After almost a quarter of the school year under way, we are starting to see trends. The ability in Canvas to really do whatever you heart desires with your course is a blessing and a curse. With so much autonomy how do we develop best practices so that the students aren't confused and know what to expect while surfing our virtual classrooms. Well, one thing we teachers have in common is a syllabus; a course outline.
My suggestion has been to think about using the 'Syllabus' page as the course landing page rather than 'Modules'. It allows the teacher the ability to better control the environment by providing space to explain how he or she is using Canvas. One can provide links to important modules, pages, discussions or assignments. You can even embed videos for enrichment as well as to show off your personality just like how you might decorate you physical classroom with engaging photos and posters. You can also provide your contact info, a photo and even attach a file of your class expectations. Then along the bottom of the page will be running list of all assignments and events for the course that Canvas will auto-populate as the year goes on.
Pro Tip: If you have certain class expectations you can list them as well, but I think a useful alternative might be to divide up your class expectations into pages in a module and then make a syllabus quiz to end the module requiring that the students score 100% before they can move on to other course modules/content.
There are so many options and each teacher should have the autonomy to do with their Canvas pages as they please, but we do need to have a little bit of order and uniformity so that our students know what to expect just like they know each classroom will have desks, chairs and whiteboard. They should be able to count on each virtual class having a syllabus page, modules and assignments. And although it is true that we don't teach the parents it might go a long way toward transparency if the parents,learning support teachers and guidance counselors, when they sign on to observe, also had a sense of how each teacher is using their page so they could better support their students.
So take a second to think about your Canvas courses and if a casual observer or new student were to sign onto your course, would they feel confident on how to navigate the course? It might save you time from having to write clarifying emails or have 1 on 1 discussions with confused students and parents. And the beauty of Canvas is that once you have a good template set; then it will be ready for each new year with the ability for any necessary tweaks you may need to make from year to year!