Keep Using Canvas!

Keep Using Canvas!

By Lexi Schlosser, Faculty Developer of Online Learning  

Utilizing Canvas as a tool for teaching enhances your teaching practices and the student’s learning experiences, saving more time and effort and allowing greater focus on other priorities (Bradley, 2021). Canvas can be used to share instructional materials, monitor grades, manage assignment submissions, facilitate communication between students and faculty, and so much more!  

Using Canvas, paired with best practices, aligns exceptionally well with the vision for DU’s 5 strategic imperatives. 

  • Integrating Canvas with your teaching helps sustain your teaching practices and store content long-term. 
  • Canvas allows students to thrive academically, bringing purpose to the 4D student experience. 
  • Canvas can be used as a tool to build community in your courses and offer equitable access to course content and information. 
  • A well-designed Canvas course may help to ensure academic excellence for all students. 

In the Fall of 2021, the Provost shared DU’s Covid-19 Classroom Protocol, highlighting important expectations and considerations for teaching and learning at DU. All courses should have a Canvas presence, no matter the teaching modality. A few key components mentioned in the protocol included navigating student absences, minimum requirements for Canvas courses, and physical classroom expectations. While we have shared several resources related to navigating student absences, this blog will outline the steps you can take to ensure your Canvas course has all the necessary content before the next term begins.  

Course Organization

The design of your Canvas course matters (Aspillaga, 2016). When students see consistency among their courses, it’s easier to locate course materials (Bensley, et al 2006., Plott, 2010). Ensuring that Canvas is easy to use, saves time for your students and eases cognitive load (Moreno, 2006).  

Consider importing one of the free OTL Canvas Templates to help streamline the design and organization of your course(s). Read more in our blog Introducing the Basic and Advanced Canvas Template to determine which one would work better in your course.  


Your course syllabus should be posted and easily accessible in your Canvas course. We recommend using CIDI Labs Design Tools template blocks to enhance the organization, navigability, and accessibility of your syllabus page. If you are not prepared to use Design Tools or are working on a time-crunch, you are welcome to upload an accessible file of your course syllabus to the Syllabus page in Canvas. Check out the OTL Sample Syllabus Statements webpage as you are creating your syllabus. 


All courses should have a place for students to submit assignments in Canvas. Canvas Assignments are simple to set up and automatically populate into the Gradebook. If you use weighted grading, create assignment groups and input the assignment groups weight. If your course offers in-class activities for face-to-face classes or requires students to turn in physical projects or exams, assignments can be set up with “no submission” settings in place. 

Learning materials

If your course utilizes digital learning materials, such as online readings, lecture recordings, or other instructional materials, they should be uploaded to Canvas. Use “My Media” to house videos in Kaltura, files for document and image uploads, and Modules to organize instructional materials by week. Uploading materials provides students with access to essential content in case of illness or absence. It is also beneficial for students to have access to learning materials before and after each class. 


All course content should be accessible in Canvas, whether it be your syllabus, lecture videos, or PDFs. The good news is that checking for accessibility is easier than ever! DU has recently adopted a new course-wide accessibility checker, known as UDOIT Cloud (pronounced YOU-DO-IT). As you build pages and add content to your course, run a UDOIT scan to check for accessibility issues that could impact students’ ability to learn. The scan will provide you with a list of resources and suggestions for addressing the issues. Don’t be alarmed if your scan shows more errors than you are expecting. You can get started by going through the most common errors and working your way to the more challenging suggestions. It is important to note that UDOIT does not currently check PDFs for accessibility issues. PDFs that are old, messy, or poorly scanned can affect readability and cause common accessibility issues for students who use screen readers. Understanding PDF Accessibility, provides more information and answers the question “Are your PDFs accessible?” If you have additional questions or concerns about your PDF files or general Canvas accessibility, the OTL is here to support you.  


Once you get your course set up, you’ll want to make sure you publish your course so students can access it. If students reach out about issues accessing your course, ensure your course, and the content within it, are published. 

Resources to help you prepare for next term


Aspillaga, M. (2016). Standardized Templates Help Improve Accessibility and Usability Enhancing Transfer of Learning, Norfolk State University, online  

Bensley, R., Brusk, J.J.,Rivas, J.& Anderson, J. V. (2006), Impact of Menu Sequencing on Internet-Based Educational Module Selection, International Electronic Journal of Health Education, 1-8 

Bradley, V. M. (2021). Learning Management System (LMS) use with online instruction. International Journal of Technology in Education (IJTE), 4(1), 68-92. 

Moreno, R. (2006). When worked examples don’t work: Is cognitive load theory at an Impasse? Learning and Instruction 16, 170-181 

Plott, A. (2010). Web 2.0 In Blackboard Learn: Mind the Template, SIGUCCS ’10 Proceedings of the 38th annual ACM SIGUCCS fall conference: navigation and discovery archive Pages 285-286 ACM New York, NY, USA ©2010, online