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Create a bullet list on an assignment outline with check boxes instead of bullets or numbers?

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When I give an assignment, I usually have all the instructions in the assignment on Canvas. I use a bullet list to include all the steps. I'd love to have a little check box on every bullet that students would check off as they go, this would help them especially when there are over ten steps to an assignment. Is there any way to do this?

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Community Coach
Community Coach​...

One way to easily do this would be to do a Google search for "checkbox", and then look at the image results that it gives you.  Choose a checkbox image that you like, and scale it down to the size you want.  Then, upload it to your "Files" area of your course.  When you are making edits to your assignment page, just add in that checkbox image to all bulleted items.  Would this solution work for you?

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Community Coach
Community Coach​...

One way to easily do this would be to do a Google search for "checkbox", and then look at the image results that it gives you.  Choose a checkbox image that you like, and scale it down to the size you want.  Then, upload it to your "Files" area of your course.  When you are making edits to your assignment page, just add in that checkbox image to all bulleted items.  Would this solution work for you?

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I don't think that would work because the image wouldn't change when it's clicked. I'd like the check box to be interactive, so students could check off steps as they go.


After some thought, this might be a helpful solution for students who decide to print the instructions. Thanks.



Not unless you are willing to break your assignment up into individual steps, each of which is an entry in a module and then use prerequisites to enforce completing the module sequentially.

You can stylize your list by attaching the list-style-type​ to the opening <ol> tag. For example: <ol style="list-style-type: square;">  However, a hollow square isn't one of the styles that you can choose.

You can specify an image to use with a list style. So you could find an image of a box somewhere and specify the URL to that box in the list-style-image​. However, you'll need to do it as just list-style rather than list-style-image because the Rich Content Editor will strip it out. Even if you get it working, that only gives you a box and not the ability to check it. If you printed it out, then they would have the ability to check the box, but it would be a whole lot easier to just use a blank (several underscores) for the checkbox than going to all the trouble of

What you're really asking for is the ability to add a form to a page. That is definitely not allowed unless you create it on a separate site and then embed it in an iframe. There is a list of supported tags and form is thankfully not one of them. Someone else asked a similar question today HTML Forms on Canvas  with a similar answer -- it's not supported.

And even if it could be done, unless you write a back-end system to maintain the status of the check boxes, they would be lost as soon as the student moved off the page.

I could have stopped with "No" and had the answer marked "correct", but I was shooting for "helpful" as well -- even though it wasn't the answer you wanted.


I've seen some simple HTML check boxes that would work but they seem to require javascript or something else I didn't quite understand. I'd be fine if the boxes don't remain checked if a student refreshes the page or something like that. In the past, I have had a few students print out the instructinos then use a pen to cross out the steps as they go but I'd prefer to go paperless.

I already use modules to organize units. When I say steps I mean very simply "Open Word" is a step, then "Choose Blank Document" is the second step and so on, this would result in a module with 10-40 steps and over a hundred modules by the end of the year so I don't see any way for that to be useful to students.

Thanks for the reminder of prerequisites. I have noticed some students doing assignments out of order so I might start making assignments have prerequisites to insure the skills are learned in the right order. I teach a multimedia class with lessons on word, making movies, using Adobe Illustrator, and so on.

Highlighted​, I'm not sure if this is completely possible (and it's too late for me to check it right now), but I'm wondering if you could create a checklist template (with a checkable checkbox) in a GoogleDoc and then share it with the students so they can create their own copy/collaboration of this template. This would allow them to check off things as they went through them... which, now that I'm saying this I'm wondering about an interactive pdf. I'm not sure about embedding one of these in Canvas (if it would keep the interactive part), but it might be something the students could open on their computer and check off as they work through.

Just a few scrambled thoughts at 11pm at night!

Community Coach
Community Coach

P.S. According to​ the google doc thing is possible, but requires a few steps. He directed me to this forum that has a little screencast of how to set-up the list - How to Insert a Checkbox in Google Docs. You would then need to create your list (as indicated by the screencast), share it with the students, then have the students copy/paste it or create a copy of your template. Once the students had the template they would need to click on the checkbox (entire list is highlighted/selected), then click on the checkbox again (this time just the checkbox is highlighted), right click and choose the checkmark - Repeat these steps for every item.

Side note, as we talked through this, it seems like it might be faster/easier to have them copy your template and then just highlight and strike-through (alt+shift+5) or bold (ctrl-b) each step as they work through it.

So, the answer is still no it can't be done in Canvas, but yes, there are a few workarounds that could be considered. It's now 11:15pm and I *think* we really are done for the night! Smiley Wink


The strike through option in Word or just printing it out is probably the easiest alternative. I plan to switch from a bulleted list to a numbered list, to help students keep track of which step they are on. Thanks for your thoughts


I'm glad the module thing won't work for you. It was intended to show the futility of the idea, which went back to the simple answer "No".

My personal take is that the entire thing is way too complicated to be beneficial. You're asking students to switch back and forth between programs (whatever they're doing and the list of things to do) between every step

  1. Turn on computer by pushing the button at the top right of the unit.
  2. Wait for Windows to load.
  3. Enter your login in the first box.
  4. Click in the second box
  5. Type your password
  6. Click OK to log into the computer.
  7. Wait for the computer to load
  8. Double click the Chrome button on the desktop to open a browser
  9. Wait for it to load
  10. Search for Google Drive
  11. Click on the link to Google Drive
  12. Log into Google Drive
  13. Search for your school's Canvas instance
  14. Go to Canvas
  15. Log into Canvas
  16. Choose this course
  17. Find the instructions
  18. Open the instructions in Google Docs by clicking on the link
  19. Go to File
  20. Choose Make a Copy
  21. Click the Windows Start button and (depending on your version of Windows) open the Start Menu
  22. Navigate to Microsoft Office and then choose Microsoft Word
  23. Open Word
  24. Switch back to Google Docs by pressing Alt-Tab
  25. Find the item you just accomplished, click on the check box in front of the item, click again, then right click, choose check mark. Or highlight row and press Alt-Shift-5
  26. Get next step in process
  27. Use Alt-Tab to switch back to Word and choose blank document. You may also click on the list of open programs from the taskbar to switch back to Word.
  28. Switch back to Google Docs with Alt-Tab or from the taskbar.
  29. Find the item you just accomplished. Click on the check box in front of the item, click again, then right click, choose check mark. Or highlight row and press Alt-Shift-5
  30. Get next step in process
  31. Switch to that program
  32. Accomplish next task in process

Repeat steps 28-31 for each of the next 38 steps in the process.

Oh, wait, I forgot. After step 1, I need to complete step 28-31 for step 1, but I don't have the document open yet to check them off. And you really need to complete steps 28-21 after step 18, and after steps 28, 29, 30, and 31. What is a poor lost student to do? "Teacher! Help! I can't follow these instructions. They're too detailed for me, I can't possibly accomplish them all." Oh, and if you are using OS X instead of Windows, then the instructions are different enough that you need an entirely new list.

Okay, my list is exaggerated to make a point.

Our college brought in Chuck Underwood to talk about Generations (Silents, Boomers, Gen-Xers, and Millennials). One of the things I remember him saying is that Millennials love step-by-step instructions. They want to be told how to do everything. They don't want to think for themselves. That clashes with the previous generations, and especially college professors, who want their students to be able to think for themselves and provide general instructions without the specifics.

I'm seeing that in your instructions. If there are 10-40 steps in a process, it's probably too detailed, but unfortunately also probably necessary for some people.

It might be better to clump the instructions together into higher-order actions so that you have fewer steps and students can then follow them without having to resort to checking them off a list. For example, you teach and expect students to have a basic understanding of Word before you ask them to do something advanced.

If your class involves making movies, then make some video tutorials that explain how to do all this stuff. Students are much better at watching than reading anyway.

I can see a point to detailing some steps. Adobe Illustrator isn't trivial or easy to use (none of the Adobe programs are). But it would be better to clump things into lessons like Here's how to draw a shape, which can be used for circles, ellipses, rectangles, squares, etc.. Then, in the other process, you just say draw a circle and possibly link to the instructions on how to draw a shape. Or teach them to use the online help to find things out because the versions of these programs are going to change and your detailed steps will be useless. But a list of 40 steps is too long to do all at once and have the students get anything helpful out of it except for a finished product that shows they can follow steps without thinking. If that is your goal, you might be better served by an assignment that measures how well they can follow instructions.

The point of all this was that if your students can't complete a list of steps without checking them off, then your students won't be able to handle checking off of the items in the manner necessary to get it done on a computer, so print the paper and use pen to check it off. Besides that, by teaching them to follow a list without checking them off, you'd be enabling them to be successful in life because very few websites that contain a list of steps have the ability to check them off as you accomplish them.

Finally, giving them a detailed checklist with the ability to check each item off as they complete it causes them to miss out on an important lesson, much more valuable than whatever it is you're asking them to do in the first place -- what happens when you miss a step? Or even better yet, what happens when the instructions are missing a step? The ability to troubleshoot when something goes wrong is an important skill so we don't end up living in an idiocracy.