Teaching Strategies for Digital Class Meetings

Digital class meetings are sessions that some or all students attend via Zoom or another virtual meeting platform. Such meetings may be recorded for students to also use asynchronously. Digital class meetings are most often associated with these delivery methods:

  • Attend Anywhere: In-person instruction with remote alternatives for each session or activity
  • Online – Scheduled Meetings: Online courses with required meeting times
  • Hybrid: Fewer in-person class sessions with more online, remote, or self-directed activities

Learn more about PSU course delivery methods, including examples and guidelines, in the Faculty Guide to Course Delivery Methods.

Set Expectations

You and your students may have varied experience with digital class meetings. It can help to gauge student expectations and circumstances at the start of the term and to communicate your expectations clearly.

Try a Pre-Course Survey

A pre-course survey is a great way to get to know your students and understand where they are in their learning. When your course includes digital class meetings, it can help to include questions about students’ technology setups and their expectations for participating. For example, you might ask how students anticipate they’ll usually attend class (in-person or via Zoom). If they’ll attend via Zoom, it’s a good idea to ask about their Zoom and technology setup. Will they join:

  • From a smartphone, tablet, or laptop/desktop computer?
  • At work, on campus, or at home?
  • In a private space or from a shared space?
  • With a camera and reliable internet?

All these factors can influence access to digital class meetings.

You can use what you learn from the survey to set your expectations and plan your digital class meetings. For example, if many of your students will join from a smartphone, asking them to pull up Google Docs, Canvas, or specialized software may prove challenging.

Communicate Your Expectations

As you plan your course, take some time to reflect on your expectations for student participation in digital class meetings.

For all delivery methods:

  • How will you assess engagement in person? On Zoom? When students use recordings?
  • How will you handle questions in the chat?
  • How will you handle technological issues that emerge?
  • Are there bare minimum requirements for participating (e.g. a way to take notes, access to the textbook or handouts)?
  • Will you require attendance?
  • Will you require or expect students to keep their cameras on? If so, how will you handle accessibility, equity, and privacy issues?

For “Attend Anywhere”:

  • Do you expect students to attend in-person and use Zoom only for emergencies?
  • Will you record every session and make it available to all students? Only when requested? Only in some circumstances? PSU student feedback indicates that the availability of class recordings is one of the best features of Attend Anywhere classes.
  • Will you always attend in-person? What is your backup plan if you or a family member gets sick?
  • Will remote students interact with in-person students? For example, during small group activities or class presentations?

For “Online – Scheduled Meetings” and “Hybrid”:

  • If students miss scheduled synchronous activities (whether digital or in-person), how can they make up the work?
  • What will students need handy during scheduled meetings?
  • How do you expect the class to stay in touch and on track between meetings?

Once you have a sense of your expectations, how can you communicate them to your students or even collaborate with students to define participation norms collectively? At a minimum, consider sharing expectations in your syllabus and in early class communications.

Beyond Lecture: Active Learning in Digital Class Meetings

Student feedback indicates that when synchronous class time is heavily lecture-oriented, students are less likely to attend class in-person (Attend Anywhere) or even remotely (Online – Scheduled Meetings or Hybrid). As you plan teaching strategies, remember to factor in what you know about your particular group of students and any technological or logistical constraints.

Among the many teaching strategies to consider, this handful may be particularly well suited to the constraints and capacities of digital class meetings:

  • Include self-paced activities online before class to help build a cohesive and well-balanced blended-learning environment.
  • Use short, ungraded knowledge checks to assess learning during sessions.
  • Give students opportunities for peer-to-peer learning using think-pair-share, jigsaw, and other small group activities.
  • Allow students to choose how to give presentations: via Zoom, in-person, or recorded and shared.
  • Punctuate lectures or course discussions with polls, problem sets, example generation, and/or other applied practice. Use Google Docs and forms to give students space to contribute answers and ideas regardless of how they attend.

Check out Flexible Teaching Strategies for more.

Make and Follow a Plan for Each Class

Deliberately plan each class, accounting for the technological complexity of digital class meetings. Plan your first class session especially carefully; it sets the tone for the rest of the term. As you plan, find ways to intentionally bridge the gap between modalities and create a supportive learning environment.

Here are some example plans with teaching strategies to engage students across modalities — and with planning down to the minute.

Along with creating a detailed lesson plan for yourself, consider sharing a brief agenda with students at the start of each class meeting. This can help you set the tone for the day and communicate any particular needs or high priority items.

Here are some example class agendas.

Include All Students in Your Class Plans

Across modalities, it may be easier to connect with some students than others. In Attend Anywhere courses, for example, your instinct might be to pay more attention to the students in the room than those who join via Zoom or use the recording later. However, it’s crucial to engage with all students regardless of how they attend. Here are a few suggested practices to help connect across modalities:

  • Welcome everyone to each class, specifically speaking to in-person students, remote students, and students using the recordings.
  • Learn your students’ names, how to pronounce them, and which pronouns they use. Greet and refer to students by their names. (Get tips on learning students names, even in large classes.)
  • Find ways to show the contributions of remote and asynchronous students live and in class. For example, share the collaborative documents remote students are working on, or screen share the discussion posts asynchronous students have contributed.
  • Use Canvas as a “home base” for the course. This centralizes communications and provides a consistent space for students to interact across modalities when possible.
  • Take proactive steps to foster community and connection in your course.
  • Maintain your digital presence through timely feedback, virtual office hours, regular announcements, and other means.


Ideally, complete a practice run before your course starts in the classroom or space you’ll teach in.

  • Try out your classroom equipment, run through your day-one plan, make a practice recording, and test anything you’re worried about.
  • Ask a colleague or TA to join as a practice remote student.
  • Practice including all groups of students (in-person live, virtual live, and/or asynchronous).
  • Practice pulling up the various content you want to display and sharing it in the room and on Zoom.
  • Practice switching between items you’re sharing.
  • Practice basic touch-screen functions such as managing participants, turning the waiting room on and off, and starting/stopping the camera and microphone.
  • Use your practice recording to note any potential problems.

"Attend Anywhere" and Zoom Capabilities

Zoom capabilities in general pool classrooms might be different from what you’ve experienced elsewhere. Consider these key distinctions.

Instructor Controls and Sharing

These assume the instructor joined the meeting via the classroom’s Logitech touch panel.

You Can...

  • Start and stop recording.
  • Share screen from classroom computer display, doc cam or HDMI connection.
  • Mute/unmute Zoom participants.
  • Share computer audio to Zoom participants through screen sharing options.
  • Engage in limited chat with Zoom participants.

You Cannot...

  • Show chat screen and gallery view simultaneously.
  • Pause recording.
  • Launch Zoom polls.
  • Launch or manage breakout rooms.
  • Display remote participants in classroom.

In-Person Student View and Sound

These assume in-person students are not individually signed into the class Zoom session and are relying on the default setup for classroom technology.

Available to Students

  • Remote participants are audible. (Volume is controlled by classroom speaker settings.)
  • The instructor’s shared materials are visible — by either computer display or doc cam. This may mirror what the instructor is screen-sharing to remote students via Zoom.

Not Available to Students

  • Remote participants’ video and thumbnails are not visible.
  • What students say in the classroom likely isn’t audible  over Zoom. (The default microphone is at the front of the room; audio pickup varies when the speaker is not close to the microphone.
  • Zoom chat is not visible.

Remote Student View and Sound

These assume remote students are individually signed into the class Zoom session and the instructor is using the default setup for classroom technology.

Available to Students

  • The instructor is visible when at the front of the room, and audible when behind the default microphone.
  • A shared screen is visible, either from a computer feed or a doc cam, controlled by the classroom Logitech touch panel.
  • Zoom chat is available.

Not Available to Students

  • In-person students are not visible.
  • The in-class whiteboard is not reliably visible or legible.
  • In-class questions or conversations are not reliably audible.

To learn more about the technology for teaching an Attend Anywhere course, contact OIT’s Audio Visual Services and/or review OIT’s full technical documentation for Zoom rooms.

Getting More from Zoom in the Classroom

Before using these suggestions in class, try them privately to evaluate what you’re comfortable managing, along with which ones you feel will benefit you and your students the most.

Move the podium or the monitor/webcam to capture different camera views, if possible. This may be helpful for student presentations, or other times when you want to share a view of the full classroom with remote students.

Ask an in-class student to join the Zoom meeting and keep an eye on the chat. Make sure that student does not join audio. When questions or comments come up in chat, the in-person student should raise their hand and voice the chat contribution, crediting the contributor. Rotate this role each class session and let remote students know the plan. Let remote students know that direct messages to you may go unnoticed.

Join as the meeting host or co-host from your laptop or the podium computer. Don’t join audio (recommended), or keep your microphone and speakers muted to avoid audio feedback. As a host or co-host of the meeting from your laptop, you can:

  • Add live transcription to your meeting.
  • Pause and restart the video recording.
  • Initiate and manage breakout rooms.
  • Expand the chat window on your laptop view so you can more easily monitor and respond to chats.
  • Check audio or other Zoom functionality as a regular meeting participant.
  • Launch polls.

Join from your smartphone. Mute the phone microphone and speaker when using the podium mic, and vice versa, to avoid feedback. Adding the additional microphone connection allows you to:

  • Move around the classroom without dropping audio.
  • Use the second microphone to pick up student questions that can’t be heard clearly through the default microphone.

Key Things to Know about Your New Canvas Course

Canvas and D2L have many similarities and overlapping functions — but also some important differences. Here are some key differences you’re likely to come across as you review course(s) copied from D2L to Canvas and prepare to teach. If you have any questions about your course or these differences, please contact the OAI Faculty Support desk.

Grading and Assignments

All graded activities (including discussions, assignments, and quizzes) are automatically added to the Canvas gradebook. Unlike in D2L, you cannot have a Canvas grade item without an associated Canvas assignment.

  • “No submission” assignments are used to create gradebook items without associated Canvas submissions.
  • The Canvas Assignments tool lists all graded activities in the course. For example, if you had weekly graded quizzes in D2L, those quizzes are included in the Canvas Assignments tool. The Canvas Assignments tool is similar to the D2L Manage Grades list of grade items.
  • Deleting items from the Canvas Assignment tool will remove the item from your course.

The Home Page

Your Canvas home page is customizable. The template includes recent Announcements, but you can change that.


Discussions appear in order of most recent activity in the Canvas Discussions tool. For migrated courses, this is usually reverse chronological order.

You can “pin” discussions to put them in numeric or chronological order. Look in the lower section of the Discussion tool where your topics are in reverse order. Just to the left of each discussion topic, you’ll notice six dots in the form of a small rectangle. Click or tap, then hold this rectangle of dots to drag-and-drop a topic into the “pinned” discussion area. Repeat as needed to arrange topics in the order you choose.

Student Groups

Student Groups are much more expansive in Canvas than in D2L. Using groups will take some help and practice. A good starting place is to watch this short video guide for students.


Canvas Modules are containers for content and the main recommended way to organize your course. Modules can contain pages, uploaded files, and links to course tools or external websites.

  • Organize pages within modules. Students will access discrete Canvas pages through the course modules.
  • To display all Canvas pages in your course, click Pages in the course navigation, then View all Pages at the top of the page.


Canvas currently has two quiz tools: Classic Quizzes and New Quizzes. New Quizzes is expected to replace Classic Quizzes eventually. However, use Classic quizzes if you use Proctorio or if you use Question groups to sub-organize question banks.

Organizing Content in Canvas

Canvas has several tools for adding content to your course:

Here’s how to organize that content in ways students will find consistent and predictable.

Introducing Modules

Modules can organize course content by weeks, topics, or other parameters. They create a one-directional, linear flow of what students should do in a course.

Each module can contain files, discussions, assignments, quizzes, and other learning materials such as Pages. You create content using those Canvas tools, then organize it in modules.

OAI recommends using modules to develop course organization and simplify navigation. They can reduce the need to tell students to “go there and do this” and then “go somewhere else and do that.” This can be frustrating — as you may have experienced yourself in poorly designed online training.

A specific benefit of using modules: You can hide the Assignments, Quizzes, Discussions, Pages, and Files links from the Course Navigation menu in the student view. This gives students one central location to find everything. That means fewer “where is” questions for you and less frustration for your students.

Structuring a Module

Once you have all your content in a module, you can order items to help students move through it in a logical way. You can manually drag and drop each item or use the Move To option, which is also accessible from the keyboard.

Also consider using text headers and indenting to create visible sections in your modules.

Creating a Checklist

You can make your module function as a checklist by adding requirements that help both you and your students track their progress.

Using Pages within Modules

Pages are used to present content that doesn’t exist in a separate file or other Canvas assignment. Since pages can also include links to other Canvas items, you can use them to organize content into weekly outlines. This helps you share course materials with more context and different organizational structures than are possible in modules alone.

Building Consistency

Consistency is key: Once you choose an organization strategy, the best thing you can do for students is to implement it as consistently as possible.

Example Modules

Condensed Module: Each module begins with an overview Content Page that lists books or chapters as well as links to other items for students to read, watch, and explore.

A module that begins with an Overview page, which would contain links to readings, videos, activities, and other items or resources.

Detailed Module: Each item in the module has its own link. This includes readings as well as activities and assignments.

A module in which each item or resource — including readings, videos, and activities — has its own link.

Content Samples

Use this example from the Commons to get started organizing your own modules. (For help using Commons, review Meet Canvas Commons.)

Note: Samples will import into their respective tool. If you import the Weekly Overview Page, it will show up in the “Pages” section of the selected course.

Adapted from “Using Canvas Modules” in Start Here 102: Best Practices in Online instruction, licensed CC BY 4.0 by Grace Seo, University of Missouri.

Meet Canvas Commons

Commons is a learning object repository (LOR) that enables educators to find, import, and share learning resources in their Canvas courses. Commons gives you a way to collaborate with colleagues, share course design elements, explore new instructional ideas, and even iterate your own course design.


What's in Commons

You can find and share these course elements in Canvas Commons:

  • Modules
  • Assignments
  • Quizzes
  • Discussions
  • Pages
  • Documents
  • Multimedia resources

… and even full courses!

Everything shared with the PSU community appears on the main PSU Commons page — but you can also open your search to all public resources across institutions and Canvas sites. You can search for keywords such as author, institution, or title. You can sort by latest, most relevant, or highest-rated resources. To customize your search, use the filter to show only specific types of activities, content types, or grade levels. Each resource type in search results has a unique color and icon augmenting its text label.

In this screenshot of search results, colors and icons augment text labels to help distinguish resource types.

Examples of Commons Resources and Use Cases

Here are just a few examples of things you might find (or share) to improve your course:

Importing Commons Resources into Your Course

Once you find a Commons resource you like, you can import it into your course.

Most of what you find will be openly licensed, because most people upload to the Commons to share their work with others. However, it’s always a good idea to note the licensing information on the Resource Preview page.

In this screenshot of a resource’s Preview page, licensing information appears near its other statistics — date published, number of downloads, and number of times favorited.

If a resource is copyrighted, ask permission before using it in your own course. This can include images, text, or other content created not only by another person but also by you — if you have transferred copyright to a publisher.

Consider first importing resources into a sandbox course. Then you can review the content in detail, edit, and then move it into the course you will use with students.

Sharing Course Resources in Commons

You can share assignments, modules, quizzes, pages, discussions and entire courses to Commons.

When sharing a resource to Commons, you’ll need to:

  • Add details about the resource.
  • Choose a sharing option.
  • Select a content license.

The license you choose identifies how and to what extent others can reuse your original course content. A Creative Commons license allows you to share your content on your own terms. The benefit is that other instructors can use, build on, and improve your content. This creative collaboration can add value to your curriculum.

Note: The license you select for your resource in Commons is not tied to the license you set within Canvas course settings. Your course can be private in Canvas course settings, but public domain in Commons.

You’ll also need to choose how widely to share the resource:

  • Publicly — to share your expertise and course materials with anyone who searches Commons.
  • Within the PSU community — to create consistent design and student experience across courses or your department.
  • Privately — so you can have your own collection of learning objects to use and re-use anytime you design a course.

You may also belong to a group or consortium that shares resources with select people. For more information about sharing to custom Commons groups, contact OAI Support.

Managing Your Canvas Site

Canvas has many features and tools for teaching a course. But you also need these “under the hood” functions for managing your course site.

Personal Settings

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

The following list outlines the main settings you should consider reviewing and are linked to detailed guides:

Course Import Tool

Copy a course when you want to use or repurpose previously created content — including course settings, syllabus, assignments, modules, files, pages, discussions, quizzes, and question banks. You can also copy or adjust events and due dates. Not all content can be copied as part of a course. (Learn about “Import Limitations.”) Canvas lets you copy all content from one course site to another or select specific content.

Course shells for each new term will be available in the preceding term. For example, winter course shells will be available midway through the preceding fall term. If you need a place to work on your course sooner or just want a sandbox where you can test new ideas, create a new Canvas course shell from your Canvas Dashboard

Student View

It’s always a good idea to check your course from the student’s perspective. This helps you identify what elements a student can access and how the course navigation menu displays for them.

To enter Student View, select “Settings” in the course navigation menu. Next, select “Student View” from among the settings area’s options.

Screen detail of Settings in Canvas, with added arrow pointing to the link that launches Student View.

Student View has a highlighted frame or border.

You can navigate the course as a student, with some slight exceptions:

  • Groups: As an instructor in Student View, all group information will be available to you, while students will only have access to their own group. 
  • Inbox: The Test Student doesn’t have a Canvas Inbox, so you won’t be able to test communications.
  • Other tools: Some other tools (e.g., Panopto, VoiceThread, etc.) may not function as expected.

To exit Student View, select the “Leave Student View” button.

Screen detail from Student View in Canvas, with added arrow pointing to the "Leave Student View" button.

Canvas Link Validator

You can check all external links throughout your course with the course link validator. It finds invalid or unresponsive external links in both published and unpublished content. However, some links it flags as unresponsive (to Canvas servers) will still work for students.

Additional Course Settings

These settings are available only to the course instructor:

Adapted from “Managing Your Canvas Site” in Start Here 102: Best Practices in Online instruction, licensed CC BY 4.0 by Grace Seo, University of Missouri.

Learn More Elsewhere

Getting Started with Canvas Basics

Course Access

To access your PSU Canvas account, go to canvas.pdx.edu. You will be prompted to authenticate with your PSU Odin name and password. This will take you to the main Canvas Dashboard where all courses to which you have access are listed.

Home Page

When students log in to your Canvas course for the first time, they need something friendly and welcoming that orients them and directly communicates what to do. Make sure your Course Home Page is ready.


Canvas has several ways to communicate with your students. Learn how you can stay connected.


Canvas has a number of tools to help you share course materials with your students. Using Modules to organize this content can simplify navigation for both you and your students.


Discussions are threaded conversations on a single topic. They are asynchronous, which means participants do not have to be online at the same time. You can use this flexible tool for communication and assessment.


Canvas Assignments is an assessment tool. Anything a student submits for grading and feedback is an “assignment.” Learn about the ways you can use the Assignments page.

Student Interactions

In  online learning, you’ll often need to structure peer collaborations into the course and encourage them  through course structure, proactive communication, and feedback.


As with assessments in a face-to-face classroom, Quizzes in Canvas help you gauge student understanding of course content.


The Gradebook stores all information about student progress in the course, measuring both letter grades and course outcomes.

Course Management

Canvas has lots of features and tools for teaching a course. But you also need these “under the hood” functions for managing your course site.

Student Interactions in Canvas

Student interaction plays an important role in learning and overall sense of community. Whether you’re teaching fully online, blended, or in-person, you might consider developing space to support such interaction in your digital classroom. Canvas has tools to help students digitally interact:


  • Create student groups to use with Canvas Discussions, Canvas Assignments, and Canvas Peer Reviews.
  • Create student groups randomly or manually, or allow individual signups.
  • Have student group members create and edit their own Canvas pages.
  • Have students create their own groups in your course (if enabled).

Peer Review

  • Facilitate students reviewing one another's work and giving substantive feedback.
  • Allow students to serve as an audience for one another's presentations, performances, etc.
  • Assign peer reviews randomly, manually, and both within or among group memberships.
  • Have students use associated rubrics to leave peer feedback.


  • Add a Google Doc as a collaborative document and share it with individuals or groups in your Canvas course.
  • Have students add their own Collaborations (if your course uses Collaborations). Student collaborations will automatically be visible to instructors. 
  • Use Collaborations to co-create certain course elements (e.g. syllabus, discussion guidelines, rubrics).


Students can:

  • Share learning resources with one another.
  • Teach topics or information to one another.
  • Help one another troubleshoot issues or answer content-related questions (e.g., course Q&A forum).

Integrating these instructional strategies and technology tools helps cultivate a safe learning community, foster peer interaction, and give timely and meaningful feedback by involving students in both doing things and thinking about the things they are doing.

Adapted from “Learner-Learner Interactions” in Start Here 102: Best Practices in Online instruction, licensed CC BY 4.0 by Grace Seo, University of Missouri.

Discussions in Canvas

Discussions are threaded conversations on a single topic. They are asynchronous, which means participants do not have to be online at the same time, making them an especially flexible communication tool. You can use Discussions for communication and for assessment.

This video provides a basic overview:


303 – Discussions Overview from Instructure Canvas Community on Vimeo.

Using Discussions in Your Teaching

  • Have students introduce themselves to the class at the beginning of a semester.
  • Create a Q&A thread for the class and ask students to post questions instead of contacting you by email. You can even encourage students to respond to each other in this thread rather than waiting for you to reply.
  • Create a “water cooler” thread for students to chat about topics unrelated to the class. While this is not teaching per se, it allows students to connect with each other and helps build social presence in the course.
  • Ask students to use the media tools in the Rich Content Editor to post their responses. For learners who are more comfortable speaking than writing, this provides a means for them to respond more fluently. In a language course, this allows you to assess students’ pronunciation, grammar, etc.
  • Have students work through a case or problem.
  • Embed a media prompt (a diagram, video, etc.) for students to respond to.
  • Students can create their own discussions within Canvas Groups.

Setting Discussion Guidelines and/or Expectations

In your syllabus or on an introductory page in the Modules area, be sure to define exactly what you expect from students when posting to discussions. This can include general netiquette information, use of full sentences, citing sources, and specific information on how you will assess discussions (include quantity and quality of posts).

Considerations for Using Canvas Discussions

The “threaded discussion” option will make conversations easier for everyone to follow. Remember to select it when creating a discussion. (It’s not selected by default.)

You can use the Rich Content Editor in Canvas to format the text of your discussion prompt, add links (to other parts of the Canvas site or to other webpages), and embed videos.

For a graded discussion, you can review student responses in SpeedGrader. When you select a student in SpeedGrader, you will find all of that student’s posts to the discussion — which is helpful if you require students to reply to their classmates in addition to posting their own responses to the prompt.

You can attach a rubric to a graded discussion or require peer review for discussion responses.

Using Discussions with Groups

In a large class, consider breaking students into smaller groups and then having each group respond to discussion prompts.

Discussions in Groups allow for collaboration on projects.

Writing Good Discussion Questions

Asking the right question(s) is vital to creating a good discussion in your course. Consider the following discussion prompt:

After reading textbook chapter 5, please describe challenges that social workers face due to the social climate, economic changes, and political environment.

Once a few students have responded to the question, it’s likely they will have covered all potential answers. The rest will have little to add without being repetitive. Additionally, fact-based questions like the one above don’t help students identify their own knowledge gaps, explore multiple perspectives, or negotiate content meaning.

Instead, ask open-ended questions or questions that have more than just one or a few correct answers. These can offer additional discussion opportunities. For example:

How do you perceive that plan as adequate to the problem? What makes you think so? Where might that plan derail? What other plans are possible?

Questions that invite students to share their own point of view from their personal and/or work life can generate multiple perspectives.

Important Takeaways

Make sure responses are not “right” or “wrong” and cannot be answered with “yes” or “no.” The best discussion prompts ask students to reflect and to demonstrate higher order thinking (analysis, synthesis, comparison, evaluation). Otherwise, discussions risk becoming “homework out loud.” Students perceive them as busy work, and you won’t enjoy reading and assessing the responses.

Discussions are meant to be interactions among learners. You may want to ask students not only to post comments to the discussion questions but also to respond to one or two other students. If so, give different due dates for initial posts to discussion and for peer-to-peer interactions. This will help you avoid a situation where learners post the discussions and interactions on the last day of the discussion, giving learners no time to interact with each other.

Adapted from “Discussions in Canvas” in Start Here 102: Best Practices in Online instruction, licensed CC BY 4.0 by Grace Seo, University of Missouri.

Using the Home Page in Canvas

When students log in to your course for the first time, they need something friendly and welcoming that orients them and explicitly communicates what to do.

You have several options for your course home page, but OAI recommends setting it to a page you create (also called a Front Page). Starting new students on a syllabus page or a modules list isn’t nearly as welcoming as a page with your contact information, a picture of you, a personal welcome, and/or instructions on what to do first.

By default, your Canvas course will display announcements at the top of the page. This is where you can post important reminders or other course information. You can set how many announcements show up on the home page —but limiting to just one can help make sure students notice the most important and current information.

Course Navigation

When students log in, they will notice the course navigation bar. Canvas lets you simplify navigation by hiding items not used in your course. This can reduce confusion for your students and keep them focused on the relevant course materials.

OAI recommends using Modules to organize all your instructions, content, activities, and assignments. This gives students one central location to look for everything. By doing this, you can hide the Assignments, Quizzes, Discussions, Pages, and Files pages from the navigation bar in the student view.

That means fewer “where is” questions for you and less frustration for your students!

Example Home Pages

An example home page for a Spanish class, with a large image of a cathedral and with emphasis on a link to Modules.
An example home page for a biology class, with a large image of deep woods and with emphasis on a link to the syllabus.
An example home page for a history/social studies class, with a photo of the instructor and an emphasis on how to contact the instructor.


Use these templates from the Commons resource library to create your own home page. (For help, review Meet Canvas Commons.)

Note: These homepage templates will import into a course’s “Pages” section. Select “View All Pages” to reach a newly imported page template.

Adapted from “Using the Home Page” in Start Here 102: Best Practices in Online Instruction, licensed CC BY 4.0 by Grace Seo, University of Missouri.

Learn More Elsewhere


Grading in Canvas

The Gradebook stores all information about student progress in the course, measuring both letter grades and course outcomes. This video provides a basic overview:


310 – Gradebook Overview from Instructure Canvas Community on Vimeo.

Assignments and Grades

The Canvas Gradebook is closely tied to the Assignments index. Anything you want a Gradebook column for must have an Assignment associated with it. By default, assignments appear in the order you create them. This also determines their order in the Gradebook, but you can drag and drop them into the order you want.

To create weighted grades or set specific rules for groups of assignments (such as dropping the lowest score), create Assignment Groups on the Assignments page, not within the Gradebook.

Using SpeedGrader

SpeedGrader is the Canvas tool for viewing student assessment submissions and giving feedback. Using SpeedGrader should help cut down on the time you spend grading, and make grading easier. A video overview of SpeedGrader (3:06) is also available.

You can use SpeedGrader to:

  • Read written submissions in the DocViewer and use the annotation tools to give feedback within the document.
  • Give feedback comments — written, multimedia, or as a file attachment — on the student’s work as a whole.
  • Give a score.
  • Use a rubric to assign points and add comments. If you use the rubric for grading, the rubric score will transfer to the student’s grade for the assignment.
  • View individual student responses to quizzes as well as logs of each student’s quiz attempts.

Accessing SpeedGrader

You can access SpeedGrader either directly from the assignment or through the Gradebook.

Adapted from “Grading in Canvas” in Start Here 102: Best Practices in Online instruction, licensed CC BY 4.0 by Grace Seo, University of Missouri.