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3 Posts authored by: Michael Mohammad

As I enter my 5th year of using Canvas as an LMS, I’ve come a long way in terms of how I design the look of my course to facilitate simpler and more transparent workflows for my learners.

So, I just wanted to give you a quick tour because a lot of what I have learned has come from others sharing out to the greater EdTech community. So, I just want to keep paying it forward. The biggest breakthrough for me is embedding Google Slides into my site pages. It is really a game changer


First things first. If you haven’t added an image to your course to appear in the dashboard, get on it. It’ll make your course easier to identify and stand out. 

This can all be done in the SETTINGS section.

  • In COURSE DETAILS, click on IMAGE to upload or change your current image. You can upload a jpeg. 

If you’re interested in creating GIFs instead of just static images, check out this post.

Home Page

My home page is a page that I created in canvas and set as the home page. The home page is divided into 2 distinct areas: Weekly Schedule and Unit Pages Buttons.

Weekly Schedule

This is the first thing students will see when they enter the course, so I wanted this space to be meaningful. It is prime real estate! So I embedded a Google Slide presentation which shows what is being done in class that day and what is being done that week. I update the daily list each morning and start a new slide for each week. That way students can go back to see what was done previous weeks. In addition, where appropriate, direct links will take students to locations within Canvas such as Assignment Pages.

Using the Embed code from Google Slides and pasting it into the HTML editor makes it easy to publish a slide presentation right into Canvas.  Get the Embed code by publishing to the web from Google Slides.

Then paste the code into the HTML editor

If the slide window is not as wide as you would like, a little trick that I do is putting the following text into the embed code: width = “99%”. That just ensures that the slides take up 99% of the available width.

Unit Pages Menu

For each unit, I create a different page in Canvas. Each page is then linked directly from the home page with an image that serves as a button. Of course I use GIFs, but any image will do. But make sure it has some text to indicate where it will take students. Another way to use Google Slides is to make your a slide for each button and then download them as jpegs from the FILE menu in Google Slides (File -> Download as -> JPEG image). To make the most of your space, using a table to arrange the images is helpful.

Individual Unit Page

Each unit page created has a list of the assignments that will be digitally submitted. This will be around 5 - 6 per unit. Then there is a slide show containing practice resources for the unit.

Assigned Lessons

Rather than going with the module view, I try to make the page as clean as possible. I start with the list of digital submissions to make it clear what EVERYONE needs to be sure and submit. I add them as they are introduced. So there is only one right now. But using the sidebar makes adding the assignment a one click process.

I usually play around with font sizes to make sure that students can easily read the lettering.

Practice Resources

I used to use modules or tables to organize my practice resources, but it became a the “Scroll of Death”. Organizing my practice resources into slides has made it much more manageable. On each page there is a variety of practice modes including links to readings, simulations, practice quizzes on Canvas, and YouTube Videos. 

Because it is an embedded slide deck, students just click to go through different topics. As a teacher, I can go into the Slide Deck and control which slide is seen first and hide slides I don’t want to appear yet.

Assignment Pages

I love using SpeedGrader as a feedback tool for learners. This year I am moving away from 4 point rubrics to single point rubrics. In the assignment detail, I embed the Google Doc of the rubric just like I would for a Google Slideshow. This allows for a very clean look, but also allows me to make edits in the doc and have them reflected in the version seen on Canvas. Edits in the doc are reflected in the published version embedded on the assignment page.

Then, I build the rubric for SpeedGrader. Because the rubrics are built around the same science practices, I create the criteria for the overarching outcomes in the OUTCOME section of Canvas. This allows me to easily import them into any assignment rubric I want to create.

One of my main goals in using Canvas is to make workflows manageable from the STUDENT perspective. That means reducing the number of student clicks and scrolling to get where they need to go. I look forward to getting feedback from my learners about the new course design and what would make it easier to work with. 

I would love to see how you are organizing your Canvas course this year. I am always looking to learn how others are innovating in Canvas!

canvas + Drive (1).png


I was made aware yesterday, that Google apps integration for Canvas Learning Management System was up and running.  Today, I dived in and tried a few things. I'm sure there is more here, but I'll dig in more when I have time.


Our administrator already added it for us, but it can be added as a normal LTI app through settings.



Once you authorize Canvas to access your Google Drive in a quick couple of clicks, I found there were a couple of great efficiencies for me.


I can access Google Drive files without leaving Canvas.



I can add files from Google Drive directly to my modules without ever leaving Canvas.

I not longer have to go to drive and get a link and put that into Canvas.  I can go right from Canvas by adding an external tool.



Add files from Google Drive into Rich Content Editor.


I like to add instructions and rubrics to my assignments in the rich content editor section.  But to do this, I've always needed to publish the file in drive, copy the embed code, enter HTML editor in Canvas, paste the code, and adjust the frame size for the best view. Now, I can embed the file directly from the rich content editor.  This will save lots of time.  You can also choose the option to link to the file as well.




I look forward to digging deeper into what the app can do.  Our tech integrator said it can do some other things like create copies of files for students.  I'll be interested to see how that works.

This is my first blog post in the Community, so it might be a little underwhelming.


Just yesterday, Canvas published the first wave of breakout sessions from InstructureCon 2016 on their YouTube Page. Today, I burned through all the posted sessions.  They were all informative but there was one that is really going to force me to rethink the way I design my course in Canvas. It was a session entitled "Canvas in Elementary? Yes, You Can" by Courtney Cohron I started watching it thinking that I'd be sharing out to the elementary educators in my PLN.  But, I think it has essentials for great course design for all educators.

I'll embed the video of the presentation below, but I was amazed by the great resources designed in her district and her willingness to share them. In designing courses in Canvas, the district has designed a checklist to ensure effective instructional design principles across all course sites. Courtney works as a District Elementary Instructional Technology Coach for Noblesville Schools in Noblesville, Indiana.  I just love this document.  She framed it as something used at the Elementary school level.  But, I think it speaks to all students K-12.



In her presentation, Courtney also shared out some sample Canvas sites from her elementary school teachers. They can be found here.  There are great examples of course design here to navigate.  In addition, on this page you can find a link to a free iBook the district created to walk teachers through the process of setting up a Canvas course.



I had lots of takeaways from this session.  The biggest one, though was doing a better job with my home page.  My students will be 1:1 with Chromebooks this fall, so their primary experience in the classroom setting will be through the browser interface.   This means they will encounter the home page first the majority of the time they access the site. In the past for me, this would simply be the Modules page. Courtney walked through some options her district recommends for home page content. One of those was having the home page be an introduction for the day.  It would include the learning outcomes for the day and direct links to the assignment(s) for the day. It would also include links to the other assignments from previous days.

I really love this idea for a home page.  It will require a bit more upkeep, but this will defiantly help crystallize the "why" of the day's work. What I envision is a home page where I do the following:

  • State the learning outcomes tied today's work and highlight other objectives from the unit that we have been working on.
  • Include a fun YouTube clip associated with the day's work.
  • Provide direct links to the day's assignments/quizzes
  • Catalogue direct links to assignments from the week


I look forward to using the checklist Courtney provided to ensure effective design for my Canvas course.  I highly recommend watching the entire session in the video below.  Thank you so much for sharing the great work you do Courtney!


I look forward to returning to blog share some of the other great sessions I was able to view even though I wasn't at InstructureCon 2016. Maybe 2017?

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