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Community Contributor

Dont's in Canvas?

An administrator in my K-12 district just asked me a great question -- and I need your help answering it! :smileyplain:

Question: Is there anything that one should NOT do in designing and developing a Canvas course? 

Some Considerations:

  1. The instructor is developing this "in-service learning" course for adults (faculty)
  2. This will be the instructor's first Canvas course (or LMS course of any kind).
  3. The course instructor has (mostly) completed our online instructor training course.
  4. The course will be blended: about 2/3 face-to-face, 1/3 online.
  5. Many of these teachers have no familiarity with Canvas, but others have some. (We've only rolled out Canvas to our 9-12 high school so far).
  6. The instructor hopes to maximize student-to-student online collaboration.


71 Replies
Community Coach
Community Coach

One thing I might suggest relates to Quizzes.  If you are including Quizzes in a course, I would suggest staying away from manually numbering your questions (though some people may have valid reasons for doing so).  The process to manually give each of your questions in a quiz is described in each of the quiz type documents, but here's an example from Multiple Choice questions (How do I create a Multiple Choice quiz question?).  See the section on "Set Name, Type, and Points".  From a student perspective, the questions will be numbered, but not from the instructor's side.  Manually adding your own question number could potentially create issues...especially if you later re-arrange the questions.  The title you gave a question (with a question number) does not change based on the new location within your quiz.

All that being said, I have some good news for you.  Instructure is currently working on a brand new quizzing engine, and question numbers is part of that project.  You can find out more in this video: ​ and in this very helpful discussion thread: Canvas Studio: Modern Quizzing Engine​.

Hope this helps!

Community Team
Community Team

 @jomontuori ​, although we usually frame this as a "Do," I imagine it would work well as a "Don't":

Don't show all of the navigation links in the course navigation menu!

Again, we present it differently: Use the Modules feature to organize and deliver content to your students, and hide all of the other navigation links! Limit the course navigation to Home, Syllabus (if used), Modules, and Conferences (if used). Remind the teachers that even if navigation items are greyed out, as they will be once they've customized the course navigation, they can click on them to access those areas (this throws a lot of newbies).

Community Contributor

Hey,  @chofer . I actually DID number the first quiz questions I created!  Then I edited out the numbering for reasons you clearly articulated here. I'll check out the video and other resource links too. Thanks!

Community Contributor

That's a good one, stefaniesanders​. I'll be sure to pass that one along to my client. And I agree, "Do's" are my preference as well. Maybe that's why this question left me speechless. Smiley Happy

Having said that, maybe another "Don't" is my pet peeve: Creating a long string of file and URL links as the basis for a module. Or as I saw it referred to (somewhere here in the Canvas universe), using Canvas as a mere file storage and retrieval site.

Oh, good point,  @jomontuori ​! Again, if I were forced to frame it as a "Don't," I'd say...

Don't forget that many, it not most, of your students will be accessing Canvas on their mobile devices.

...the point being that when creating a course, teachers have to remember to "chunk" their content. Thoughtfully-designed modules with small amounts of content--and sub-headings (text headers) within the modules themselves--will go a long way toward avoiding the scroll of death.  @rseilham ​ did a great job demonstrating this in his recent

This video is currently being processed. Please try again in a few minutes.
(view in My Videos)
presentation for CanvasLIVE​.

And with regard to URLs themselves, I guess another "Don't" would be:

Don't just copy and paste an external URL onto a page (ooh, ugly). Type some words that will be the basis of the external link.

Don't just copy and paste an external URL onto a page (ooh, ugly). Type some words that will be the basis of the external link.

This reminded me of another one.  Do not copy/paste links from one course to another.  This is especially true if in course "A" you have link on a page pointing to another page, file, assignment, etc. in the same course and you copy/paste it to course "B".  If/When you copy that link from course "A" to course "B", the link hasn't changed, and students in course "B" would not be able to access it because the Course ID number in the URL is different.  This is why importing content from one course to another is a much better solution.

Community Contributor

These are great! Keep 'em comin'!  I'm going to add one of my own -- you're spurring my thinking!

Don't try to excessively "lock down" materials and assignments.

Many teachers try to hide or otherwise restrict access. The impulse is often well-intentioned. We don't want kids jumping ahead at the expense of missing prerequisite or other required work. But the temptation to overdo it is there! We can

    • Restrict assignment access dates
    • Not publish (or unpublish) materials and assignments
    • Hide menu items from Course Navigation settings
    • Set Prerequisites and Requirements in Module settings

These are useful tools and techniques to focus student work and create an intuitive learning path in our courses. But it can reach a point that creates unintended obstructions to access and frustration for students -- not to mention frustration and precious time wasted by instructors scrambling to open, publish, and adjust dates. I know. I've been there!

Community Coach
Community Coach

Hi  @jomontuori 

I kind of like your "Don't" approach, although like the others here, I tend to look at things from a "Do" perspective. stefaniesanders​ actually invited me to play in here, because I am a real proponent of the KISS principle, especially so in teaching and learning. So I might have a couple don'ts to add here.

  • Don't let the technology be a barrier to learning the curriculum. Technology is just a tool for delivering instruction, and it is often very tempting for those of us who like instructional technology to show off how tricky we can be when we are using it. You always want your students struggling with the key concepts of the curriculum, and not the arcane uses of the tools delivering the curriculum.
  • Don't complicate course navigation.  One the qualities by which I judge any website, and our Canvas instances are nothing more than that, is how easily I can find what I need. There is a maxim of instructional design that (and I change this puppy up every time I say it) states: students need to know what to do, where to find it, how to do it, and where to get help with the first three points.
  • Don't overwhelm! I think one of the assumptions you gave us was that the course was for faculty training. That makes it a technical/professional course being taught by an experienced professional - WATCH OUT! I have taught for higher ed professional/technical programs for 20 years, prior to that I taught health care professional in a hospital setting. Our tendency is to get all "Ooo shiny!". In other words avoid the tendency to start going all: "they need to know this and that, oh yeah they should also know that and this, and these other things, and my oh my this is some groovy stuff, and they'll like this."  I remember in one of my first online courses I added it up and I had almost 40 hours of video in one weekly module in a five credit course! It is so easy to add too much content.  Your faculty don't need to learn everything you have learned in a 40 year career during a 10 hour PD course. Start with the end in mind by creating your clear learning outcomes, then make sure that all learning materials and activities are clearly aligned with those outcomes (they support and contribute to student achievement of the outcomes).
  • Don't get all Texty: No online course should be the full text of War and Peace, yet I have seen way too many Canvas pages where it seems like that is the goal. This kind of goes with the item above. Hmmmmm............. I seem to have gotten fairly texty with this posting:smileysilly: I have been providing faculty PD for quite awhile now, and have found it much more effective to provide a series of online workshops if the concepts/topics are complicated enough they would produce one giant course. We have pared our faculty Canvas training down to ten hours - just what the need to get rocking and rolling. Many of our faculty never need more, because they are experimenters. However, for those who aren't we created a series of short, topic-specif "Advanced Canvas Courses" the can grab later.

That's enough for now, but I'll come back with more later. I like this discussion - it's fun, and our Canvas courses should also be fun!

I hope this helps,


Community Contributor

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