As most faculty realize, there is more to creating effective online courses than simply transferring classroom content, assignments, and exams to a Web based setting. Engaging students in online learning requires mastery of both content and online teaching strategies. Research on learning engagement consistently recognizes engagement as essential for student satisfaction and course completion and is considered to be an important predictor of student achievement.

As the fall semester quickly approaches, here are a few ideas to consider as you begin to design your courses using the Canvas LMS:  


1. Announcements

Rosters are uploaded into Canvas course approximately two weeks prior to the start of the course. Faculty may send “Announcements” to students with important information relating to course requirements or materials. For example, students could be informed of required textbook information or to simply review the Syllabus prior to the first week of class. Announcements are used to let your students know that there is new information related to a course. When you create an announcement, Canvas will send a message to all of the students enrolled in that course.

  1. To create an announcement in the current course, click Announcements in the Course Navigation.
  2. Click the Add Announcement button.
  3. Enter a title for the announcement in the Topic Title box.
  4. Enter announcement text in the text box.
  5. Click the Save button.


2. Homepage

The usual rule of thumb of creating the Homepage for your course is to keep it informative and welcoming. We recommend you include the following information on your Homepage:

  • A welcome message.
  • Instructor info: contact, short bio/cv, office hours
  • Instruct students on how to begin
  • Include links to modules


3. Establish Clear Navigation

Students are more likely to be successful when they understand how a course flows and how to navigate in a course. In best practices, a course should open a home page that provides students with a course introduction and instructions on how they will maneuver consistently within the course. Students will be able to navigate your course and follow a logical progression through modules. Remove student access to the course tools that are not being used. Go to Settings, then Navigation, and make those tools unavailable.


4. Create Modules

It is recommended that faculty use Modules to organize content. Quizzes, assignments, pages, links, and much more can all be organized in Modules. It is also recommended that teachers make a module for each unit (or week) they teach. Modules allow you to list content in a particular order. Putting your course in a modular structure helps students to see how the course material connects and builds from week to week, and helps students locate content with ease.


5. Content Variety

Use Pages in your modules. You can include a variety of content within a Page: text, external links, images, videos, etc., while providing context to content. Balance the length of your pages. Short pages will cause extra clicks in your course while a page that is too long is difficult to digest.


6. Naming Conventions

Following a standard naming convention will help you locate and revise your content easily. Name your page starting with the Module number. This will ensure that all the pages that belong to the same module stay together under the Pages view. For example, Module 1: Overview; Module 1: Lecture_1.1; Module 1: Video_1.1.


7. Syllabus

The Syllabus page is the best place to communicate the important requirements in your course to your students. Keep in mind that many students check their courses on mobile devices, so you should ensure this page will be easy to access from either a computer or a mobile device.


8. Discussions

Discussions can serve as a forum for topical and current events in your course, as well as, a space for students to discuss upcoming projects, solve problems and converse. Canvas provides an integrated system for focused and threaded discussions, which allows both instructors and students to start and contribute to as many discussion topics as desired. Canvas also allows students to post their own video or audio-only recordings to the discussion.


9. Quizzes

When using the Canvas Quizzes tool, there are several variables you can choose from that allow you to create the type of assessment you want (e.g. timed assessment, single or multiple attempted assessments, etc.). When creating a quiz, use the tools available to create the quiz experience that best meets your intentions for the quiz (number of attempts, showing correct answers, time limits, locking the quiz, etc…).


10. Monitor student activity in Canvas

Faculty have the ability to monitor student activity in Canvas through the ‘People’ tab or using the ‘View Course Analytics’ option on the home page. This practice may be helpful as an early warning system in identifying struggling or unmotivated students.

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