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Community Participant

Best Kept Secrets - for Students!

While a lot of great ideas have been shared about best kept secrets for faculty, what are your best tips and tricks to give to STUDENTS? I write a newsletter to students at the start of every term with something helpful they might be able to use that they may have overlooked.  Things like the What-If tool, marking courses as favorites, etc.  What are some other tips you have (read: I'm out of ideas for my newsletter).

33 Replies
Community Champion


You may have covered some of these things but here are some tips I've given to our students.

1. Notifications are the life blood of your course. You can choose to receive them "daily" so as not to flood your e-mail. On the left menu, click on "Account" then "Notifications" to set them up.

2. If you have internet filtering software, you might need to add YOUR_CANVAS_INSTANCE_HERE as an exception if you are having trouble loading videos and other files in Canvas.

3. If you get kicked out of an exam, Do Not Panic. If you still have time on your exam, you can simply enter into the exam again and resume your exam.  Canvas auto-saves exams every 5 minutes or so.

4. Have you tried to access your course through the Canvas mobile app (iOS, Android)? If you didn't like it or find it useful, you might want to try again 3-6 months later. Canvas is constantly adding more functions to their mobile apps to make it more full as a class experience and give you the same abilities as if you were using a web browser on your laptop/desktop.

5. The best browsers to use with Canvas (in order from best to worst):  Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, Edge.   Canvas officially supports the 2 most recent versions of each of these browsers. However, because the browsers are created differently, some work better than others.

6. Canvas automatically uses your full name. If you go by a middle name or nickname, you can change the name that is displayed to others. Go to "Account" on the left menu and select "Settings." Click on "Edit Settings" on the middle right, then edit your "Display Name" and click "Update Settings."

7. Clicking on "Help" at the bottom of the left menu will give you several different options for getting help - filing a support ticket, asking a question directly to the professor, e-mailing/calling Student Services, etc.).

I don't tell students this but #6 is because our students are brought in via SIS, hence the default of using their full name as found in our system.

Community Coach
Community Coach

In no specific order... I did these off the top of my head, here are some of our top reminders/hints/important information for students:

1. DO NOT USE INTERNET EXPLORER OR EDGE. We don't even offer it as an alternative to the other browsers (Firefox, Chrome, & Safari) because I will 100% guarantee if a student is missing the submit button or tries to submit an Assignment and it does work they are using Internet Explorer or Edge.

2. Have at least two internet browsers downloaded onto your computer (we suggest a combination of Firefox, Chrome, and/or Safari). If you run into issues with one browser you can often switch to another and things will work ok.

3. Make sure to check out "What-If" grades! See the following guide - canvas, articulate storyline and internet explorer 11

4. Make sure to click on the little icons next to your assignment grades to see assignment feedback and more information. See the following guide - What do the icons and colors in the Grades page represent?

5. Make sure students know how to view Crocodoc feedback from Instructors! It's easy to miss if you're not looking for it! See the following guide - How do I view assignment feedback comments from my instructor using Crocodoc annotations?

6. Getting Help in Canvas. It's VERY important to go to where you are having the problem in Canvas (so the specific course/assignment/etc) and THEN click on the Help link and "Report a Problem." By doing this we can tell the exact course and assignment/page/file/video you are having problems with which will help us help you even quicker!

7. Do not rely on the "To Do" list or the "Calendar." Yes, your assignments will show up there, but you will miss important course information and resources if you don't go into your course (and Modules) before trying to do assignments.

8. Set your preferences! Do you want a text notification when your Instructor grades your assignment? Do you want an email sent to your Gmail account when a due date changes? Do you want these notifications ASAP or only once a day? Canvas allows you to set things up exactly the way you want them so take advantage of it! See the following guides - How do I add contact methods to receive notifications? & How do I set my Notification Preferences?

9. Mobile, Mobile, Mobile! Canvas has a FREE app for Android and iPhone that normally works a lot better than accessing Canvas through the internet browser on your phone. See the following guide - Will Canvas work on my mobile device?

10. Getting ready to graduate (or leave the College)? Here's a quick easy way to download all the assignment files you've submitted to Canvas - How do I download assignment submissions from all my courses?

11. Always back things up! When typing a significant response to a discussion or in an assignment or quiz text box always make sure to copy what you've typed and paste it into a word document (or email) before clicking the submit button. Why do this? Technology isn't perfect and there's always a chance that you could lose what you've typed. By saving it before you submit it you've got a back-up of all your hard work! An alternative to this is typing your response in a word document first and then copying it into Canvas to submit it!

12. Get a funny error message or something not look right in Canvas? Take a screen shot of it from your computer (or with your cellphone) and email this picture to your Instructor or Canvas Support when you report the problem. Having the picture of exactly what you are seeing or the exact error message can really help when trying to trouble-shoot an issue. This type of documentation also really helps if you were working on a timed quiz and something goes wrong! Better to have more information (and evidence) backing up what you say than less!

Hope this helps!

 @canvas_admin  - Out of curiosity, why do you recommend Firefox over Chrome in #5 above? I know browser preference can be a very personal thing but I tend to find that Chrome works more reliably with Canvas than Firefox. Just wondering.

Community Coach
Community Coach

I have to agree with  @canvas_admin  that we normally recommend Firefox first and then Chrome. Our experience is that they both work pretty well, but Firefox (at least for our faculty/students) seems to be a bit more reliable. Personally I'm in and out of both all day long and normally have one open in one screen and one open in the other, and in general Firefox seems to win out during the day.

Community Champion

  • Keep browsers, Adobe Flash, and Java updated.
  • Export Pages files on a Mac to Word before submitting to Canvas.
  • Do not take quizzes by using the mobile app. Not all quiz settings or question types are compatible with the mobile app yet.
  • Embedding images into a discussion reply? Do not try to copy/paste. Use the embed image icon on the toolbar (How do I embed an image in a Discussion reply as a student? )

Oh, that last one (embedding an image into a discussion reply) is a biggie. The process has been so problematic for students that rather than giving them the link to the Canvas guide, I put the step-by-step instructions in the discussion prompt for any discussion that requires an embedded image:

  1. Click on your name at the upper right of the Canvas screen
  2. Click on the Files tab in the left navigation
  3. Click on the blue Upload button in the upper right corner of the screen
  4. Browse through your computer files to select your photo(s) (.jpg or .png file types, for example)
  5. Navigate back to this course, and then to this discussion
  6. Click on Reply to start a new post
  7. Click on the Embed Image icon
  8. Click on the Canvas tab and then on  My Files (or to the folder to which you uploaded your photo)
  9. Find your photo and click on it; if you'd like, enter dimensions for the photo (or you can resize it later, after you click Update and before you save your post)
  10. Click the blue Update button at the lower left
  11. Done! (Did I say it was tricky? Yes, it is.)

Community Champion

I agree with Chrome here.  Since we use Google Docs for a lot of our integration and APIs, the browser is far more versatile and useful than Firefox.  However, in every case, we tend to stay clear of IE. 


Community Contributor

Regarding #6, I'd like to mention one thing. If the student changes their display name (often excluding a last name) messages will only show the display name. So if John Doe changes his display name to Jack, messages from John Doe will say they come from "Jack."  I've often been left trying to remember who "Jack" is.

 @mjennings ​, because I couldn't list them in a way to show them in a tie. Smiley Happy

Actually, like  @kona ​, I keep both open and work in both all day, every day.     I used to have Firefox listed first in my mind, but recently it has seemed (which is hardly a conclusive argument) that Chrome has indeed taken the edge over Firefox when it comes to using Canvas. However, from a student's perspective and need, I think they work equally well and much better than other alternatives out there.