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Community Champion

Using Prerequisites and Requirements

Hi Canvas Community,

I'm creating a guide to using Prerequisites and Requirements in Canvas courses, and I'm looking for tips, best practices, gotchas, limitations, and innovative ways you've used Prerequisites and Requirements in your courses. If you have any advice I'd love to hear it!

To start the conversation, I'll describe one way I've used Requirements:

I have a training course that participants complete over a period of months. We received feedback that participants couldn't remember where they left off in the training each time they returned to it. We didn't want to restrict the order in which participants reviewed the materials, but we did want them to, by the end of the training, complete everything, and we wanted to give them a way to track their progress. So, we used Requirements. The great thing about Requirements is, once each one is completed, a green check mark indicates that the Requirement is complete. We required that all pages are viewed and all assignments are submitted, but we didn't use Prerequisites because it didn't matter the order in which the materials were consumed.

Requirements allowed participants to track their own progress without locking the course down.

28 Replies
Community Contributor

Similar to how others have mentioned using requirements and prerequisites - In our online undergraduate/graduate course if there is an extra piece of software, streaming video, or hardware (for audio/video) they'll need; we always include information on accessing those materials in a course information module. Students often miss this - particularly if they are in an online degree program and are comfortable with Canvas. 

Using requirements we identify the "need to know" information that must be viewed and set the course information module as a prerequisite for all other modules in the course. This speed bump slows students down and points them directly to the information they need. This setting is helpful since students have access to the courses two weeks before the term and faculty are not always available to provide this information when students need to know it.

Community Coach
Community Coach

Off topic, but on, here's a hack for how Instructors can bypass requirements/prerequisites for individual students - 

Community Coach
Community Coach

Here's a blog I wrote on how I use requirements for my course -

Community Coach
Community Coach

Hi  @kona ‌

Thanks for writing this up so nicely in your Blog. I have now added it as a "How-To" doc in my Canvas toolbox for faculty.

Great job!

Agent K

Community Coach
Community Coach

I just took what  @tom_gibbons ‌ originally came up with and did some further testing/research on how it worked with different scenarios. Overall it's a pretty simple hack that works quite well!

Community Participant

Hi,  @garciah ‌ - did you ever complete your guide? I'd love to see it. I've spent some time messing around with Requirements and viewing various documentation and I haven't found anything I'd consider ideal in describing the different use cases, which to me seem quite varied and distinct. I also think it would be very easy for most faculty to misunderstand just how Requirements work at first blush and either to set it up incorrectly or to ignore it when it could be useful to them.

Broadly, I see three use cases:

1. Set Requirements within a module, but do not require sequential completion and do not set a Prerequisite of completion of that module in a future module. The value here is described above in this thread - that it then helps students and/or instructors to track student progress through the module. What's potentially confusing is that even though the instructor is selecting that "Students must complete ..." there really is no mechanism that enforces completion of the Requirement(s) without also selecting sequential completion and/or a corresponding Prerequisite in a subsequent module. A more specific name for this might be "Progress Tracking Requirements"

2. Set Requirements within a module and require sequential completion. This seems to me the most "natural" and least confusing way to understand Requirements - that within a module you must complete the required item before moving on to the next item. A more specific name for this might be "Within-module Completion Requirements".

3. Set Requirements within a module and set a Prerequisite completion of that module in a future module. A more specific name for this might be "Between-module Completion Requirements". Where I think there could be confusion with this use case is setting up a Prerequisite and not realizing that in order for that to mean anything, there must be Requirements set up in the other module. It seems natural to assume that if I am saying completion of the other module is a Prerequisite, then I would expect that the student would have had to at least complete any assignments, etc. within that other module. It would be great if Canvas warned someone who set up a Prerequisite for a module which contained no Requirements that the Prerequisite is meaningless until those Requirements are established.

If anyone takes the time to read this and notices I have misunderstood something, please set me straight!

Community Champion

Hi Jim Julius,

Yes, I did, but I kept it pretty basic. I have attached it to my original post. The scenarios provided in this thread have been really helpful when I talk about using prerequisites and requirements with faculty.

I absolutely agree with your comment:

It would be great if Canvas warned someone who set up a Prerequisite for a module which contained no Requirements that the Prerequisite is meaningless until those Requirements are established.

I've actually seen courses that have prerequisites, but no requirements. Explaining to faculty how prerequisites and requirements work together is challenging, but providing examples helps.

There are two ways I see this feature used most often:

  1. Faculty have a syllabus quiz, honor code, or pretest in an early module, and they want to make sure that students can't progress in the course, until they have completed this requirement.
  2. Faculty use requirements so that students can track their progress.

While some faculty lock down their course by setting up a lot of requirements and prerequisites, in my experience, more faculty prefer to allow students some self-direction in the order that they complete their course.

Community Participant

My students love getting the checkmarks. Its difficult to remember to add all of the items to the prerequisite, but the students will always remind me when it doesn't make the green checkmark. 

Community Champion

Hello  @garciah . Because your question may not necessarily have one "correct" answer, I have changed your posting from a "Question" to a "Discussion."  I hope this is okay with you.

Can you please tell me where you go to make a score requirement I can't find it.