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Community Member

Content block templates

Hi all, I'm currently playing around with the idea of course site templates. One thing I've been thinking about is how to create templates that give faculty the flexibility to continue doing their courses their way, rather than being proscriptive about what belongs on a particular page. (With the possible exception of the homepage, where I think we can offer a clearer outline of what content belongs there.) I'd like to explore offering clear style guidelines for Canvas course sites that enable faculty to present their content in a professional manner, consistent across the school, simply by grabbing code for content block templates I've created.

I've found great resources here about creating templates, and particularly about styling the homepage. (IE, Page Banners - HTML or PNG file?Creating an inviting course home pageHome Sweet Homepages without Tables)

What I haven't found is mention of templated content blocks. What I'm wondering, basically, is whether anyone out there has created templates for blocks of content (such as assignment instructions, a video embed, or simply headers to break up content on pages) for their faculty to use as-needed in their course sites. If so, I'd be curious to know a few things:

  • What content block styles have you created, and which do you see faculty using most often?
  • What is the comfort level of your faculty using these styled content blocks -- ie, are the instructional designers just managing all the styling, or are faculty actually doing this themselves?
  • How have you organized your content block templates? (I'm thinking unpublished pages that faculty and designers can access...but this does add extra steps for faculty creating content, and feels a little too hidden for easy use. It could also get unwieldy fast, depending on how many content block styles I've got on offer.)
  • Have you seen this type of styling have any impact (positive or negative) on the student experience? Or on the faculty experience of working with Canvas?

Even if you haven't done exactly what I'm asking about here, I'd love to hear from folks who have successfully gotten faculty on board with templates or style guides, on how you presented this to faculty, what's gone well (and hasn't gone so well), etc. This styling question is something I'm just beginning to think about, so it's possible that what I may need to be thinking about isn't content block templates so much as page templates, each intended for a slightly different purpose. Any thoughts/advice/insight/further questions/ideas on other approaches I might take, are welcome!

7 Replies

Kelley, so are we - I was hoping for the benefit of someone's experience myself. Please share if anyone has a handle on using BluePrint courses. Smiley Happy

Hi Penny:

We really have not yet had the time to play with Blueprint courses. I know they would work but, we are a small office.

Hi Kelley,

Thanks for sharing this! I wonder if you have any additional feedback since starting on BluePrint courses?

Community Member

Thank you,  @kmeeusen - it's really helpful to see how you took your thinking here beyond just the actual layouts of the page to the larger course structure (ie module structure, naming conventions, etc). It sounds like you've hit that sweet spot of standardizing the student experience without limiting what faculty are doing with their course sites. Thank you!!

Thank you,  @nikki_ballentin ‌ - it's really helpful to know that your faculty have found Cidi Labs a useful tool! My school is actually looking into this right now as one possible solution for templating and hopefully simplifying the process of building a professional-looking course site. It's great to see those screenshots of how your faculty are actually using the tool (versus me goofing around in my sandbox).

Community Coach
Community Coach

Hi  @rhudy 

We had a technical program come to us requesting course templates to used in all courses in the program, but to also permit flexibility to meet curriculum variations and faculty preferences. this is what our template included:

  • A program-branded Home page (Banner), with all necessary information built in.
  • An HTML Syllabus description fill-in-the-blanks template that complied with our college's syllabus requirements. This has been the most popular item, and has now been mandated college-wide.
  • A defined module structure that fits our term length, with 12 define weekly modules and two additional unpublished modules for faculty who like/need a mid-term and Final Exam module. Also, an unpublished module for faculty instructions on how to use the template.
  • Defined module content and content structure and sequencing that includes: Introduction and module outcomes page, lectures heading, handouts heading, discussions heading, Assignment heading and assessment headings that include place holders for all of those content types.
  • Logical and consistent naming of all modules and module content.
  • Standardized and consistent headings on content pages.
  • Predefined and embedded text and instructions for students throughout.

We designed this template using the Quality Matters Rubric standards, and assuming that faculty filled in all the blanks as instructed, the template covered more than half of the standards just as is, without faculty filling in the gaps by adding their own content, developing good outcomes, and aligning their content, activities and assessments with those outcomes.

Other than the pre-embedded text, and headers on standardized content pages, instructors had the freedom to develop their own content, add content pages, external links etc. as long as the organized the under the correct text headers in the modules. They developed their own assessments and assignments appropriate to their own curriculum.

The program is still using this template after three years.

We are hoping that Blueprint courses will make it easier to expand on this initiative with other programs, and our Academics division is already jumping on the bandwagon.

You can find the template in Canvas Commons under the title "BASMO Template - Master", if you would like to check it out. we've learned a lot since we created this template, but it could still be useful.

I hope this helps,


Community Member

Hi Ellen!

We use CIDI design tools (formerly Kennethware) to create content blocks for module overview pages. Our faculty love using the content blocks to organize their content. Here are some sample designs our faculty have used in their courses. I'm not sure if this is what you are looking for but I hope it helps. Smiley Happy