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The purpose of this blog is to collect strategies from the schools that are using Canvas Commons as a master course repository and to attempt to centralize already-existing Community resources in a single easily-accessible place.


Since the launch of Canvas Commons, Canvas teachers and admins from around the globe have generously shared their resources and have leveraged Commons to create master courses that teachers, instructional designers, and administrators can use to populate single or multiple courses with content. So tell us more about how you're using Commons in the comments section:


  • What are the strategies you employ to leverage Canvas Commons for master courses?
  • If you’re creating your courses via SIS import, how do you incorporate Canvas Commons master courses into the process?
  • Can you share any reasons or use cases where people still use an exclusive master course that is not shared to Commons?


I’ve searched the Community for similar discussions already underway, and you’ll see the early results in the table below. Our goal is to use your contributions to the blog to build this table of resources and develop it into a comprehensive document that encompasses all Community discussions and resources pertaining to using Commons for master courses.


Link to the resourceThe tl;dr
Updating Resources with Commons (Infographics)An awesome infographic that depicts how updates to a master in Commons populate the "child" courses.
Commons Roll-Out KitGetting started with Commons.
How do you want to share resources in Commons?How different schools are using Commons to share resources.
Ideas and Uses for Canvas CommonsCommons as a personal and general learning repository.
Course Shells- That's so 2014InstructureCon video (28:59): How Springfield Public Schools streamlined the course creation process using Commons.
How do I share a folder of images to Canvas Commons?Tips for sharing images.
Canvas Commons for Course TemplatesHow updates to Commons course templates are accomplished. Progress report on Commons API.
Sharing Department Content to CommonsAligning sub-accounts with departments to organize course content.
Friday in Five - Canvas Commons - YouTubeVideo (6:52): importing content from Commons.
Canvas Commons REST API DocumentationDocumentation describing the Canvas Commons REST API for accessing and modifying data externally from the main application in your own programs and scripts
Important note: It is not recommended to use the API to run updates throughout the semester on an entire course. Because Commons is based on the Common Cartridge functionality and how Canvas translates that, if you were to changed an assignment and the teacher had independently made changes, those changes would be overwritten, or student activity might be erased. Accordingly, we do not recommend using Commons for that specific purpose.
Copy to multiple courses

Commons API/User Interface, currently under development. Follow this feature idea for status updates.

Update: As of May 19, 2016, resources can be imported into multiple courses using the Resource Details page. Refer to Commons Release Notes (2016-05-19) for more information.

Hammer of the Gods: Content Distribution for Non-CodersInstructureCon video (26:50): OK, technically, this video is not about Canvas Commons. Chris Weisbart and Jason Betrue of Pasadena City College explain how to use the Canvas API, in conjunction with Postman, to populate multiple courses with content. You would think Commons would complement this nicely, wouldn't you? (Let us know in the comments section if you've tried this!)

Kona Jones created this awesome document in CanvasLIVE : it provides extensive guidance on how best to utilize Canvas quiz settings to maximize the integrity and security of assessing students with quizzes. The document explains how to randomize questions, set appropriate time limits, display one question at a time, and more. Instructional Designers can design these settings into quizzes as appropriate for the use case of a particular course.


Here's the link to Kona's document: Quiz Settings to Maximize Security


After reading the document, can you describe your own experience with these settings and suggest others that might enhance quiz security?

If you create a document in Google Drive, you can click on File > Publish to the Web > Publish to generate a link or embed code. The embed code can be used anywhere in Canvas where the Rich Content Editor is available to you (switching views to the HTML Editor). Whatever changes you make in your Google Docs will automatically update in your Canvas course(s).


I've created a sample Google Doc. This is how the embed code for this document appears in Google Drive.


Notice that the embed code Google generates for the document does not incorporate width and height parameters. If you use this code "as is," the Canvas Rich Text Editor will automatically assign width and height parameters to the code, and your code will now look like this:


--but for almost every practical purpose, those parameters are too small. This is what this HTML generates on the finished Canvas page.


So after harvesting the code from Google, and before completing the edits to your Canvas page, you can add width and height parameters in the HTML view of the Rich Content Editor. I changed the width parameter to "100%" and the height parameter to "600" to create a page that looks like this:


Some users find that the easiest way to embed a Google Doc is to ignore the embed link from Google entirely. All a user needs to do is to obtain the share link (accessed by clicking in the upper right hand corner of the Google Doc view) to add an External URL to a Module. Paste the share link in and you'll have an editable Google Doc as long as the permissions you've set on the doc allow for it.


If you want to embed the link in a page or an assignment, use the following code in the HTML Editor:


<iframe src="SHARE LINK URL GOES HERE" width="100%" height="600"></iframe>


Use cases:


  • Course content: A few years ago I was working with a department chair to co-design two courses that would be taught in over a hundred online, hybrid/blended, and face-to-face sections. He wanted to ensure that the course content across all of those sections was tightly controlled. We decided to use Google Docs to create the content that would be delivered in Canvas. Only the department chair has privileges for the content in Google Drive. We created courses that embedded dozens of Google Docs in Canvas Pages, Assignments, and Modules. The department chair assumes ongoing responsibility for notifying his faculty members if and when he makes changes to the master content.
  • Create an editable spreadsheet with the setting, "anyone with link" can edit, then add the share link of the Google sheet to a module as a URL item. This brings up the Google sheet inside of Canvas, in a frame as part of the module progression. If the same spreadsheet is embedded into a Canvas Page or Assignment using the HTML Editor view of the Rich Content Editor, even if the sheet is shared so that "anyone with link" can edit, students will only be able to view--not edit--the data. The Canvas Guide walks through the steps here: How do I create a hyperlink or embed a file from Google Drive into the Rich Content Editor?
  • Create your syllabus as a Google Doc, paste its published HTML code into the Edit Syllabus Description HTML Editor view of the Rich Content Editor, and then if you ever make adjustments to that syllabus in Google Docs (changing dates, adding or subtracting readings, adjusting your grading scale) these changes will automatically update within Canvas.
  • Post a collaborative document in Canvas--for example, a class-built glossary on a shared Google Doc. Paste its code into a content page and as students update the Doc, the page will update.
  • Use Google Forms to generate a survey. I recently created a simple, two-question form that polled my course participants on their office hour preferences. The first question in the form had them select their names from a drop-down I populated in the form; the second question gave them a list of time slots from which to choose. You can send the form to your students as a link, or incorporate it into a module as a URL, or harvest the embed code and embed it in a page--whichever presentation modality works best with your course delivery.
  • Suggest your own use cases!


I'm including links to the Google Docs editors Help Center and the Publish a document, spreadsheet, presentation, or drawing section of that help center for ready reference.


[Note: Need help with HTML? Read Susan Nugent's awesome blog, Rich Content Editor HTML Cheatsheet]


Thanks to Chris Long, Inactive User, Matt Nagel, Aaron Bannasch, and Sean Raleigh, among others, for their generous contributions to the body of knowledge from which I derived the resources for this blog. The terms and links used in this document are believed to be accurate as of April 23, 2015; of course, because of the dynamic nature of Canvas, terms can and will change, and I am counting upon the sharp eyes of my fellow community members to point out any anomalies as they transpire. Thanks to everyone for your contributions that make this a better resource.

The course home page is a critical navigation waypoint for students. As course designers, we can choose from numerous style ideas to make the course home page inviting and intuitive for our students.


This is a stripped-down version of a course home page I'm currently using.



I created this home page using a table, and I used the "btn btn-info btn-large" attribute for the buttons.


The functionality of this home page style is compatible with mobile devices, but the buttons themselves won't appear in the app. This is how the same home page looks in the Canvas App on an iPad.




The image below shows examples of other button styles.



The button code is inherently versatile. For example, using this code:


<p><a class="btn-large btn-block btn btn-danger btn" style="width: 100%;" title="Click here to view the Course Announcements" href="/courses/[insert-course-number]/announcements" target="_blank"><strong>Course Announcements</strong></a></p>


...I can create a clickable button across the top of my home page to direct students to announcements:

At many schools, teachers are tasked with creating their courses and course home pages. I'm currently training a cohort of teachers, and more often than not, when they create their syllabus page, they simply insert a link to their own syllabus file at the top of the page. The result is neither pretty nor inviting--so I've been teaching them the method of having the syllabus file auto-open for inline preview.


How do you create your course home pages? Do you have a standard template that is used across all of the courses at your institution? Do instructional designers create the pages, or are your teachers given instructions on how to create their own, and what they must include on them?


[Note: Need help with HTML? Read Susan Nugent's awesome blog, Rich Content Editor HTML Cheatsheet]

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