Mastering Modules: A Guide to Organizing Your Content in Canvas


What Are Modules?


Authors: @DonLourcey (Dedicated Instructional Designer), @LoraMiller (Dedicated Instructional Designer), @SamOHanlon (Dedicated Instructional Designer)

If we had to choose one Canvas feature we could not do without, it would be Modules. Using modules to organize content creates consistent flow and layout, so you (and your learners!) can focus on the content itself. Teachers can add any of the following to Modules: Pages, Discussions, Quizzes, Assignments, Text Headers, Files, External URLs, and External Tools. Another cool feature of Modules is that teachers can monitor the progress of learners through each module–what’s in progress and what’s been completed.

Coming soon…

Instructors love the “Assign to” feature of Assignments, Quizzes, and Discussions. Soon, “Assign to” will be an option in Modules! This new release will allow instructors to further personalize learning experiences by tailoring module content for specific students, sections, or groups. How exciting!!

With the new "Assign To" feature, modules can be assigned based on a learner’s individual needs, progress, or learning path. It simplifies differentiation by ensuring that each student accesses the most relevant and appropriate materials. This targeted approach not only supports diverse learning needs, but also helps instructors track individual student progress more effectively.

Learn more in this Product blog post!

PRO TIP: Control access to content by using prerequisites and requirements to set conditional release of content. Prerequisites establish that learners have to meet certain criteria before advancing to the next module. For instance, before Module 2 is released, learners have to complete all requirements of Module 1. Requirements are established to ensure that learners are completing all content within a module–be it view, mark as done, submit, or earn a specific score on a quiz or assignment.


Edit module prerequisites and requirements through module settings.Edit module prerequisites and requirements through module settings.

Best Practices

Consider these best practices when organizing your content through Modules.

Bookend the course and each module:

Begin the course with a Welcome or Class Overview Module. This module might include:

  1. Tips for success, including strategies for parents supporting students
  2. Course expectations and grading policies
  3. Instructor bio and contact information

End the course with a conclusion module. Include a goodbye message, information about final grades, and/or suggestions for future learning.

Begin modules with an introduction/overview page. This page might include:

  1. A summary of the topic(s) covered in the module
  2. Goals, objectives, standards, and/or essential questions
  3. Additional learning resources

Conclude modules with a wrap-up or lessons learned page.

Module structure beginning with an overview page and ending with a conclusion page.Module structure beginning with an overview page and ending with a conclusion page.

Example of overview page.Example of overview page. Example of conclusion page.Example of conclusion page.

Be Consistent:

Organize structure clearly and consistently. Each module can correspond to a topic, week, chapter, objective, etc. But don’t mix and match! For example, if you are organizing your course by week, the modules should be Week 1, Week 2, and so on.

Provide a clear, consistent naming convention. Name Module items with any of the following combinations: First Word, Key Word, Numbers, Alphabet. Again, do not mix and match. Choose one naming convention and apply it throughout the course.

Consider using emojis or special characters for younger learners to give visual cues, thematic points of reference, or personalization.

Example of Secondary Science module structure.Example of Secondary Science module structure.Example of PE module structure.Example of PE module structure.

Choose a structure that fits your course:

You can use Modules to organize content by topic, chapter, unit, time (day, week, month, etc.), etc. The best way to structure your content depends on the age of your learners and how the content will be delivered to learners.

Use a hierarchical structure to chunk the content. For example, Text Headers can be used to break each module into sections by day of the week, the 4Ds (Discover, Discuss, Demonstrate, Deepen), the 5Es, or some other organizational method. Use indentation to associate pages, quizzes, discussions, and assignments with other items.

Example of 4th Grade Module Structure.Example of 4th Grade Module Structure.Example of HED Psychology 101 module structure.Example of HED Psychology 101 module structure.


Leverage Mastery Paths in building Canvas Modules. Mastery Paths (Video, Guide) is a feature that allows instructors to create differentiated learning experiences based on a student's performance, which means that the learning path a student follows is automatically determined by their scores on specific assignments. This ensures that each student receives content tailored to their level of understanding. In addition, an instructor can create a scenario for students to choose their learning path. This allows learners to select from different content options based on their preference, giving them more control over their learning experience. This personalized approach ensures that each student receives the appropriate level of challenge and support to meet their individual learning needs. Use Mastery Paths in a variety of ways:

  1. Remediation and enrichment
  2. Personalized learning
  3. Project-based learning
  4. Preparation of assessments


Example of performance module structure.Example of performance module structure. Example of student choice module structure.Example of student choice module structure.

For further resources, here is a great community blog post from 2019 InstructureCon presentation. This blog post presents practical ways to use Mastery Paths and beneficial community support for implementing and leveraging Mastery Paths.

Final Thoughts

Incorporating modules in Canvas isn't just about organizing content; it's about creating an intuitive, engaging, and effective learning experience for your students. By following these best practices and leveraging the benefits of a well-structured course, you can enhance student engagement, improve learning outcomes, and streamline your teaching process. Remember, clarity, consistency, and creativity are key to successful module design. Don't hesitate to experiment with different approaches and continuously gather feedback from your students to refine your course structure. With these pro tips in hand, you're well-equipped to maximize the potential of Modules and take your learning design to the next level. Happy teaching!

How do you use modules? Share with examples. After reading this post, is there anything you are going to do differently?


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