larson reever

Canvas Tips & Tricks For Educators

Blog Post created by larson reever on Jul 26, 2019

Canvas Tips & Tricks


During our migration from D2L to Canvas, we've identified various tips and tricks, and other resources, that may be helpful as you learn how to design and facilitate your courses within the Canvas LMS. This is a living document with new resources being added as the migration continues.

Homepage and Navigation Bar

  • The left navigation bar in your Canvas course can be edited to simplify navigation for students. Check with your ID on which links should be hidden from students. 
  • If an item in the left navigation bar is grayed out, the instructors can access it by clicking on it. Students will not be able to see it. 
  • There is a Syllabus button in the left navigation bar in your Canvas course. The online courses are not using the Canvas syllabus and will use a Canvas syllabus page that can be added to a module and easily edited. Ask your ID how to hide the Canvas Syllabus link in the left navigation bar.


  • Assignments Tool video
  • You can go into your course in the student view and submit an assignment. Then you can leave the student view and see how the assignment looks and test grading it.  


  • When you create announcements, the new announcement will be at the top of the announcements list on the homepage with the older announcements below it.


  • Instructors must make changes/updates to discussions. If an Instructional Designer or anybody other than the instructor makes changes to a discussion, it shows the edit as a post and includes the name and icon of the person who made the edit.
  • Canvas discussions are arranged by chronological order. If you want the discussions to be in the same order, make sure you pin your discussions. 
  • By default, students are able to create discussion topics. Instructors must change this in Settings > Course Details > More Options.
  • The default setting for discussions is not the threaded discussion. To have a threaded discussion, choose the threaded reply option. If you have any questions, you can contact your instructional designer.  

Top 10 Tips Canvas Tips & Tricks


1. Hide unnecessary navigation items.

• Only necessary items are Home, Syllabus, Modules, and Grades

• If you use Announcements you will want to include that as well

• If you want students to be able to see the list of their classmates or self-enroll in groups you’ll want to include the People page


2. Build Chronological Modules

• Modules can be organized per week, topic, or theme

• When you name your module, include a topic key word or phrase as a subtitle so the students know the topic (e.g. Module


3: Desert Irrigation)

• Make sure to include all course components in a module so students can find them


3. Use Text Headers and Indentation to subdivide modules

• If your modules are long, you may want to consider creating a Page to consolidate items


4. Include a Course Resources module for items that don’t fit in a week/topic

• This could also include a page pointing your students to Canvas instructions


5. Write a brief course introduction and attach your Syllabus

• Once you’ve added the link to your Syllabus file, you can use the “Auto-open inline preview” function to let students see the syllabus without downloading


6. Use headers to organize information anywhere that you enter text

• Get comfortable with the Rich Content Editor since it is commonplace

• Keep your design simple and organized


7. Set due dates on all assignments

• Due dates feed into the Syllabus, Calendar, and To-Do List. Including dates is important not only for letting students know when it is due, but also helping them easily locate their assignments

• You can use the “Undated” area of the Calendar page to identify any assignments that you haven’t given a due date

• Use the “Available Until” date to set a hard deadline. Students will not be able to submit at all after this date has passed


8. Create “On Paper” or “No Submission” assignments for classroom assignments and activities

• These items should still have due dates


9. Embed resources rather than linking outside of Canvas to avoid distractions

• Sites like YouTube and Reddit know what kinds of content will grab your students’ attention. If you send them to those sites they are very likely to get distracted


10. These are generic guidelines. To identify more specific areas where you can improve your course design, contact your Instructional Designer


Optimize File Size

Each course has a limit of 450 MB. Here are some tips to optimize the size of your PowerPoint, Word and .pdf files and using our Box system (unlimited storage) with Canvas.

Here is a handy video on reducing file size for Word, PP, and .pdf files:

Managing course data

These steps will help you stay within your course quota of 450 MB.

If you decide to use Box here is a short instructional video on how it can be quickly done:

Sharing a Box folder in Canvas


Use Box with Canvas
Box is a perfect partner with Canvas for storing and sharing files in a course. You can share an entire folder of items to numerous Canvas courses and make changes/updates in just your Box folder. All references in courses are updated immediately and simply.
Install the Box app on mobile devices for better .pdf viewing.

Helpful resource:

original Canvas 101 for Instructors

Course Modules: original Canvas 101 for Instructors 

This is a self-paced Canvas Instructor Orientation course designed to familiarize instructors with the basic need-to-know tools and features of Canvas in an effort to prepare them for course design and delivery.



Larson reever

Assistant Professor of Practice College of Journalism & Mass Communications