Contributors:Misty Hamideh

Using any tool for the first time can be overwhelming. This guide can help focus your attention on what matters most when getting started with Canvas, and make it easier to follow more detailed tutorials.

By the end of this guide, you’ll be able to:

  • Log in to Canvas at PSU.
  • Navigate to your dashboard.
  • Manage your user profile and settings.
  • Find where to toggle tools on and off for students.
  • Identify which Canvas tools may be most relevant to your teaching practice.
  • Locate and explore further resources.

First Things First: Logging in

Canvas is a web application, so you’ll start by going to a specific URL in your browser. Every university that uses Canvas has a unique URL for it. At PSU, it’s

Logging in to Canvas starts with the familiar “Single Sign On” page if you’re not currently logged in to the PSU system. Enter your Odin credentials just as you would for your PSU Gmail.

If you’re already signed into a PSU domain you may not get the “Single Sign On” page, and instead be automatically logged in.

Navigating and Understanding Your Dashboard

The Canvas Dashboard is your “home base.” You can do many things from the Dashboard, but its most important functions are:

  • Viewing and editing the details of your account (such as notification settings, personal pronouns, and user avatar)
  • Accessing your current courses
  • Viewing the global calendar
  • Submitting a support request to Canvas and/or access Canvas documentation

If you ever get lost, you can always come back to your Dashboard by selecting the Dashboard icon in the global navigation bar.

User Settings

Before getting started in Canvas, update your personal settings. You’ll need to do it only once (unless your preferences change), but it’s an important step to make sure you stay connected with your classes.

Here are the main settings to review. The links lead to detailed guides:

Designing Your Course

After exploring your dashboard, user preferences, and profile, think about course design options. Canvas is a collection of tools for creating materials and activities, but you can use them for teaching in many ways. More than one tool might help you reach a particular learning goal. Learning Canvas is primarily about discovering what each tool can do and then experimenting.

Navigation Options

By default, your Canvas courses will show links to the most commonly used tools in the main navigation bar. However, you can customize course navigation and remove the tools you’re not using. This will help students find activities and materials more easily.

Using Modules

Students may find it confusing to search through multiple links for the materials and activities they need. We’ve heard from students that it’s frustrating when instructors don’t organize course materials and activity links in modules.

Using modules to organize all your instructions, content, activities, and assignments gives students one central location to look for everything. The Modules list is your course’s “table of contents,” so place it at the beginning of your navigation list. What’s more:

  • Using weekly modules is a practice most students find helpful.
  • By using modules as your “table of contents,” you can hide Assignments, Quizzes, and Discussions from the navigation bar in the student view.