are just a few suggestions of best practices for facilitating manageable teaching and engaging learning opportunities within large Courses. We’d love to hear from you - what are your thoughts about these ideas? What are your tips for managing large Courses?

I've been making some recordings recently on the theme of dealing with with coronavirus shutdowns that so many schools have been experiencing.  I posted one of my episodes earlier dealing specifically with using Zoom to remote proctor a written exam (Using Zoom to remote proctor an exam) but thought I'd create another post to contain all of my recordings and keeping adding to it.  The focus of the recordings is more around questions we are getting asked right now at my school, so if they don't seem well organized and linear, that is why.  But, I figured some people might still appreciate them.


Episode 1: Hardware considerations for Zoom and Recording

Episode 2: Scheduling Meetings in Zoom

Episode 3: Notifying students in Canvas about Zoom Meetings

Episode 4: Proctoring a written exam using Canvas and Zoom

            Addendum to Episode 4: Using CamScan and Canvas Student to submit a paper assignment or exam

Episode 5: Embedding Simulations in Canvas (Science type stuff)

Episode 6: Using the Canvas / Zoom Integration to Schedule Zoom class meetings


The Rickster

Earlier today, Phil Hill said in a blog post that as teachers respond to mass school closures the initial phase we are seeing is a lot of people wanting to move from synchronous face to face education to synchronous online video conferencing.  Phil theorized that as people begin to become aware of some of the inequalities of relying on video conferencing technology that requires all students to have “high speed internet,” and as teachers become more familiar with the online environment, a second main phase will focus more on asynchronous content delivery. 


If you are familiar with finding good content online, and adding it to your Canvas course, where do you go to find it?  Canvas Commons is a global online learning object repository (LOR) with content shared by Canvas users from around the world, designed to let you copy content directly from Commons into your Canvas course.  Not all institutions elect to link their instances of Canvas to Commons but it is available in Free-for-Teacher Canvas.


Another place instructors frequently turn to find materials for their courses is the world of Open Educational ResourcesOER Commons  is one example of public digital library of open educational resources.  Educause also has an excellent listing of other OER repositories.  Lumen has an amazing resource site as well. 


There are many educationally focused video resource collections to choose from, including Khan Academy (which has a whole section dedicated to homeschooling), or Teachertube.


If you know your way around instructional design and course building where do you typically go to find good course content?





During COVID-19, all online educational platforms have a responsibility to our teachers and students. I co-founded Instructure in 2008, and I recently co-founded the Derivita online math system with Ryan Brown. As you can imagine, the education community is incredibly close to my heart.


Many of you have already felt COVID-19’s impact on your classrooms. If you’re already using Canvas, the change from teaching in a classroom to fully online will be a bit easier.  But teaching math remotely without an online math system can still be incredibly tricky.


To aid you in this transition, we are offering the Derivita math homework system for free, Spring and Summer semesters. We will also install it on your Canvas course in under 24 hours, so the disruption you are already feeling will be minimal.


See my post introducing Derivita New Math Engine for Canvas 


Email us at, and we will do everything we can to provide you with guidance. 


You can also find us at, where you will learn how students around the world use our online system to learn math from their own homes. An online classroom does not need to be a lost learning moment for your math students.


We are privileged to serve the wonderful education community. We care about you, and we’re here to help.




Devlin Daley, CEO at Derivita, Co-founder of Instructure



Like many of you out there, here at Utah State University, we are struggling to move all of our classes online in an absurdly short period of time in response to COVID-19.


To help speed up the process, I have created some JavaScript to facilitate rapidly pulling a template course into an empty course shell and I am sharing it in the hopes that it can alleviate some of the headaches for other institutions.


I am providing the code for two contexts, uploading JavaScript to Canvas using the Canvas Theme Editor and creating a browser bookmarklet for those who do not have access to account-level JavaScript in Canvas.

A Note About Permissions

The code that follows will run as the logged-in user and will only work if the user has permission to import course content in Canvas.

The code is also scoped to only show on the front-page of an empty course so it should not be visible to students.


Account Level JavaScript

Canvas allows for adding CSS and JavaScript at an account level using the Canvas Theme Editor. For institutions that want to provide this type of functionality for an entire account, here are two options:

Single Template Course

If you have a single template course that you would like to provide an easy way to copy, the following code will create an Insert Base Template button in the right Canvas sidebar:

Insert Base Template Button

Here is the code that you would upload to Canvas. Update the templateCourse id on line 36 to your template course:

// Import Base Template button for the course Home Page
// This function will keep checking the progress url until process is complete or fails
function checkImportProgress(progressUrl) {
     $.get(progressUrl, function(data) {
          // Update the button to show we are checking again
          $('.kl-import-template').html('Checking Progress');
          // Four possible options
          // 'queued', 'running', 'completed', 'failed'
          let completed = false;
          switch(data.workflow_state) {
            case 'completed':
                 completed = true;
            case 'failed':
                 alert('Import failed');
                 // For 'queued' or 'running'
              setTimeout(function(){ checkImportProgress(progressUrl); }, 5000);
          if (completed) {
               // Reload the course home page
          } else {
               // Wait a bit and try again
              setTimeout(function(){ checkImportProgress(progressUrl); }, 5000);
          // Provide feedback of the current progress
               $('.kl-import-template').html('Template Progress: ' + data.workflow_state);
          }, 1000);
$(document).ready(function() {
     // The Canvas course id for your template
     let templateCourse = '593';
     // Only add the button to the home page of courses without any other content in place
     if (ENV.COURSE !== undefined && !== null && window.location.pathname === '/courses/' + && $('.ic-EmptyStateList:visible').length > 0) {
          // Add the import button
          let importButton = '<button class="btn btn-primary button-sidebar-wide kl-import-template"><i class="icon-download"></i> Import Base Template</button>';
          // Bind action
          $('.kl-import-template').unbind('click').on('click', function () {
               // Prompt user so they have a chance to cancel
               let confirmMessage = confirm("This will copy content into your course. Click OK to proceed.");
               if (confirmMessage == true) {
                    $(this).html('Importing Base Template');
                    // Send import request to the Canvas API
                    $.post('/api/v1/courses/' + + '/content_migrations', {'migration_type': 'course_copy_importer', 'settings[source_course_id]': templateCourse}, function(data, textStatus, xhr) {
                         // Begin checking the progress url to see when import is complete


Multiple Template Courses

This next variation is for institutions with multiple templates. Instead of a single button, this will add a list of courses with the option to preview and a brief description:

Template list

Here is the code that you would upload to Canvas. Update the templateList that begins on line 4 to include a name, id, and description for each of your template courses:

// Create a list of templates on the home page of a blank course 
$(document).ready(function() {
     // This is the list of your templates (Duplicate as needed)
     let templateList = [
               name: 'Basic Online Template',
               id: '593',
               description: 'Basic 8 week course with readings, assignments, and quizzes'
               name: 'Another Template',
               id: '1234',
               description: 'This is a good course template'
     // Function to check the Canvas progress url to see if the course has finished importing
     function checkImportProgress(progressUrl, courseID) {
          $.get(progressUrl, function(data) {
               // Give a visual cue that we are going to check again
               $('#kl-import-progress').html('Checking Progress');
               // 'queued', 'running', 'completed', 'failed'
               let completed = false;
               switch(data.workflow_state) {
                 case 'completed':
                      completed = true;
                      $('#kl-import-progress').attr('class', 'alert alert-success');
                 case 'failed':
                      $('#kl-import-progress').attr('class', 'alert alert-error').html('Import failed');
                      // for 'queued' or 'running'
                   setTimeout(function(){ checkImportProgress(progressUrl, courseID); }, 5000);
               if (completed) {
                    // Change from institution visibility to course
                    // If you set the template visibility to 'institution', users can preview before they copy
                    let parms = {
                      'course[is_public_to_auth_users]' : false,
                      'course[is_public]' : false
                      'url' : '/api/v1/courses/' + courseID,
                      'type' : 'PUT',
                      'data' : parms
                    // Import is complete, reload the page
               } else {
                    // Import isn't finished, wait a bit and try again
                   setTimeout(function(){ checkImportProgress(progressUrl, courseID); }, 5000);
                    $('#kl-import-progress').html('Template Progress: ' + data.workflow_state);
               }, 1000);
     // Only add the button to the home page of courses without any other content in place (shows import option)
     if (ENV.COURSE !== undefined && !== null && window.location.pathname === '/courses/' + && $('.ic-EmptyStateList:visible').length > 0) {
          // Add a placeholder to the sidebar
          $('.course-options').prepend('<div id="kl-template-list"></div><div id="kl-import-progress"></div>');
          // Add each template to the list
          $.each(templateList, function(index, val) {
               let itemInfo = `<p>
                         <a href="/courses/${}" target="_blank" data-tooltip="left" title="${val.description}" class="Button Button--secondary kl-preview-template" style="padding: 2px 6px;"><i class="icon-eye"></i><span class="screenreader-only">View ${}</span></a>
                         <button class="Button Button--secondary kl-import-template" data-tooltip="top" title="Import ${}" data-courseid="${}" style="padding: 2px 6px;"><i class="icon-download"></i><span class="screenreader-only">Import ${}</span></button>
                         <span class="kl-template-name-${}">${}</span>
          // When template import is clicked
          $('.kl-import-template').unbind('click').on('click', function () {
               // Give user a chance to cancel
               let confirmMessage = confirm("This will copy content into your course. Click OK to proceed.");
               if (confirmMessage == true) {
                    let templateCourse = $(this).attr('data-courseid');
                    let templateName = $(`.kl-template-name-${templateCourse}`).text();
                    $('#kl-import-progress').addClass('alert alert-info').html(`Importing ${templateName}`);
                    // Send import request to the Canvas API
                    $.post('/api/v1/courses/' + + '/content_migrations', {'migration_type': 'course_copy_importer', 'settings[source_course_id]': templateCourse}, function(data, textStatus, xhr) {
                         // Begin checking the progress url to see when import is complete


JavaScript Bookmarklets (No access to add JavaScript to Canvas)

Next, let's take a look at some options for those who do not have access to add JavaScript to Canvas using the Theme Editor at an account level.

What is a Bookmarklet?

A bookmarklet is similar to create a bookmark in your browser to take you to a webpage. The difference is that instead of opening a webpage, a bookmarklet will run some JavaScript.

How do I create a Bookmarklet?

  1. Create a bookmark in your browser (the same way you would create any bookmark).
  2. Edit the bookmark.
  3. Give it a name to make it easy for you to find.
  4. In the URL field, you are going to add some JavaScript (keep reading to learn what this will look like).

Hard-Coded Template Course

If you would like to add a bookmarklet that will always import the same course, this is the JavaScript code we will use (replace the template_course_id on line 2 with your template course):

// The id of our template course
let template_course_id = '593';
// Only run on the home page of courses without any other content in place (shows import option)
if (ENV.COURSE !== undefined && !== null && window.location.pathname === '/courses/' + && $('.ic-EmptyStateList:visible').length > 0) {
     // Give user a chance to cancel
     let confirmMessage = confirm("This will copy content into your course. Click OK to proceed.");
     if (confirmMessage == true) {
          // Add a div for feedback
          $('#modules_homepage_user_create').prepend('<div id="kl-import-progress" class="alert alert-info"></div>');
          // Send request to Canvas
          $.post('/api/v1/courses/' + + '/content_migrations', {'migration_type': 'course_copy_importer', 'settings[source_course_id]': template_course_id}, function(data, textStatus, xhr) {
               // Write a response with a link to the course migration page
               $('#kl-import-progress').html('Request submitted. Course copy will take a few minutes. Reload this page periodically or <a href="/courses/''/content_migrations">view import progress in Canvas</a>');
} else {
     // Will only work on the course front page
     alert('Run this from the course home page of an empty course');

In order for this to work as a bookmark, we have to convert it. I like to use MrColes Bookmarklet Creator to convert the code above into what we will add to a bookmark. After converting the code, it will look more like this:


 It is a lot harder to read but it will do the job. To make things easier for you to update, find the ##### string and replace it with your template course id. Once you update the course id, this is the code that you will paste in as the URL in your bookmark.

Prompt for Course ID

If you want a little more flexibility for what course you want to copy, this option will ask the user to provide a course ID.

Course ID Prompt

Here is the JavaScript we will use for this one (you don't have to update this one):

// Only run on the home page of courses without any other content in place (shows import option)
if (ENV.COURSE !== undefined && !== null && window.location.pathname === '/courses/' + && $('.ic-EmptyStateList:visible').length > 0) {
     // Prompt user for Canvas course ID
     let course = prompt("Please enter the Canvas course ID from which to pull content");
     // If they give a response, use it
     if (course != null) {
          // Placeholder for feedback
          $('#modules_homepage_user_create').prepend('<div id="kl-import-progress" class="alert alert-info"></div>');
          // Remove any spaces
          course = course.trim();
          // Send request to Canvas
          $.post('/api/v1/courses/' + + '/content_migrations', {'migration_type': 'course_copy_importer', 'settings[source_course_id]': course}, function(data, textStatus, xhr) {
               // Write a response with a link to the course migration page
               $('#kl-import-progress').html('Request submitted. Course copy will take a few minutes. Reload this page periodically or <a href="/courses/''/content_migrations">view import progress in Canvas</a>');
} else {
     // Will only work on the course front page
     alert('Run this from the course home page of an empty course');

And here is that code converted to use for a bookmarklet:


Wrap Up

Anyway, I hope that this will be useful to some of you during the present chaos and any future chaos. Feel free to modify, adapt, change, or share that code.

Hi Fellow Admins,


Hope you are all making though this crisis. Have any of you come across this when using Respondus Lockdown Browser.


I have been able to hack the browser and allow it to open new tabs.


The vendor is blaming it on Slow Internet. 


Thank you 

I've had a case come where an instructor wants to be able to remotely proctor exams for a calculus course.  Being Calculus, it doesn't lend itself so well being an online exam because they need to do things like draw and write things out to solve problems.  These are things that really work best on paper (or computer equipment that most students don't own).  We license Respondus Lockdown Browser with Monitor which will do the proctoring for a Canvas Quiz, but the nature of Lockdown Browser prevents students from uploading an exam file, even when using the File Upload question type in Canvas.  Plus, the instructor really wants real time proctoring to mimic as close as possible how the class has been running.  This isn't an online course; it's a face to face course making teaching adjustments due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

What we came up with is using a combination of Zoom for remote live proctoring of a synchronous exam, combined with a Canvas Quiz to deliver the questions, an app named CamScanner to convert the written answers to PDF and then having students submit the exam using the Canvas Student app.  Below are links to videos showing the initial set up in Zoom and Canvas, and then a 2nd video showing students how to use CamScanner to upload the completed exam.  I'm still polishing the exact process and instruction but I feel like the concept is solid.  Comments and suggestions are welcome and I'll try to get the written instructions added to this post soon.


Proctoring a written Exam using Canvas and Zoom 


Using CamScan to create PDF and Submit to Canvas 








You need to move some of your schooling online quickly, but you’re not sure where to start with teachers to help them feel comfortable? The Learning Services Team at Instructure has created this list of 5 Things to Easily Get Your Canvas Class Going! 


Thing 1: Know How to Connect with Students 

  • Provide updates and information through Announcements. Canvas Guide | Video 
  • Send individual messages to students through Conversations in the Canvas Inbox Canvas Guide 
  • Give feedback and grade student work through the SpeedGrader Canvas Guide | Video
  • Use Conferences to setup live video sessions with students Canvas Guide | Video


Thing 2: Use Modules

  • Modules are going to be your main organizational tool. Use a Daily Module structure or a Weekly Module structure and include everything you want students to see/do in there! Mad About Modules Resource | Canvas Guide | Video


Thing 3: Have Students Submit Online Through Canvas

  • Discussions will allow students to respond to you and one another Canvas Guide | Video
  • Quizzes can be used for quick checks, homework assignments, quizzes and even tests Canvas Guide | Video
  • Assignments can be used for anything you dream up. Use the Submission type of “Online.” Canvas Guide | Video


Thing 4: Limit the Course Navigation

Limiting the course navigation in your course so it’s easy for your students to find what they need!  Canvas Guide 
Our suggestion is only enable the following to start:

  • Home
  • Announcements
  • Modules
  • Grades

Add Conferences, if you plan to have live video sessions with students.


Thing 5: Set Modules as Your Home Page

Set your Home Page to Modules. It’s probably already set this way. That is the easiest for students to manage at first. Canvas Guide Some other things to consider:


Huge thanks goes to the awesome members of the Learning and Strategy Consulting team who brainstormed this list: Brittany Firestone, Lauren Fox, and Michelle Lattke!




Growing with Canvas is the teacher training course provided free in the Canvas Commons by the Learning Services Team at Instructure. Institutions can download or import it into their instance, customize it to fit their needs, and use it to help train their teachers how to use Canvas. To date, it’s been downloaded or imported over 5,500 times. 


We think it’s a great starting point. But, if you are trying to shift to remote learning rapidly due to school closures, it might be a little too much information for you right now. So here are some tips for how to slim it down - what I’m affectionately calling Growing with Canvas Lite. (There is an accompanying Google Sheet that lists every piece of the course and whether or not you should publish it - keep reading). 


Ready? Here we go!


Tip 1: Set the Home Page to Modules. We’re going for fewer clicks here! 

Tip 2: Remove the requirements from the Modules. Currently the course is optimized for asynchronous individual learning, meaning it forces a path for the learner. Take off the requirements and let the teachers pick from the list of the topics they need or want to learn in the order they want or need to learn it.


Tip 3: Don’t worry about the Introduction Module. It’s some stage-setting that’s nice to have in a full course, but we’re not focused on that right now, so let’s not publish it.


Tip 4: Consider not publishing the pieces the teachers have to submit. Throughout the course there are chances for teachers to apply what they are learning - a variety of Assignments, Discussions, and Quizzes. It’s a nice-to-have when you have more time. For now? Consider skipping them.


Tip 5: Don’t worry about Module 5: Harvesting or Module 6: Completed Growing with Canvas. Module 5 has some of the higher-level Canvas concepts that your teachers probably don’t need right now, things like Groups, Commons, and importing/copying, while Module 6 is the course wrap-up. If you’re looking for quickest and most important, save these Modules for later. It’s possible you might need the concepts in Module 5...but unpublish for now.


Tip 6: Don’t worry about the Badges. This course is built to award them, but you don’t have to use any of that for now.


Tip 7: Don’t delete anything from the course. Just unpublish it, in case you want to use it later!


Tip 8: There’s no wrong way to customize this course. Publish the pieces that are important to you and your teachers. 


For an easy sheet that details what is Essential/Important/Optional in the course, check this out - Growing with Canvas Lite. Using this info you can take the course from 53 items to 20, and not lose any critical content. 


If you have any questions or concerns, we’re here to help. Just reply below!






Instructional designers and other learning professionals were quick to collaborate and share best practices. One awesome person (Daniel Stanford) started a Google Doc listing contingency plans, world-wide. Got so busy on the editable copy that he moved it to this static worksheet/document.


To facilitate the ease of adding resources, use this Google Form to add your own institution's academic continuity plans. We'll get through this, together.


Stay healthy & happy,

Sky V.




So the classroom is a space where students can interact socially in a comfortable and predictable way. Situations such as with the Covid-19 virus arise and our learning platforms go some way to enable us to maintain teaching and learning outside of the traditional brick buildings we are used to. The aim of this blog is to cover some key questions that appear when a situation has arisen that requires students to interact in the platform in ways they may be unaccustomed to. Although this blog has been brought about by the current issues, the topics ring true to everyday teaching aiming to connect the learning within the classroom to that outside.



  1. How do I maintain the social connectedness of the classroom and maintain visible teacher presence?
  2. How do I ensure students understanding of learning tasks given?
  3. How do I assess and clarify the understanding of students in terms of knowledge?


We'll cover this by looking at some of the tools available to us and consider simple methods of using them. I'm hoping to cover the questions raised above from a high level.



The obvious way to maintain visibility and engage with the class is to host your scheduled class in a conference. Various web conferencing tools can integrate with Canvas through LTI. As standard, you can use Big Blue Button to create a conference within your course. Consider that the conferences include the following tools to promote engagement in the virtual classroom.

  • Webcams to give the personal touch.
  • Chat allowing you to field questions at the whole group or for an individual student. It could also be used as a Q+A whilst students are working on other Canvas activities.
  • Break Out Rooms can be used for smaller group activities and discussions.
  • Polls can be created on the fly to assess understanding of particular concepts or you can use them for students to respond to questions you have embedded in your uploaded presentation.
  • Multi-User White Board includes annotation tools for illustrating ideas and explaining processes.


Simple navigation to the online classroom is also important. Make sure the 'Conferences' link is visible in your course navigation. You can also create calendar events for your sessions. Naming your conference is important and it is a good idea to add the date and time into the title if running as a one-off lesson. 


It's also good to note that conferences will open up in a new tab allowing your students to complete other activities in your Canvas course whilst taking part in your virtual classroom.



A fantastic way to get students working with each other and sharing ideas but they can be used for more than simply asking for an opinion. Discussions can be used for group work solving real-world or multi-stage problems. They can be used for students to present videos of themselves and receive feedback.


If you're using this asynchronously consider the clarity of your instructions and expectations. Additional clarification of the task can be given by recording audio or video instructions through the rich content editor. This feature can also be used by students to verbally participate in the discussion.

Screen shot demonstrating record upload media function in the rich content editor

You can also use standard text to reinforce participation across all your course discussions.


"Once you've crafted and posted your response, read the responses of your classmates. For at least two other posts, give constructive feedback and ask relevant questions."


It's worth putting the resources into the discussion using the Rich Content Editor so the students can review them whilst formulating and crafting their responses. As a teacher also consider your engagement in these discussions. What clarifying questions can you ask? Which other posts can you guide students to?



You've probably used Canvas already for the submission of written tasks. When we're lacking the opportunity to sit down with the student and talk we can use assignment tools to assess understanding with students presenting to us in a variety of ways. These can also be assigned to individual students or groups of students to allow the personalised learning opportunities you would normally deliver in the classroom. 


Screen Shot of online submission options within an assignment

Using the text entry online submission will give students the option to present ideas and work in a variety of ways. They can include text, files and media all within the same submission. This gives opportunities to assess verbal skills along with written skills.

Group and Peer Review assignments can also be used to create the social interactions between your students whilst they are not physically together. 


Collaborations and Group Work

Group spaces allow students to create their own discussions, collaborations and share files. Collaborations can be created using your institution's tools such as Google and O365. A simple idea would be to collaborate on a presentation that can be delivered in a virtual classroom using Big Blue Button.



Within the classroom, we have the opportunity to create a dialogue of feedback with the student. We can see each other's facial expressions such as the smile of recognition or the raised eyebrow when we don't truly understand.  Using the Canvas Speedgrader you could consider the format you provide your feedback in. 


The assignment comments field allows you to provide audio and video feedback to your students helping to improve the comprehension of the feedback being delivered. Students also have the opportunity to respond to this feedback.



When you can't walk around the classroom or lecture theatre, and monitor what's students are doing, how do we monitor engagement? New Analytics allows you to view the activity report of your students. You are also able to send messages directly from the analytics view based on engagement criteria. For example, messages can be sent to students who have not viewed a specific learning resource.


Additional Resources

If you are looking for more ideas I've included this video from Kona Jones


Energize Your Class With Student-Centered Course Design


We'd love to hear any specific examples you have around maintaining social connectedness whilst teaching online and also any feedback or questions you have around the ideas above. 







Filter Blog

By date: By tag: