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Learner II

Assignments vs Pages for Pre-Class Reading


Our school is in the process of migrating from Sakai to Canvas. I am helping design standards and practices that will be used for all our programs. We use Modules as the main organizational tool for the course content. It occurred to us that Assignments could be used to store reading homework. The main benefit is that time sensitive readings will show up in the Syllabus, Calendar, and To-do List. The main drawback is that it is overly prescriptive and affect students' sense of ownership of their own learning process.

Has anyone had experience playing with Assignments in this way? I am curious how it went.

Upcoming webinar on leveraging modules (5/19, 1:30-2:30)

JIVE Agenda: Leveraging Modules - Google Drawings 

Interesting blog post related to this topic:

Share UDL Course Design Tips, Tricks, and Techniques 

UPDATE: Thanks for your thoughtful responses. I think this design idea points to a needed feature in Canvas. What's missing is a way to tag modules and module items with dates. Students could see their readings in "Coming Up" instead of cluttering up their Assignment lists.

My current thinking on the topic has shifted, thanks in part to your responses.

  • Learning is highly individual. Forcing students to adapt to a single approach may interrupt their learning process. Instead, we should be equipping students with the skills necessary to take command of their own learning.
  • Syllabus, Assignments, Calendar, To-do, Coming Up would become overwrought with content. This could potentially create a lot of white noise across the course and courses.
14 Replies

Thanks for sharing your example! I like the approach of linking within assignments to modules of importance to the assignment. We're particular sensitive to the concern about students' time management. This is what prompted us to explore the approach to using Assignments, since it could save time by adding it to the calendar/syllabus for us.


"Assignment bloat" is a great way to describe what is a real concern in some classes. Overusing this feature we may elicit feelings of overwhelm for our students. Maybe a good approach would be to recommend assignments as an option for more critical reading assignments. Thanks, this was really helpful!

Learner II

We also often find students bypass the module content - some don't even realize it's there :smileyshocked:

We have had success in a few courses (when pages are used for additional reading assignments) where linking to specific module pages in the assignment description has increased student participation in module pages as there is a direct link to how the page will be helpful as they work through the assignment:


This still provides flexibility for the students own process, while giving them the addition support they need (and where to find it!). When there is a specific concern related to time management in a course due to the rigor, timing of assignments, etc. We add event reminders to the course calendar: 

Community Member

This can be a great use of Assignments if something is required from the readings and you are using the Syllabus tool in face-to-face classes. We found that students often bypass the module content (with instructions and other information) if the Syllabus tool is operational in online/hybrid classes, often just skipping and clicking on the assignment. (And, if it is not open, getting a locked message which means a lot of emails to faculty about not being able to access the assignment.)

We often rely on overview pages for reading assignments, setting a module requirement to view the page in order to complete the module. A recurring event can always be set up in the Calendar as a reminder for readings. Because the Calendar is a global platform, students will see reminders for all of their courses in Canvas. The drawback of the recurring calendar event is that it can't be customized for each individual reading easily.

Another option can be to create an empty assignment where students don't have to submit anything, there are no points attached to the assignment but the reading information is listed. This can cause a bit of an assignment bloat in the gradebook, but if the reading assignments are attached to an Assignment Group worth 0% of the total grade, it can work.