Canvas has several options for organizing a Canvas site to make it usable for students. Here are the top 3 design tips that can easily be accomplished in a Canvas course:

  1. Design a strong home page.
  2. Add a syllabus.
  3. Organize content.

1. Design a Strong Home Page

The home page is the landing spot for all students. There are several options for setting a home page in Canvas. The "content page/front page" and the "syllabus" as a front page both provide a visual HTML editor that will allow you to customize this page however you choose.  Making this page friendly and usable can give students a great first impression of the class, as well as help them orient to the course and it's Canvas site.

Here are a few examples of how the home page can be utilized:

  • Openness in Education.  This course uses a "page" that has been designated as "front page" for the home page (see How do I set a front page for my course?). It uses a welcome message that explains the goals and purpose for the course, as well as a link to the first module for the class. Also, notice the image of the instructor.
  • Introduction to Oceanography. This courses uses the syllabus page as a home page. Instead of copy and pasting the syllabus in the syllabus page, the instructor provides a warm intro and course banner with a link to the syllabus file. Also, the instructor provides step by step instructions for the daily course routine. The dates for all assignments are updated so that they appear on the course schedule (part of the syllabus page--see How do I navigate the syllabus and table?)

Start with these links for creating a home page:

How do I change the course home page?

What layout options are available on the course home page?

2. Add a syllabus.

The syllabus is an important course document. In each course, a link called "Syllabus" will be available. Instructors can edit the syllabus description to paste in the syllabus. However, a very long syllabus on a single HTML page can be overwhelming to students. It is ideal to link to the Syllabus file, so that students can print the syllabus and also break up content. There are a few other options for sharing the syllabus in Canvas:

  • Copy and paste the syllabus into the Canvas syllabus area. While this is the easiest way to provide access to the syllabus, it is not recommended for courses that use a long syllabus.
  • Link to the syllabus. Linking to a syllabus file will allow the instructor to use the syllabus page for other content (see the use of the syllabus page in the Oceanography course). Students will also be able to print from an attached file, as well as have easy access to the course schedule.
  • Break up the syllabus into parts.  A course syllabus is often naturally divided into different parts for grading, schedules, and course/institution policies. The syllabus can be broken into parts by creating different parts in "pages" and linking to each page within the Syllabus tool. Course Design & Technology also has HTML code that add tabs into your syllabus to break up content that way. Contact for assistance adding tabs into your syllabus 

3. Organize content.

In Canvas, content can be organized in Modules, Pages and Files.

  • Modules: Modules are used to organize course content by weeks, units, topics, or other strategy for chunking course content.  Note that if you migrated a course from Blackboard, folders will come in as a "module".  Each module can contain files, pages, videos, discussions, assignments, quizzes, external websites, and other learning materials. Modules can be put together once you have all of the content ready in the course, or you can create content from the modules.
  • Pages.  Pages are similar to web pages.  Canvas uses several terms for describing pages, such as Wiki Pages or Content Pages. Within a page, you can add links, text, video and images. Some instructors will use pages to link to websites, files or add supplemental resources. Some instructors will use "pages" to link to the content they used to put in folders in Blackboard (you can also do this in modules). You can make links to the other pages that you create. There is an easy to use editor so you don't have to worry about HTML. Use pages when you want to include narrative with your content.
  • Files. Files are where you upload course files, syllabi, readings, images, or other documents. The file structure in Canvas allows you to organize files as well as share them with students or TA's in the class. By default, students will see all files if the course navigation link to "files" is available to them (How do I hide navigation links?).  Instructors can add content to the files area, then place it in the course, or add files within the course point.