The Canvas platform can be used to create and support an excellent learning environment for all modalities: fully face-to-face, hybrid, and fully online.  When the tools are used well, they can enhance communication, understanding, and faculty and student experience.   

Canvas has three different organizational structures for content that overlap but have different functions.  Modules serve as a curated path for a specific unit of learning.  A module will walk a student sequentially through the stages of learning created by the instructor.  An example might be: 

    • A concise introduction¬†to the concept in the form of a brief video lecture or text¬†
    • A link to a discussion board post for initial thoughts and reflections (graded assignment scheduled on the calendar)¬†
    • A link to a longer reading (or an instruction to go to the textbook)¬†
    • A specific set of questions as an assignment (graded, linked, and scheduled on the calendar)¬†
    • Other assurances of learning¬†

Canvas is designed so that Modules are the primary point of access for students and so that their path forward in the course is clear and navigable.   Best Practice is to think about modules in terms of staging one’s home for important guests who have limited time.  What do you want them to experience?  Where would you like them to sit?  What is the best direction of flow?  Which restroom is the best for guests? Etc.  Modules allow you to create this experience in a linear fashion. 

Pages¬†are digital objects in Canvas that contain most of the content, direction, and¬†instruction.¬† Every course should have a home page that serves as a ‚Äúlanding page‚ÄĚ for students and that allows for them to get their bearings and navigate from module to module as needed.¬†¬†Best Practice for quality course¬†design¬†(OSCQR Standard 1.2,¬†QM 1.2)¬†is that your¬†Course Home Page¬†and module introduction pages¬†be the¬†most carefully crafted part of your Canvas course.¬† It will help your students understand what you want them to accomplish, what sort of¬†navigational freedom they have, and what specific paths you would like for them to take.¬† Canvas recommends that the Pages navigation be hidden from the student and that all pages in the course be tied to specific modules or other pages.¬†

You can think of Pages, metaphorically, as the scenes you wish your guests to see at specific times.  When the path of their visit takes them to the kitchen, you would like them to notice the hand-made cutting board, the carefully placed drinkware, the stained glass in the window that highlights the view of a mountain in the distance which might start an amiable conversation, etc.  You probably do not want for them to open a folder that has all possible views listed in alphabetical order. Canvas recommends that the Pages navigation be hidden from the student and that all pages in the course be tied to specific modules or other pages. Best practices for quality course design (OSCQR Standard 13.6) advise that navigating through your course be organized simply for students. The navigational experience for students will be different for students and instructors.  Instructors are designing a learning experience as experts. Students should be learning. 

Files are an even deeper part of the underlying infrastructure of the course and, even more so than Pages, the recommendation is to hide the left hand navigation tool from students unless you have a compelling reason to do otherwise. In our metaphor, files are things like the stained-glass in the kitchen window.  It should be seen only in that window (Page) and only in the part of the learning journey in which it is important, the kitchen (Module).  You can think of the Files navigation for faculty as a quick way to see everything that you have associated with the course (a sort of home inventory), but for the most part, as in our lives at home, sharing a long, browsable list of everything you have is rarely helpful for moving forward a specific learning agenda. 

In summary, think about using the tools effectively and according to best practices: 

    • Use modules to move your students through the learning process.¬†
    • Use pages in the appropriate places in the modules to help direct students in that learning and to highlight external links and introduce assessment and activities.¬†
    • Use a home page to aid in navigating the whole course¬†
    • Use the Syllabus Tool and the Calendar to help with sequencing and giving student scheduled ‚ÄúTo Dos‚ÄĚ that align with your teaching goals.¬†
    • Insert files in their proper places using the rich content editor in Pages, Assessments, and Quizzes.

How does this align to Canvas training materials?

Canvas logoPriming the Canvas: Module¬†1.3¬†‚ÄúGetting Started with Canvas‚Ä̬†&¬†Module¬†5.1 ‚ÄĚGathering, Making, and Structuring Content‚Ä̬†


Additional Resources: 

Our next article will highlight Canvas’ Rich Content Editor;¬†visit¬†Canvas Blog¬†to see all our Canvas articles.¬†