Canvas Course Design

Discussions Tool

Canvas Discussions can be created as an assignment for grading purposes and seamlessly integrates with the Canvas Gradebook. The Discussion tool in Canvas include some very nice assessment options including:

  • Graded Individual Discussion
  • Graded Group Discussions
  • Peer Reviewed Discussions

The Discussion option “Users must post before seeing replies,” requires students to post their own original response to the forum before they can see what their peers have write. This is a great option to ensure diverse opinions and engaging discussion.

To learn more about Discussions, please watch the Discussion Video and explore the Discussion Tutorials listed on this page.

Discussions Creation Video

Discussions Tutorials

To discuss how Discussions could be used effectively in your course, feel free to contact the Geisel Instructional Technology Staff to schedule a one-on-one consultation.

Canvas Course Design

Quiz/Suvey Tool

The Quiz tool can be used to create and administer online quizzes and surveys. You can also use quizzes to conduct exams and assessments, both graded and ungraded. The Quiz Types include:

  • Graded Quiz – The intention of a Graded Quizzes is that it will be used to assess student knowledge and understanding of the content in the course.
  • Practice Quiz – Students do not receive a grade for Practice Quizzes, even though the quiz results display the number of points earned in the quiz.
  • Graded Survey – A Graded Survey allows the instructor to give students points for completing the survey, but it does not allow the survey to be graded for right or wrong answers.
  • Ungraded Survey – An Ungraded Survey allows  instructors to solicit opinions or other information from the students, but students do not receive a grade for their responses

To learn more about Canvas Quizzes, feel free to review the Quiz Videos and Quiz Tutorials listed on this page.

Quiz Question Type Tutorials

Quiz Creation Tutorials

Quiz Grading Tutorials

Canvas Course Design

Course Navigation

The first thing you should do before publishing the course is to edit the Course Navigation. Unlike Blackboard, the instructor control of the Canvas Course Navigation is a bit more restrictive.

Course Navigation items include:

  • Home (Required)
  • Announcements
  • Assignments
  • Attendance (Hidden unless made available)
  • Chat (Hidden unless made available)
  • Collaborations
  • Conferences
  • Discussions
  • Files
  • Grades
  • Modules
  • Outcomes
  • People
  • Pages
  • Quizzes
  • Syllabus
  • Settings (Visible to Instructors and TAs)

Instructors can reorder the tabs and even hide some of them. Tabs cannot be renamed. The purpose of this restriction is to attempt to streamline and simplify the menu options presented to students.

Course Settings Video

Skip to 2:57 to view the section on Editing the Course Navigation.

To learn more about customizing the Course Navigation menu, feel free to view the Navigation Tutorials.

Course Navigation Tutorials

Canvas Course Design Content types

Managing Sections

Courses and sections work together in Canvas. Sections help subdivide students within a course and offer section-specific options such as varied due dates for assignments, discussions, and quizzes. Sections can also be used to create student groups.

Think of the Course as the location where students will:

  • access course content
  • interact with the instructor
  • interact with other students

Sections are groups of students created to manage administrative differences within the course. Each section still has access to the content within the course as well as the instructor and other students. However, the Sections allows the instructor to:

  • Manage different instructional timelines
  • Vary assignment due dates by Section
  • View/Manage grades by Section
  • Assign TAs or Facilitators to specific Sections for grading

At the Geisel School of Medicine, Sections will likely be used to:

  • Manage Clerkship Rotations
  • Manage OnDoctoring Facilitator Groups
  • Manage Small Group discussions

To learn more about Sections, feel free to view the Course Settings Video and the Sections Tutorials on this page.

Course Settings Video

Skip to 3:46 to watch the portion of the video on Sections.

Sections Tutorials

Canvas Course Design

Syllabus Design Model

The Syllabus in Canvas, when used in combination with the Calendar, makes it possible to deliver content through the creation of events with linked content and date-based assessments.


  • Events are automatically created for assessments associated with a due date.
  • In the Calendar simply drag and drop an event to change the due date.


  • Calendar events must be created manually for the delivery of files and pages.
  • Content is available as soon as the event is posted unless the item has been locked/made unavailable at the file, page, or assessment level.

About the Syllabus

Calendar Overview

Canvas Course Design

Module Design Model

In the Modules area of the course, instructors can add files, pages, assignments, quizzes, and links to external tools that present in a linear, compartmentalized format.


  • Modules can include links to files, pages, assessments and communication tools.
  • The availability of the module to students is controlled at the module level.
  • If a module is unavailable, the content within the module are unavailable until the same date/time.
  • If the module is available, release of specific content within the module must be controlled at the tool/file level.
  • Assessments and other tools can be added within a module.


  • Adding files individually within each module results in long, scrolling list.
  • Modules cannot be nested.
    Note: Creating pages containing the content for each session and adding that within the module can help reduce scrolling and allow a hierarchical structure.

The text below illustrates a few ways to present content within a Modules.

1. Topics for Quiz 1

  • Text Headings are used to organize content by session within the Module.
  • Assessments are added individually within the module.
  • Content is added as individual files.

2. Content for Quiz 1 Session 2

  • The module is locked and the associated resources are unavailable until October 25 at 12am.
  • Assessments are added individually within the module.
  • A Page titled Topics for Quiz 1 Session 2 has been added instead of individual files.

3. Topics for Quiz 2

  • The module is locked and the associated resources are unavailable until October 28 at 12am.
  • Content and Assessments are available through a linked Page.

Modules Overview

Module Tutorials

These tutorials cover Module management. For information about adding content to modules, proceed to Step 3: Add Content.

Canvas Course Design

Page Design Model

In the Pages section of the course, it is possible to create a page for each area of content covered in the course. These pages can contain text, embedded media, and links to files and other course tools.


  • Pages are a flexible and visually appealing way to present content (text, files, and media) to students.
  • The Text Editor makes it easy to add and format content within the pages.
  • Students can preview and download files directly from within the page.
  • Pages can link out to the assessment and communication tools within Canvas.


  • Pages are organized alphabetically.
    Note: To present pages sequentially add a number to the beginning of the page name. (Example: 0 – Syllabus/Course Info; 1 – Topics for Quiz 1; etc)
  • Page release can be controlled only by manually hiding or showing them.
    Note: Files linked to within a page can be released by setting lock/unlock dates within the Files area at either the folder or the file level.

Pages Overview

Pages Tutorials

These tutorials cover Page management. For information about building Pages to deliver content to students within the course, proceed to Step 3: Add Content.

Canvas Course Design

Files Design Model

In the Files section of the course, it is possible to create a folder for each area of content covered in the course to which files can be added.


  • Files can be organized by folders.
  • Files can include .pdf, .doc, .ppt, etc as well as uploaded media and images.
  • Students can download files en bulk from Files.
  • Setting lock/unlock dates at either the folder or the file level can control file availability.


  • Assessment and communication tools cannot be linked to from within Files, thus other Canvas tools/menu items would need to be available in the course menu
  • In general, using folders within Files is
    • a good practice for content organization
    • not a good, stand-alone, design model

The example in the image below is based on the Year 1 and 2 organization schema of Topics for Quiz.

Files Overview

Files Tutorials

These tutorials cover Files management. For information about delivering files to students within the course, proceed to Step 3: Add Content.

Content types

Creating a Homepage

The Home Page is the first page your students see upon entering your Canvas course site. There are several options for designing a Canvas Home Page:

  • Recent Activity Dashboard – Displays the most recent announcements, messages, assignments, and discussion posts in your course.
  • a Page I’ll Design Myself – Has the same content capabilities as a standard Page. Also referred to as the Front Page.
  • the Course Modules/Sections – Sets your Modules area as the Home Page.
  • the Assignment List – Show all of the assignments in a course, with upcoming and recent assignments at the top.
  • the Syllabus with Assignment List – Lets you add content like a course description, links, images, etc. in a rich content editor and also displays all of the assignments in your course. It’s a combination of “A Page I’ll Design Yourself” and “The Assignment List” options.

To return to the Home Page from anywhere in a Canvas course site, just click on the Home button on the course navigation.

To learn more about customizing the Course Home page, feel free to view the Course Layout Customization Video and the Homepage Tutorial found on this page.

Homepage Tutorials

Canvas Course Design Content types

Creating a Syllabus

The Syllabus page allows instructors to edit the syllabus description. Within the syllabus description, instructors can use the Rich Content Editor to post:

  • a course banner
  • the course description
  • a brief introduction
  • class guidelines
  • weekly reminders
  • other important information. 

Instructors can copy and paste content from Word documents directly into the Rich Content Editor or create original content inside of the Rich Content Editor. The Rich Content Editor also allows instructors to embed videos and input HTML.

The Content Selector that appears in the Sidebar when editing the Syllabus description will also allow instructors to link to files or other locations within the course from the Syllabus description.

Syllabus Tutorials