Institute for Teaching and Learning Excellence

Oklahoma State University
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Canvas is the new Learning Management System being adopted by Oklahoma State University in Fall 2019. It is a flexible, easy-to-use platform with a clean interface, rich multimedia capabilities, and dedicated mobile apps for both students and instructors.

ITLE fully supports instructors and TAs interested in learning more about Canvas usage and best practices through a combinations of trainings, instructional videos, and one-on-one consultations.

  • Use the menus to register for a face-to-face or virtual training session.
  • View the video below to learn how to get started with setting up your class in Canvas
  • Access dozens of short videos below demonstrating various aspects of Canvas
  • Use this form to participate in ITLE's Canvas Pilot Program beginning Spring 2019.
  • Contact ITLE with questions and we will be glad to help you: or (405) 744-1000.

Canvas Training

Tutorial Videos

Getting Started with Canvas - Simon Ringsmuth

Dashboard Overview - Simon Ringsmuth


Exporting course content from Brightspace

Brightspace can export course content in the form of a ZIP file that can be imported into Canvas.

Importing course content from Brightspace

Canvas can import ZIP file exports from Brightspace as a way of transferring content from one class to another.

Setting a custom dashboard header image

Canvas lets instructors customize the dashboard images of courses by using header images. These can be a useful way of distinguishing courses from each other and providing visual cues as to the type of content contained within a course.

Customizing the Dashboard

Instructors can customize the Canvas dashboard to suit their individual needs and preferences. Customization options include expanding and collapsing the sidebar, assigning course nicknames, changing course header color, and showing/hiding the color overlay on top of course header images.

Using the calendar tool

The Calendar tool in Canvas can be used to display relevant dates from all courses, and individual course calendars can be enabled and disabled on the fly. Adjusting due dates by drag-and-dropping items on the calendar will also change the due dates for the individual items within the course. The Calendar also shows course items based on the course color codes specified in the Dashboard.

Working with news announcements

Instructors can use Announcements to update students with up-to-the-minute information and other relevant news. Announcements can be scheduled in advance, and instructors can allow students to respond to individual announcements similar to discussion board topics. Instructors can force announcements to be shown on the course Home Page as well, to make sure students always see relevant updates when they access a course.

Customizing a course navigation menu

Every course in Canvas contains a navigation menu that contains items such as grades, discussions, assignments, etc. This menu can be customized on a per-course basis and instructors can choose to hide specific navigation buttons from students.

Setting a course home page

Canvas allows instructors to specify a home page that will be loaded when students access a course. Options for home pages include a custom HTML page, a list of Modules, and a list of assignments, or the syllabus. Most instructors use Modules as the home page for their courses. Regardless of whatever is set for the Home Page, instructors can elect to show recent announcements at the top as well.

Using student view

The Student View option in Canvas allows instructors to see their course from the perspective of a student. This can help ensure that settings such as date and prerequisite restrictions are configured properly.

Using student view to diagnose problems

Student view can be used as a way for instructors to peek at their courses through the eyes of a student, which can help pin down problems that students are reporting. This video uses the example of two discussion board threads that are missing for students, with the instructor using student view to get to the bottom of the issue.

Customizing the user experience

Canvas allows users to customize their experience by changing their display name, using a nickname, setting time zone, and other options. Instructors can also elect to enable advanced features such as high-contrast UI and enable the use of some tools still in development.

Using a custom profile photo

Instructors and students can use custom images (i.e. selfies, headshots, etc.) as profile photos. While not necessary for any courses, the use of profile images does help increase engagement by giving students a visual to connect names with faces.

Customizing notifications

Canvas allows instructors and students to get notified when various events happen. (i.e. a change in due date, grades posted, discussion board replies, etc.) Users can be notified in several ways and can add additional methods such as SMS text.

Using emoji in module titles

Emoji can be inserted into the titles of modules and other areas in Canvas to add a bit of graphical levity and fun to what otherwise might be a somewhat bland way of presenting information.

Understanding the Commons

The Commons is a repository for documents, assignments, quizzes, and other course content that has been shared by other Canvas users. The items contained in the Commons can be searched, viewed, imported into your own Canvas course, and assigned a rating and review.

Importing items from the Commons (Part 1)

The Commons contains a vast array of course items that can be searched, sorted, and filtered according to various parameters you specify. Importing items from the Commons into your own Canvas course is a simple one-click process.

Importing items from the Commons (Part 2)

When importing assignments, quizzes, documents, and other items from the Commons it's important to check them and examine them thoroughly before releasing them to your students. Most items can be customized (point values, quiz questions, etc.) which is recommended to make sure they are suited to your needs.

Sharing items to the Commons (Part 1)

At many points throughout the Canvas interface there are options to share items to the Commons using the "Share to Commons" button. Items that can be shared include assignments, quizzes, modules, discussion boards, and more.

Sharing items to the Commons (Part 2)

When uploading items to the Commons there are several options to configure such as copyright license, title, grade level, and other metadata. Careful use of this information can help make sure your Commons items are properly organized and searchable.


Creating Assignments

All graded work in a course is treated as Assignments. The Assignments tool can be used to create, manage, and organize all Assignments as well as specify the submission type (online Dropbox submission, no submission, etc.). Points and grading options can be specified as well.

Working with assignment groups

Understanding how Canvas utilizes Assignment Groups to organize graded coursework. All assignments need to be in a group, even if they are all in the same group. Breaking assignments into sub-groups can help organize a class and allow instructors to manage content easier.

Creating duplicate assignments

When utilizing many versions of a similar assignment (i.e. Week 1 Homework, Week 2 Homework, etc.) instructors can construct a single assignment and use that as the template for additional assignments. An assignment can be duplicated, and its parameters edited, to allow for the easy creation of many similar assignments.

Using advanced assignment options

Basic assignment details can be specified from the Assignments navigation tab, but more advanced options can be set such as group assignment, peer reviews, moderated grading, assigning specific groups or individuals, and setting time/date restrictions.

Creating a rubric for assessing student assignments

The rubric tool can be used to create various criteria by which an assignment is evaluated. Points can be assigned to each criterion and additional criteria can be added in order to thoroughly assess student work.


Overview of the discussion tool

Discussions in Canvas can be used for instructors and students to discuss and collaborate. Discussions can be Pinned as well as Closed for Comments. Individual discussion topics can be moved via drag-and-drop, and only Pinned discussions can be ordered in custom fashion instead of by Recent Activity. Individual discussion topics can be published/unpublished, bookmarked, and edited.

Creating a discussion forum

Discussions can be used in Canvas to share ideas and collaborate. Discussion forums can contain text descriptions with formatting, be posted to sub-groups of students within a course, and include files and other attachments. Other options can be specified such as thread replies, liking, grading, and availability windows.

Creating duplicate discussion topics

Many instructors who use discussions utilize repeated versions of the same basic template (i.e. Week 1 Discussion, Week 2 Discussion, etc.) Canvas allows instructors to create duplicate versions of a discussion thread that can streamline the process of using many similar discussion topics. Duplicates can then be customized and edited instead of created from scratch every time.

Posting a reply on the discussion board

The process for posting a reply on discussion boards is fairly simple and straightforward, and mostly the same for both instructors as well as students. Text can be styled using the formatting toolbar and individuals can upload attachments as well.


Uploading files to the file manager

Instead of uploading files directly to Modules, it's best to upload them to the File Manager first. The File Manager interface is similar to that of a computer in that it utilizes a system of nested folders that contain files, and items can be organized similar to a computer as well. Files can be uploaded to the File Manager via simple drag-and-drop.

Advanced features of the file manager

The Canvas File Manager allows you to download files or folders, rename items, move items, and delete items. Files and folders can be moved to other locations via drag-and-drop. The file browser can be used to show files as well as expand and collapse folders. All My Files can be used to show every file across all courses that an instructor has access to.

Updating a file with a revised version

When re-using files from one semester to another, information like dates and meeting locations will need to be updated. Instructors can use the File Manager to upload revised versions of documents as long as the filename remains unchanged.


Using weighted grades

Weighted grades in Canvas can be used to assign grades based on how much percentage points a grade category is worth (i.e. Weekly Quizzes worth 10% of final grade) This can allow for a great deal of flexibility for instructors who do not want to rely on a strict points-only grading system.

Creating a grade item

The Canvas gradebook is created dynamically as various graded items (quizzes, assignments, discussions, etc.) are created elsewhere in a course. This means that instructors do not have to manually manage gradebook items separately from the actual assignments that are being graded.


Creating a module

Canvas utilizes modules that function as containers for holding course items such as discussions, assignments, documents, exams, etc.

Adding content to a module

Modules can contain various types of course content, and adding content to a module is a simple process involving just a couple of clicks. Modules can contain Assignments, Quizzes, Files, Content Pages, Discussions, Text Headers, URLs, and external tools. It works best to first create content items and then add them to modules rather than create them on the fly as they are being uploaded to modules.

Organizing module contents with text headers and indentations

Canvas allows for organizing module content with text headers and item indentations. This can be a useful way of segmenting content and adding visual cues for students to understand how specific module items are related. Modules cannot be nested inside modules, and a group of related content items might be best if placed inside its own module.

Adding advanced content to a module

A more in-depth look at how various course items can be created separately and then added to content modules. This includes creating a module, adding multiple files, adding an assignment, adding a discussion, and adding a quiz. Instructors who use modules to deliver all relevant content items to students can then remove the associated content types from the navigation bar (i.e. Grades, Assignments, etc.) to made the student experience more streamlined and straightforward.

Adding files to a module via the Canvas file manager

Modules in Canvas can be published or un-published depending on when instructors want to release content to students. Modules can also contain files (Documents, Spreadsheets, PDFs, etc.) that have been uploaded to the Canvas file manager. Files can be re-ordered within modules and set to published or un-published.

Adding files to a module via direct upload

Instead of using the Canvas File Manager, files can be uploaded directly to modules. This can help some instructors streamline their workflow, though a general best practice is to use the file manager for uploading and managing all files and then importing files into modules.

Using Module Prerequisites

Canvas let instructors specify prerequisites for Modules in order to control the process by which students are allowed to complete course materials. Modules are released only after certain criteria are met, which can help instructors set mastery goals for students or release content in other ways aside from just using date/time restrictions.

Using Module Requirements

Requirements can be set for any Module in Canvas in order to specify the items that must be completed by students in order for the module to be considered complete. Requirements can be set so they must be completed en masse, individually, or in a specific order.

Renaming content within modules

Files inserted into Canvas modules can be re-named to more accurately reflect the content of the files, and renaming within modules does not affect the actual filename.


Pages and Modules

Instructors can use both Modules and Pages to present information and course content to students. Understanding the difference between both of these, as well as some of their similarities, can help instructors choose which one to use in their classes. Modules work well for organizing and controlling the release of content (i.e. Requirements and Prerequisites) whereas Pages allow for richer and more detailed methods of presenting material.

Creating a Page

Pages in Canvas can include various types of content (videos, documents, external links, text with formatting, etc. ) and the tools to create pages are straightforward and easy to use. Embedded content such as YouTube videos includes auto-generated thumbnail previews, and instructors can add explanations and other helpful text. Pages can be inserted into modules as a way of delivering content to students.


Quizzes and question banks

Canvas utilizes Question Banks which instructors can use to construct questions that are then imported into Quizzes, Tests, Exams, and even Surveys. Understanding the difference between Quizzes and Question Banks will help make instructors' workflows more efficient.

Creating a question bank

Question banks should be created prior to making quizzes, and these question banks function as containers into which all quiz questions should be placed. After creating a question bank the questions can then be imported into one or more quizzes.

Creating a quiz

After constructing a question bank, an instructor can use those questions to create a Quiz. Questions may be placed in question groups or left outside of question groups. After creating and publishing a Quiz, it is also populated into the gradebook automatically.

Random quiz questions

Quizzes in Canvas can contain a group of questions taken at random from a larger set of questions. Instructors can utilize these types of random question groups in conjunction with non-random questions that all students must answer.

Basic Quiz Options (Part 1)

Quizzes in Canvas can be customized in a variety of ways including using the formatting toolbar to format text and instructions, specifying the type of quiz (graded, ungraded, etc.), shuffling quiz answers, setting a time limit, allowing multiple quiz attempts, and controlling when and how students can see their quiz responses.

Basic Quiz Options (Part 2)

Instructors can use options in Canvas to customizer quizzes with parameters such as showing one question at a time, restricting quiz access based on codes and IP addresses, assigning quizzes to students or groups, and setting date availability.

Constructing a comprehensive final exam

Canvas allows for the creation of comprehensive exams that utilize previously-used questions from other quizzes and tests. Questions can be re-used en masse or in smaller randomized groups. Instructors can also include questions that are new and not re-used from previous quizzes.

Creating a Multiple Choice Quiz Question

A step-by-step walkthrough for creating a Multiple Choice quiz question within a Question Bank in Canvas.

Creating a True/False Quiz Question

A step-by-step walkthrough for creating a True/False quiz question within a Question Bank in Canvas.

Creating a Fill In the Blank Quiz Question

A step-by-step walkthrough for creating a Fill In the Blank quiz question within a Question Bank in Canvas.

Creating a Fill In Multiple Blanks Quiz Question

A step-by-step walkthrough for creating a Fill In Multiple Blanks quiz question within a Question Bank in Canvas. This question contains multiple text entry spots for students to enter their answers.

Creating a Multiple Answer Quiz Question

A step-by-step walkthrough for creating a Multiple Answer quiz question within a Question Bank in Canvas. This question has multiple text fields for students to enter their answers.

Creating a Multiple Dropdowns Quiz Question

A step-by-step walkthrough for creating a Multiple Dropdowns quiz question within a Question Bank in Canvas. This question contains multiple dropdown menus with possible answer choices for the student to select.

Creating a Matching Quiz Question

A step-by-step walkthrough for creating a Matching quiz question within a Question Bank in Canvas. This question can include distractors which are gratuitous answer choices designed to ensure that students really do understand the concept being evaluated in the question.

Creating a Numerical Answer Quiz Question

A step-by-step walkthrough for creating a Numerical Answer quiz question within a Question Bank in Canvas. Students must enter a numerical value for their answer which can be evaluated by Canvas and also fall within a certain range or margin of error.

Creating a Numerical Answer with Precision Quiz Question

A step-by-step walkthrough for creating a Numerical Answer quiz question within a Question Bank in Canvas. This question type can specify a level of precision required by the students in terms of significant figures.

Creating a Formula Quiz Question

A step-by-step walkthrough for creating a Formula quiz question within a Question Bank in Canvas. This question contains numerical values which are created according to variable parameters set by the instructor.

Creating an Essay Quiz Question

A step-by-step walkthrough for creating an Essay quiz question within a Question Bank in Canvas.

Creating a File Upload Quiz Question

A step-by-step walkthrough for creating a File Upload quiz question within a Question Bank in Canvas. This question cannot be scored by Canvas and the file being uploaded must be evaluated by the instructor.

Creating a Text (No Question) Quiz Question

A step-by-step walkthrough for creating a Text quiz question within a Question Bank in Canvas. This question type has no points and no correct answer, but can be used as a way to separate different sections of a quiz.

Entering feedback for quiz question answers

Instructors can use question feedback to give students input on correct and incorrect answers. Feedback can only be seen when it is released to students according to parameters specified by the instructor during the creation of a quiz.


Overview of the Canvas mobile app for instructors

The Canvas mobile app for instructors is a way for instructors to interact with existing content on their Canvas courses and also communicate with students. It is not specifically designed for creating new content though it does offer some limited functionality in that regard.

Accessing files on the Canvas mobile app

Instructors can use the Canvas mobile app to access files and edit some parameters like changing access levels and get sharable links. Files are fully viewable on the mobile app as well, including PowerPoint, Word, PDF, and more.

Posting announcements from the Canvas mobile app

Instructors can use the Canvas mobile app to quickly and easily post news announcements to a class or individual sections within a class.

Using discussion boards in the Canvas mobile app

The Canvas mobile app is designed to be an easy, simple tool for instructors and students to interact on discussion board. The app makes it easy to post replies, format text, and create new discussion threads.

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