Emerson IT Help Desk

Building Your Course in Canvas

We recommend building your course in Canvas in the following six steps:

1. Add your Syllabus

The Syllabus tool consists of two parts: a description (where you put the text of your syllabus) and a calendar (where assignment due dates and other calendar events appear).

  • Click on the Syllabus tool in the left hand navigation of your course.

The Syllabus tool in the navigation panel in Canvas.

  • Click “Edit” on the right-hand side of the page. You can:

    • Type your syllabus directly into the space, OR
    • Upload an existing document by clicking on the Files tab to the right, clicking on “Upload a new file,”  “Choose File,” and then “Upload.”

For a more detailed description of the Syllabus tool in Canvas, check out How Do I Edit the Syllabus Description in the Canvas Instructor Guide.

In order to populate the Syllabus calendar, you will need to start adding course assignments.

2. Add Assignments

When you create an assignment in Canvas, the name of the assignment and its due date will populate in list form in the Syllabus page and in the Calendar:

A course syllabus page in canvas. It shows the course syllabus and course summary with assignments listed along with their due dates.

A course calendar in Canvas.

  • To create assignments click on the Assignments tool in the left-hand navigation of your course.

The Assignments tool in the navigation panel in Canvas.

  • Move your cursor to the top of the Assignments group.
  • Click on the “+” button to add a new assignment.

The add assignment blue button in Canvas.

  • Complete your assignment description and configure settings.
  • Click "Save."

Assignments in Canvas correspond to columns in the Canvas Gradebook. If you want to keep track of grades in Canvas, you must create corresponding assignments in Canvas:

When you set up your assignment you can choose to display the grade in a number of ways. However if you do not assign it a point value, the assignment grade will not be calculated into the final grade.

Setting up a point system in Canvas. The options are percentage, complete/incomplete, points, letter grade, GPA scale, or not graded.

We recommend that you create an assignment group for each grading category on your Syllabus. Then, weight your assignment groups the same way that you have them weighted on your Syllabus. For example, if quizzes are listed as 20% of the final grade, then you should have an assignment group named Quizzes, weight it at 20%, and add all the quizzes to that assignment group.

If you are going to enter grades into Canvas please read this Canvas Gradebook Guide. If you need further assistance in setting up graded assignments in Canvas, please contact the Instructional Technology Group at itg@emerson.edu or 617-­824-8090

For detailed instructions on creating assignments and assignment groups, check out the Assignments section of the Canvas Instructor Guide.

3. Gradebook

Only assignments, graded discussions, graded quizzes, and graded surveys that have been published appear in the Gradebook.

In Course Navigation, click the Grades link.

The Grades tool in the navigation panel in Canvas.

 Each column in the Gradebook represents an assignment, graded discussion, or quiz. Each column displays the assignment title, total points, and each student's grade. If you delete an assignment the corresponding column in the Gradebook will be deleted.

Please remember that you will not be able to delete an assignment once a student submitted work. If you decide you don't want the assignment to affect the final grade, you can give is a 0 point value. 

A screenshot of students' grades in Canvas.

By default, Canvas allows students to see assignment grades when the instructor grades them. If you wish to hide student grades temporarily, you can choose to mark an assignment as "muted"

For detailed instructions on the Gradebook, check out the Gradebook section of the Canvas Instructor Guide.

4. Files

Course files include any content uploaded to your course. By default, each course has 500 MB of storage space in Canvas.

To view or edit your files, click the Files link in Course Navigation.

The Files tool in the navigation panel in Canvas.

The left panel [1] shows all folders for quick navigation. Some folders may be housed within other folders. Click the arrows next to the folder name to expand all folders.

When you click the name of a folder, all contents within the folder you are viewing will display in the right panel [2]. You can also click folder names in the right panel to view folder content.

The contents of a folder in Canvas. 

5. Set the Home Page

Your course home page is the first thing students see when they click on your course in Canvas. By default, Canvas displays an activity stream. However, we recommend that you customize your home page so that students know what is the best way to navigate your course.

  • From the home page of your course, select “Change Home Page Layout”.
  • Choose what you would like displayed to your students.
  • Click “Update Layout”.

For more information on customizing your course home page, read How do I change the Course Home Page? in the Canvas Instructor Guide.

6. Publish!

Your students won't see your course until you publish it.

  • On the upper side of your screen, click the Publish button.

    The Course status section of a Canvas course. From here, one can choose to mark the course as unpublished or published. The unpublished button has been clicked.

    The Course status section of a Canvas course. From here, one can choose to mark the course as unpublished or published. The published button has been clicked.

Please remember to also publish all the assignments, pages and modules you would like your students to see.

Optional: Organize with Modules

Although there are several ways to add and organize content in your Canvas course, we recommend that you use Modules. They make it easy for students to find things. You can create as many modules as you need and organize them by topic, lesson, week, or type of content.

  • Click on the Modules tool from the left-hand navigation of your course.

The Modules tool in the navigation panel in Canvas.

  • Click "Create New Module" in the upper right.
  • Name the module and click “Add Module”.
  • To add a Module Item click on the + button:

    The create new module button within Canvas.

  • You will be prompted to select the type of content you want to add:

The button within Canvas to add content and choose the type of new content to add. The options are assignment, quiz, file, content page, discussion, text header, external URL, or external tool.

  • Choose the item from the corresponding list. You can either choose content that exists or create as you go. When you are finished, click “Add Item”. For more details, visit the How do I add items to a Module page? in the Canvas Instructor Guide.
  • To add a Word document or PDF file, select “File” (1) from the drop-down. Scroll down and select ‘[New File]” (2). Click "Choose File" (3) to select the file from your computer. When you have your file selected, click “Add Item” (4) to add the item:

    the New File button highlighted within Canvas.

  • To add a web link, follow the instructions in How to do I link to an external url in Modules? in the Canvas Instructor Guide

For additional information on customizing Modules in Canvas, visit the Modules section of the Canvas Instructor Guide.


Images Borrowed from Canvas Guides.

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