Things to NOT do in Canvas
There is plenty of content on what to do in Canvas -- how to do this and how to do that. But sometimes we Check or Uncheck an option or setting in Canvas, or turn something On or Off, not knowing what it is or what it does -- and then something doesn’t work. In the few years I’ve supported the teachers in my district, I have learned a few things to NOT do. I want to share this list of things to NOT do accidentally in Canvas, the why, and how to get around it. These are not in any particular order.
NOTE: Different districts may have different settings and permissions, so some things described here may or may not be available for you.
1. Don’t add a Course Start date and then not enter an End date
Why? Your course won’t end (or conclude) and will remain active, which means Students will be able to continue interacting and submitting to the course. This also means that if a student moves to another school, they’ll remain active in your school’s subaccount and will continue receiving Global Announcements from your school (if your schools are in different sub accounts).
If your district creates courses via a sync with the SIS, it’s likely the courses come automatically with Term dates for when the course will start and end. You may have the option to change those dates by editing the Course dates -- BUT be careful to:
not add an end date prior to the Term end date or your course will conclude (!!) and students will no longer have access; the course will move to Past Enrollments and you’ll find you can no longer import to your course and other weird things
not leave the End date blank, or your course will not conclude. Note that, depending on the situation, once the course concludes, you may not be able to “unconclude” the course.
Related Canvas Instructor Guide: How do I change the start and end dates for a course?
2. Don’t add an End date to your Sandbox course
Why? Your course will conclude and you may not be able to use it any more. In some districts this may mean someone else will have to manually create you another sandbox course.
In our district we provide our teachers with several Sandbox courses. What’s the purpose of a Sandbox course?
try out Canvas tools and features in a course in which no students are enrolled
import course content after the term ends so you have somewhere to continue working on course content until new term courses are created -- you may need a Sandbox for each content/prep you teach
import content from Commons and pick and choose what you need
use as a space to share and collaborate with other teachers
other creative uses
When the content is no longer needed in the Sandbox, simply go to the course Settings and click Reset Course Content to wipe out the course and have a fresh, empty Sandbox (recycle!). Now you can use the course again for another purpose, or a new course’s content.
If you have several Sandboxes and don't need easy access to them all, "unfavorite" them to hide them from your Dashboard. They will remain under Courses => All Courses for whenever you want access.
Related Canvas Instructor Guides:
How do I reset course content?
How do I view my favorite courses in the Card View Dashboard as an instructor?
3. Don’t hide/disable Grades in your course navigation menu
Why? Mostly because for students navigating the course via a browser, clicking on Grades is how they access feedback and comments , annotations , and rubric results you’ve provided on assessments.
If you are not using Canvas to enter all assignments and grades and don’t want students to get confused by the course grade total, you can “Hide totals in student grades summary” and “Hide grade distribution graphs from students.” Here is how: go to your course and click on Settings => from the Course Details tab scroll all the way to the bottom and click the itty bitty teeny tiny text/link “more options” => check the boxes for Hide totals… and Hide grade distribution.
Bonus Tip: By going to Settings and hiding totals, students lose the ability to “Calculate based only on graded assignments.” While it can be useful for students to view “What If scores,” some students get confused and think it's their real score, or may show parents their “What If” scores and not their actual scores.
Related Canvas Instructor Guides:
How do I manage Course Navigation links?
How do I hide totals in my students' grade summaries?
How do I hide grade distribution scoring details from students?
Related Student Canvas Guide:
How do I approximate my assignment scores using the What-If Grades feature?
4. Don’t give Students the role of TA, Grader, etc. in any course -- not even a non-SIS-created course, like manually created courses for clubs, mentoring, etc.
It will mess with their accounts for integrated tools like NewsELA, etc. Giving them a role other than Student in ANY course makes Canvas think they are Staff -- and this may inform other integrated, instructional applications, causing conflicts with their accounts for those tools.
You will give them access to other parts of the course (even if links are hidden from Students) that have student info, such as Grades , and People which will display student ID numbers, possibly personal email addresses, and other personal info, which is a FERPA violation.
An option to consider for giving students a place to collaborate is to create Groups -- not just the Groups a teacher can create within a Course, but rather Groups that are independent of a Course. A sub-account (school building) system admin can create Groups in your Sub-account. You'll also want to consider management and maintenance of independent Groups.
Related Admin Canvas Guide: How do I add groups in a group set in an account?
5. Don’t enable Large Course feature
Why? It will mess up your Speedgrader and you won’t be able to filter by Sections.
Under Settings there is an option: Large Course , and a checkbox for Launch SpeedGrader Filtered by Student Group . Only select this if you indeed have a course with an unusually high enrollment AND if you then create Groups that correspond to your Sections.
When this new feature came out, I mistakenly shared the info with our teachers, who turned on this Setting in their courses. Then we discovered that Speedgrader didn’t work any more. Now, whenever I receive a support ticket saying, "My Speedgrader isn't working," the Large Course setting is one of the things I check (the other is if a filter was set in Grades that may be affecting the Speedgrader).
This feature only became useful to me when we had a course with over 2K students enrolled for a countywide assessment. We had like 14 sections and each section had between 100 and 200 students. Speedgrader would crash on us. Canvas Support came to the rescue, advising us to use the Large Course feature. And it was super easy to create the Groups that corresponded to the sections, as well!
Related Canvas Instructor Guide: How do I enable SpeedGrader to launch filtered by student group?
6. [Classic Quizzes] Don’t import a Quiz from elsewhere more than once
Why? Every time you import a Quiz you are importing the SAME quiz -- not a new copy of a quiz. And when you edit what you think is the Copy, you essentially overwrite your original Quiz. Each Quiz has an ID number. The first time you import or copy it, it will have a new ID, but if you re-import or re-copy, it will have the same ID, so it's the same quiz (not a new copy).
So how can you duplicate these quizzes or questions? Here are some options:
Use Question Banks -- this will allow you to duplicate questions, and re-use questions in other quizzes.
Don’t import the same Quiz over and over. But you can import the Quiz once. Then Copy the imported Quiz and name it something else - this should make a version 2. Then copy the copy (version 2) to make a version 3.
Use New Quizzes ! I haven’t used them much yet, but New Quizzes can be duplicated and modified.
7. Don’t copy and paste links (or images) from one course to another
Why? If you simply copy and paste those links and images to your course (Course B), but the files or links live in Course A, when students click them, you're essentially sending them back to Course A -- a course in which they likely are not enrolled, and therefore do not have access (they will get a Restricted Access warning).
Images or other files (PDFs, .doc, .png, .mp3) that have been uploaded to the original course also must to be uploaded to your current course Files as well. (This could easily lead into a lesson on managing Files in Canvas 😀 )
Also, when using the Course Import tool, beware of course links that were created in Course A by copying and pasting the URL of a particular location in the course (instead of using the Course Links tool). If the Course ID changes in the URL from one course to the other, a link was made incorrectly.
Bonus Tip: Use the link validation tool regularly to find these issues easily, and address them.
8. D on’t forget to click the checkbox to enable the Adjust events and due dates option w hen doing a Course Import of a semester- or year-long course
Why? Because then your copied course will have all of last year’s due dates and availability dates.
If you accidentally forget to click the box and suddenly remember, and haven’t done much editing in your new course -- easy peasy -- just go to Settings and click Reset Course Content . This will wipe out your course and clear all of the content (a brand new slate -- or Canvas, if you will 😉 ) and you can start the import process again, this time remembering to Adjust dates.
If you made significant updates and edits and can’t reset your course content, use the amazing Edit Assignment Dates feature to bulk update due dates and availability dates for all Assignments.
Bonus Tip: You also can easily adjust a due date for specific assignments by dragging and dropping on the course Calendar .
Related Canvas Instructor Guides:
How do I copy content from another Canvas course using the Course Import tool?
How do I adjust events and due dates in a course import?
Here are a few more tips for good measure:
Don’t cross-list sections (move a section of students from one course to another) after the Term has started IF students have submitted to a course. Why? Their submissions and grades in the original course will get “lost”.
Don’t Publish your course until after you have imported your course content from the previous term. Why? Students will get a TON of notifications about the new content.
Don’t import Modules from Commons to your active course. Why? Just trust me, LOL! Because it can make a tangled mess! Instead, import from Commons into a Sandbox course, make any edits there, THEN import or share what you need to your real course.
Your Turn: What other DON'T DO’s do you have to share -- and Why? And how do you work around them? Please share your Comments below.
Acknowledgement: I want to thank some of my fellow Canvas Advocates for helping me round out this great list! GRACIAS!!
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I just joined Eddie Small (@smallindiana) and Marcus Painter (@edtechmarcus) in a CanvasLive session where I had the privilege of sharing my thoughts about Canvas Studio and how powerful Studio is for teaching and learning.
As a district, we have not yet purchased Studio, but if I have my way (enter maniacal laugh), we will. It is such a GREAT tool. In the session, I talk about how my district leadership asked that I get some input from teachers who use Edpuzzle and Screencastify pretty regularly. So, my Canvas CSM and our account manager allowed my to run a test drive in a single course. I opened it up for volunteers to give Studio a spin. So far, they are loving it. I can't wait to share the data with our leadership team.
Watch this session where we talk about what Studio brings to the table in researching options for THE interactive video solution. Studio definitely checks all of the boxes:
Here is the slide deck from the session:
What about some use cases? How can STUDIO be leveraged for learning, strategy, celebrations, professional growth, and promotion. Check out this slide (Slide 6 of the above presentation).
Throwing out some questions for discussion:
What video solution(s) are you using? How is it working? What do you like best? What do you like least?
How are you using Studio? What do you like best? What do you like least?
What questions are asking if you are trying to make a video solutions decision? How have you done your research and homework in making this decision?
What other other considerations should be at the table?
I would love to hear your thoughts.
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In North America, many schools are wrapping up their academic year. I’m usually intentional about writing, reflecting, and setting goals. This year more than ever, I find myself encouraged and motivated to make changes...when I also feel I should allow myself to simply collapse into summer because of exhaustion.
It’s been “a year” jam-packed with learning, juggling, and reflecting. We’re all exhausted, but I can’t help but notice passionate educators still finding time to ask the BIG questions and investing in students’ well-being and educational journeys in immeasurable ways. I devoured books and articles about student engagement, problem-based learning, personalized learning, unique assessment methods, and educator growth. Looking back on my year, I see that this deep-rooted desire to learn helped me to face the challenges of constantly reinventing my classroom. It was a mission full of value - not only for learners but for myself as an educator. I know other educators learned more this year than ever...in so many aspects, too!
At times, this desire to “get it right” pushed me nearly to my breaking point. There was no “answer” or “ideal solution” as I sought to find ways to empower students to invest in their learning experiences while also allowing them to connect activities and projects to their interests and current events. However, every time we collaborated, built activities, wrote class norms, reflected, revised...together...it was the sense of accomplishment and excellence I sought. Even if no more than ⅓ of our class was on-campus during any given class meeting and even if there always seemed like there was room for growth, I felt we did the best we could provide everything that was constantly in flux. Our work was constantly unfinished, but eventually, I accepted it.
Over the weekend, a colleague and friend of mine shared a reflection that was published by the Lasallian Region of North America. What's Done is Finished: A Time to Recharge has a wonderful visual and a reminder to accept things as they are and allow yourself to recharge and look forward. You also need to express gratitude for the colleagues who have become friends who are alongside you, accepting the ups and downs of your passionate investment into your career. I hope that others can find a connection to it too, regardless of where you are an educator.
So many of us are ready to return to “normal”, but what if “normal” isn’t the best solution anymore? I know I’m not the only one who has posed this question! In this year full of juggling, adaptability, responsiveness, and emotions, I can’t help but see the beautiful creativity and collaboration that surfaced during so much uncertainty. I’m exhausted, but renewed and actually more in sync with colleagues than I have been at the end of other school years. Like the reflection, I hope that eventually we can look back and recognize everything that was accomplished and identify it with more and more confidence.
Is it possible to maintain our current pace of planning, assessment, research, reflection, adjustments, etc? No, probably not. Were some of the systematic disparities and inequities exacerbated during this year? Yes, sadly. However, there are some amazing solutions, approaches, and principles that should stick around, far longer than our quarantines and pandemic anxieties. It’s time to take this momentum to find our way and address all students’ needs in ways that are current, creative, flexible, and student-driven. Even while completely exhausted, I’m excited and empowered to do better in cooperation with those who enter the classroom and look at me as a guide.. ...after the opportunity to rest, of course, but still soon enough to turn the emotions of “the year” into something that will feed positive changes.
Here’s my challenge for you. Take five minutes to think about your year, in your role in education. Find a post-it or your favorite notes app and jot down some ideas. (If you’d like to share this in the comments so the entire Community can celebrate and uplift together, please do!)
What are three things you accomplished this year that you initially had thought would be impossible? These could be pedagogy, content, or technology-related.
What are two Canvas features or tools you adopted or increased your utilization of this year that you want to keep active in your practice?
What is one goal for the future you’d like to make for yourself or your classroom?
It may be the end of an exhausting year full of (constant) learning, but it’s also the beginning of another phase of continual reflection and growth we accept as educators. How you look back on this year will change over time, but I hope that the frustrations and emotions make all of us stronger, more adaptable, and accepting of teaching and learning in ways we don’t expect.
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Today, the first day of a new semester, I asked each of the classes I teach, "What would your ideal home page look like?" During the five years our school has had Canvas, I've done a fair bit of designing because I've taught 10 different semester-long courses. Because I've actively sought design feedback from students before, I had a general idea of what students would say. This semester, I wanted to fully include the class in this process and not just ask a student here and there throughout the term. With this change, I hoped to create a list of key components so I could customize a home page for each unique group of students. (This is possible because I teach each of the five courses only once during a day.) What made me the most excited about this extra step is that the resulting page would be helpful to their learning and not just something that I thought was well-designed. After some amazing organic collaborative conversations, I learned that every group wanted buttons that lead to specific modules. From that view, they can see the content for the entire module and jump around as needed. They did not want a fancy button that led to the Syllabus, Assignments, or Discussions. ONLY buttons that went to the modules. Why? They felt that the left-hand course navigation was there and that it was silly to repeat it in the middle. Students want to keep things simple and they are aware of design redundancies. They know where to go, so place the essentials in the place that warrants the big visual. It will help them get to their learning activities more efficiently! Because the students asked to keep many of the items in the left-hand course navigation active, I will continue to use the Content Selector passionately. The more I can link the course's activities and resources together that way, the more connected the students' navigation will be, no matter how they arrive at the item. This all made sense to me (and aligned with my hopes, luckily)! With more conversation, each group was very drawn to a concept like this -- module labels, color-coding, and access to most frequently visited "subsections" of Canvas so they can navigate in multiple ways depending on what they're doing: Now, I have some work to do! It's always fun to design with a goal in mind. This semester, the goal is bigger because more people are invested, and I think that's pretty awesome. If you asked a group of students about their ideal home page, what would they say? Each institution is so unique, I would find it fascinating to hear how different groups of students would organize their learning.
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Explore how to create some very unique and interesting hand-drawn effects in Canvas using PowerPoint. This will add some flair and individuality to your content, because Canvas courses shouldn't look like they were designed by robots.
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