2020 Course Design Essentials: Centers in Canvas


Centers are a vital part of the elementary classroom. They are designed to provide the appropriate materials to help students work within a small group or individually to meet their learning goals. As a former elementary teacher, I found myself struggling with creating, applying, and enforcing center activities. I knew I was having this issue and knew there had to be a better way. How could I make centers simpler for me? Canvas to the rescue! Canvas provided the platform to make it easy for me to implement centers and I’ve always loved the quick feedback you can provide to students using SpeedGrader. What surprised me the most was how Canvas supports students using Centers. Centers via Canvas provided the opportunity for more meaningful and engaging learning, students became more accountable for their learning, and everyone became more organized. And now even you, dear reader, are benefiting from my self-proclaimed selfishness. 

When creating typical classroom Centers, you need to ask yourself a few questions. 

  • How will I organize my centers? 
  • How will differentiation be applied?
  • What activities will be available at each station? 
  • How will student learning be assessed? 

These questions are still relevant when setting up digital centers in Canvas. I highly recommend using sections in your course settings to facilitate differentiation. When creating activities, you can assign based on sections so students only see what has been assigned to their section. I like to use a variety of assessments and Canvas offers so many possibilities. My favorite Canvas center activities are Discussions, Video/Studio submissions, Cloud assignments, Learning Tool Integrations (LTIs,) and New Quizzes.

I also love having a well-designed, cute and accessible homepage. When @deonne_johnson asked me to collaborate on the CanvasLIVE session and to write up a blog post, I negotiated some free buttons for you. Click on the buttons below to make a copy, customize and upload into your course(s). Special shout out to @rosina_marie  for whipping these up. Now, more than ever, teachers are feeling the crunch as they get ready to teach under new circumstances. I hope these buttons and seeing how easily Centers can be incorporated into your Canvas classroom helps. If you want to see examples or details on how you can use, create and maintain centers, check out the recording from the CanvasLIVE session and the associated slide deck.