Canvas Course Checklist

From basic settings to content organization, this course design checklist outlines the top tasks to make sure your Canvas course is ready for students. Completing all will elevate the quality of your Canvas course and ensure your students can navigate your course materials with ease.

For an editable version of this checklist, make your own copy (File > Make a copy) of this Google Doc.

Personal Settings

Update your profile, including name, pronouns (if comfortable), photo, and preferred contact methods. Students in all your courses can read your profile. (You only need to do this once!)

Review the default notification settings and adjust them to your own notification preferences if needed.

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Course Settings

Choose a Home Page. OAI recommends using the “Pages Front Page” option, which allows you to build a Home Page that best fits the needs of your course.

Customize your Course Navigation Menu so necessary tool links are available to students and unused tools are hidden.

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Content

Add a syllabus that outlines your course expectations and is accessible and culturally inclusive.

Give meaningful titles to modules and items within modules. OAI recommends modules be organized by week or unit and contain all Canvas pages, files, assignments, quizzes, and other resources needed each week.

Check that all your Canvas pages are accessible using the built-in accessibility checker.

If you created video content, make sure your videos are captioned.

Be sure your content is published in Canvas and all links are valid.

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Activities

Verify any discussions are set up correctly with dates, clear instructions, examples, and other settings as needed.

Verify any assignments are set up correctly with dates, clear instructions, examples, and other settings as needed.

Verify any quizzes are set up correctly with dates, clear instructions, examples, and other settings as needed.

Verify the Gradebook is arranged according to your grading policy and aligned with your syllabus.

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Before Launching the Course

Review your course content from Student View to experience your course from a student perspective.

Note: Don’t forget to log into your course through the mobile app, to check the mobile experience. If possible, have someone else review your course to make sure your organization and content are clear and easy to follow.

Check the Calendar tool to verify assignment due dates and other events scheduled for your course.

Don’t forget to publish the course! Once the course is published, it’s a good idea to send a welcome email to your class to let them know the course is available and how to get started.

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Instructional Design Services

OAI offers course design consultations and course building support. If you need help working through this checklist or just need ideas to enhance your course, you can schedule a consultation with one of OAI’s instructional designers to help you get started. To schedule an appointment, submit a meeting request.


Introduction to Universal Design for Learning

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a flexible pedagogical framework to minimize barriers and increase accessibility for the fullest range of students possible. A ramp allows the full range of people to access a building while a stairway allows only some. In the same way, UDL asks us to trade “one size fits all” thinking to imagine curriculum designs that open the doors to any student. UDL focuses on increasing flexibility, choice, and relevance within three main components of curriculum design and implementation:

  • Engagement: how students interact with and are motivated by the instructor, content, and their peers
  • Representation: how information or learning experiences are taught and presented
  • Expression: how students demonstrate their knowledge

While standard accessibility practices such as structuring text for screen readers and captioning videos are part of UDL (specifically increasing the range of how content is represented), these practices do not encompass all of UDL. Applying a holistic UDL lens to your classroom means deepened comprehension, accurate assessment of student knowledge, and a truly inclusive learning environment that welcomes physical, cognitive, and cultural diversity.

A Lens, Not a Checklist

So how can we apply UDL to course design? Here are a few ideas to get you started, but the possibilities are truly infinite. UDL is a lens or mindset that prioritizes increased flexibility, choice, and relevance; it should be continually adapted for your particular course(s) and students.

Engagement


What it is:

How students interact with and are motivated by the instructor, peers, and content


Strategy to try:

Use a variety of response options during synchronous and asynchronous sessions.


Examples:

  • Verbal responses during discussion
  • Written responses in chat
  • Artistic responses (doodles, flowcharts, metaphors, etc.)
  • Small group breakout rooms
  • Paired sharing
  • Whole group call and response
  • Self-rating levels of understanding in a poll
  • Written responses in online discussion forum
  • Video responses in online discussion forum (e.g. FlipGrid)


Representation


What it is:

How information or learning experiences are taught and presented


Strategy to try:

Allow students to choose when and how they receive content.


Examples:

  • Optional small-group Zoom sessions
  • Readings from various source types (research articles, primary sources, fictional or artistic interpretations, etc.)
  • Videos (documentaries, news broadcasts, etc.)
  • Audio (podcasts, radio, etc.)
  • Choose Your Own (students find their own related resource and share with the class)


Expression


What it is:

How students demonstrate their knowledge


Strategy to try:

Use key learning objectives as a guide to offer options for how students can show their learning.


Examples:

Learning Objectives:
  • Construct a thesis statement.
  • Support with at least three pieces of evidence.
  • Analyze connections between evidence.

Assessment Menu:
  • Write a traditional research paper.
  • Present with slides.
  • Build a website.
  • Interview experts in a podcast.



DIY Media Tips

OAI offers support around integrated and dynamic media for the classroom. Well-conceived and carefully integrated multimedia can help students understand complex topics, enhance student engagement, and support visual learning. Creating and implementing media doesn’t need to be overly complex. Here are some quick tips to help you make multimedia that shines.

Create Maps and Charts to Visualize Data

Promote critical thinking by asking students to create visuals for their research — such as maps, charts, or timelines. Creating data visualizations requires different skills than writing reports or research papers.

Add Digital Q and A to a Lecture

Want to encourage more engagement and interaction from students during your course lectures? If you use Google Slides as a presentation format, you can use the Audience Tools feature. Students can ask questions live, with an option to do so anonymously, and vote for questions from other students. You can monitor questions and pull the top-voted ones into your live lecture as a slide.

Make Videos with Your Own Device

PSU faculty are making their own videos to record lectures, introductions, updates, feedback on assignments, and additional information on an assignment within course content.

Everyone at PSU has access to a built-in recording tool in Media Space: Kaltura Capture. Use it to record yourself with a webcam, record what’s on your screen, a combination of both, or audio only. After you finish recording, you can make simple edits to your video such as trimming the beginning and end, or chopping out an unwanted section. If you forget to edit before uploading to Media Space, fear not: You can also do simple edits in Media Space after uploading. For videos you’ll reuse in multiple courses, remember to request captioning through OAI.

As you plan your video, consider these tips to ensure high quality:

  • Set your camera. Make sure your webcam is eye-level. You may need to raise your laptop on top of a few books, but this angle will be more flattering! Also, place your camera an arms length away from your face. It shouldn’t be too close or too far away!
  • Scout your location. Assess your location to ensure it isn’t distracting. The visual background shouldn’t be busy and background noise should be minimal. Your background sets the stage for your video’s brand or theme; think about what you want it to say about you. It should be clean and professional. Faculty often choose to film in an office setting, but showing a more personal setting such as a tidy living room, or a working environment such as a laboratory, can also work.
  • Create flattering lighting. Set yourself up so you are lit from the front or side. The worst thing you can do is have your back to a window, with your camera facing the window. The best thing you can do is have a lamp beside your computer, at eye level. A lamp is better than overhead lights because overhead lighting can create unflattering and distracting shadows. Don’t be afraid to move lamps around your space to achieve optimal lighting.
  • Mic up. Use an external microphone. It will almost always be better than your device’s built-in microphone and will pick up less ambient noise. A headset works well, but you can also use the mic on your earbuds.
  • Dress the part. Small patterns such as thin stripes or polka dots can strobe or appear to move on camera. Avoid large jewelry that may sparkle in the light, or jewelry that rattles or clanks such as multiple bracelets or long necklaces. You can test your wardrobe through a short test video to see how it works on camera.

Note: Don’t make a video just to make a video! It should add value to your course. If your students can find the same information in other course content, there’s no point making them watch it in a video.

Make Interactive Videos

Interactive video can help students identify misconceptions or practice applying concepts. You can easily build an interactive question-and-answer function into any video uploaded to Media Space. The Video Quiz tool allows you to add embedded multiple choice and true/false questions.

Video quizzes generally don’t integrate with grading systems, so they are best used for guided self-study. Adding a quiz is one way to segment video to help students retain the information, by giving them a chance to participate.

Note: Assessment reporting for Media Space video quizzes is disabled by ad-blocking browser extensions. This results in anonymous quiz responses. If you plan to assess your video quiz, give students instructions to open it in an “incognito” or private window. This will not activate the ad-blocker and will allow you to see results by student.

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