Tips to Make Using Canvas Work Well

In the years that I've used Canvas and watched others use it, I have picked up on some key ideas that will make the experience work best for everyone.

Make it Work with PowerSchool
  • Keep all item names to 29 characters. If you go beyond this, every time you try to sync grades there's a chance it'll make you rename your item because PowerSchool can't handle it.
  • Set a due date for everything. PowerSchool requires a due date.
Navigation and Organization
  • Be consistent in how you organize. Use modules. If you heavily use the modules page to organize assignments, refer students there to find things. The giant assignment list and the Syllabus page are nightmares, especially for courses that have a lot of assignments.
  • Avoid using pages to deliver content. 
Writing Directions & Making Assignments
  • Be brief. Use lists. If the task you're assigning to students requires multiple steps, always break them down in a numbered list somewhere. They will have to refer to it repeatedly, and if it's buried in paragraphs, they won't do all of the steps.
  • Break down large projects into smaller assignments to use more tools. This allows you to take advantage of more of the functionality Canvas has built in. If you have a research paper, break it down like this:
    1. Topic Selection - text response
    2. Research Discussion - discussion board so students can share resources
    3. Rough draft - file upload/Google Doc submission
    4. Peer review - use the peer review tool
    5. Final Draft - file upload/Google Doc submission