Optimal Canvas Setup: The Importance of Clarity

Students value clarity above many other things, especially when taking an online course. Your Canvas site is their portal to your course, and to the work they must complete to satisfy the objectives. It is important to think of your Canvas course from the student’s perspective, and if you’ve never taken an online course, yourself, you’re probably not looking at Canvas in the same way your students do.

I like how organized everything is–it tells us the days and has the zoom class link so all you have to do is find the link and click. I like how easy she made it for us especially us [first years].

Student feedback (Fall 2020)

I’m assuming, if you’re reading these posts, that you’re using Canvas and that you have some familiarity with it. I use weighted assignment groups, and I also put class meetings into Canvas with to-do dates, but no points. This ensures that the meetings show up on students’ feeds, as well as the Calendar. I try to add due dates to every single assignment, because if you don’t, things get really confusing for students as they navigate their Canvas course.

Therefore, it’s really important to understand how students use Canvas if you’re an instructor. Be sure you are using that “Student View” option regularly, because what you see is not always what the students see. How you interact with Canvas is not how your students will interact with it.

Finally, you might think that students know how to use Canvas–I’m here to tell you, most do not! They rely heavily on Grades and Assignments, and they may not know how to use options to show information in different ways. Almost all students I’ve encountered do not know how to find your in-line feedback on papers submitted through Canvas (stay tuned for another post!). It is a very good idea to spend time at the beginning of the class to go over how your Canvas site is set up, and check in periodically with your students. If you’ve got other insights about what students don’t know about Canvas, drop it in the comments.

Suggestion 1

Spend a good amount of time at the beginning of the class and then 2 weeks in on navigating Canvas. Get feedback, and show students how you have set it up. Remember: they may have five other Canvas courses, each designed in a different way!

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