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Instructor GuideThe following links will take you to the Instructure Canvas Guides to get you started with using the various tools available in Canvas.

If you are looking for something specific and do not find it, please email us

Most Common Solutions

All of the wonderful things Canvas can do!

The topics below contain how-to instructions on utilizing Canvas features. Click on any link to see more information on that topic.

Navigating Canvas

Global Dashboard (the page you see when you first login)

The Global Dashboard; is the first page you see when you login to Canvas. It is designed to answer the questions, "what is going on in all of my courses?" and "What do I nee to do next?"

For more information, visit the Canvas guides on the Dashboard

Course Level Navigation

What do we mean by "navigation"? Basically, this is the means by which users will interact with your course site; we want to make it easy for them to know what they can do, where to go, and how to get there. This goes for us as instructors as we design navigation links within our content to help students as well as the navigation that Canvas has built to help us design.


Your Profile

In Canvas, each user has a Profile associated with his/her account that includes contact and other information. Users can add a profile picture, maintain a portfolio, and add communication services through which you and your students can communicate, such as text messaging (SMS), Facebook, or alternative e-mail accounts.

Editing Your Profile

  1. Click Settings in the top right corner of the page.
  2. Add another e-mail address or a text messaging number in the widget on the right.
  3. Change your full name, display name, or time zone by clicking Edit Settings in the widget on the right.
  4. Register any of the following web services or social networks that you already have accounts for at the bottom

View the Canvas Guide on how to edit your Profile

Editing Your Settings

The Settings menu allows you to edit personal information such as display name, time zone, or language.



Notification Settings

Notification allows you to select how and when you want to be notified of Canvas events. Notifications can be sent to any of the contact methods you configured in your profile’s Settings menu. Be aware that some settings can be set to "never" and this gives the students an option to opt out of announcements! It is a good idea to remind them to turn notifications on if they have previously turned them off!

View the Canvas Guide on how to setup your notification preferences


Organize Content


This is the first entry point and "landing spot" for your students each time they enter your course!

  • Make it purposeful; directing them to the most important resources they will need to be successful. By default, Canvas courses show an activity stream of all recent activity within the course on the course Home Page. You are not locked into this view for your course Home Page.

icon of choose homepage

icon of homepage menu


  • To choose from the above, click on the Chose Home Page link in the right menu. Provide clear navigation links to help them find what they might be looking for in your course site. Choosing a “Pages Front Page” will allow you to design a page yourself. You can use that page as a welcome page, letting the students know who you are, how to contact you and how to get started in the course on Canvas.

To choose the Pages Front Page option you have to create a page first. Here is how to do it!

  1. Create a New Page (make sure you Publish it once you are done creating it)
  2. Set the page you just created to be you Front Page by clicking on the gear icon on the far right. icon of menu
  3. Go back to “home” in your course navigation and select the “pages Front Page” option. You will then be able to select the page you just created as the default homepage.

*Note: if you choose any of the last three options (the Course Modules/Sections, the Assignment List, or the Assignments with Syllabus) you will not need to show the corresponding tabs on the left navigation menu as this would be redundant! Hide them by going to course Settings-->Navigation Tab.


Sample Course Organization

To aide you in understanding how a completed Canvas course might look, several faculty have graciously made their courses available for your use.

When you click on a course link, it will open in either a new browser tab or new browser window. Simply close the tab/window or click on the Canvas Logbook tab to return to this page.

You have student access to each course. No login is required.

Sample Course using Files and Pages

Great homepage layout with links taking students to the file area for access to documents. The instructor keeps the homepage up to date, linking to the current week information which are built out using Pages.

Anatomy & Phys II FL 12 03

Human Genetics FL 12 01

Sample Courses using Modules

Setup using Modules. Homepages are "I'll design one myself" layout and have nice graphics and a good "getting started" layout for students.

History of Ancient Civilization

U.S. History 2

Contemporary Management


Why use Modules to organize content in Canvas?

MODULES help keep course content organized not only for you, but for your students.
Managing course content is not unlike managing everything you store in your office. Papers, journals, books, schedules, reports, and mail plus gadgets, desk toys and personal items reside in your work space. If left unorganized, course content can clutter a student's learning space.

MODULES allow you to define content delivery.
In your course outline, you detail what will happen in your course. Some faculty group the information by week while others group content by topic. MODULES can be used to deliver your course materials int he same way. For example, you may set up a module for each week or for each topic. Those modules would contain related information, such as an introduction; a reading; a web resource or video; an assignment; a quiz or survey.

MODULES help a student navigate the course content.
Modules in Canvas are the only tool that provides a forward and back button. These buttons can be helpful for students to view content for the first time or for quick review. Modules provide an area where the teacher can deliver content using an instructional scaffolding approach to help students understand core concepts prior to attempting to complete an assignment or quiz.

Control Modules

Control Items within a Module

Control student access and progress


Pages can be used to create a course Home page (also called the Front Page), create a content page to include in modules, create a resource page, or create a collaborative space to which all course participants can contribute. Pages can include text, video, audio clips, math equations, images and links (to websites, files, and other pages you have created in your course). If you’ve ever used a wiki, this is essentially a wiki with a more usable interface.

Pages can be accessed by clicking the Pages button in the course tools menu along the left side of a course space. When you access the Pages tool, the Sidebar along the right will list common pages, the recent pages (those that have been edited recently) and all pages. Here you will also see an Edit this Page button that allows you to edit the page being displayed. You will also see a Create a New Page button which allows you to create new pages. Once you have created pages, you can link them to one another or include them in modules. You can also link to pages from various places in the course (e.g. Discussions, Assignments, Quizzes, Announcements, Calendar).


Course Files

Often you'll want to simply upload files that you've created on your own computer into Canvas. You can upload files in various places in your course (e.g. Discussions, Assignments, Pages, Quizzes). There is a course Files tool that houses everything you upload. This is accessible by clicking the Files button on the Course Tools Menu. You can also directly upload files here.

By default, Files are accessible to everyone in the course. You can hide the Files tool on the Course Tools Menu which prevents students from accessing course files. You can also leave Files accessible, but lock individual folders and files.

It is recommended that you do not give students access to your files area unless you have them organized in an easy to follow folder structure. Canvas places files alphabetically. This is not ideal, especially if file names are not intuitive or do no match what students are told to read. An better way to give students access to files is through Modules or Pages.

Personal Files

In addition to course Files, each Canvas user has Personal Files. Personal Files are accessible through Profile (upper right corner of your Canvas page) > Files. Files stored in the Personal Files area are accessible only to the individual user. As an instructor, you can access your Personal Files while looking at course Files by clicking the link at the bottom right of the screen to show all course files. This allows for easy copying of files from personal files to course files, as well as copying files between courses.

Accepted File Types

Cavnas will allow you to upload any file type to the Files tool. However, only certain types can be viewed without having to download them. The following text file types will work with the built-in Scribd previewer:

  • .doc .odt .sxi
    .docx .pdf .sxw
    .odf .ppt .xlsx
    .odg .pptx .xls
    .odp .rtf .txt
    .ods .sxc


Many of you may choose to display the Syllabus as your course Home page (which is an excellent choice). The Syllabus tool has three areas:

  1. The top portion can be edited using the rich-text editor and can include any text, images, or videos. You can copy and paste your syllabus into this area or upload a syllabus file (Word or PDF) and link to the file in this area.
  2. The bottom portion of the page is automatically populated with items that will be graded and have been assigned due dates. If a due date changes, items are automatically reordered.
  3. The sidebar contains the course Calendar and the Weighted Grading (if it is created).

Assess Students


Assignments in Canvas can be used to challenge students' understanding and help assess competency by using a variety of media. The Assignments page will show your students all of the Assignments that will be expected of them and how many points each is worth.

Assignments can be used to:

  • Assess how well students are achieving course Outcomes
  • Set up online submissions that can be quickly graded in the SpeedGrader™
  • Grade online as well as student work submitted "on-paper"
  • Create varied due dates for sections
  • Set up peer reviews
  • Grade Discussions, either by the whole class or student groups
  • Open Quizzes for a limited amount of time
  • Record attendance
  • Create ungraded activities that align with course Outcomes

Things to Consider

  • Rubrics are great assessment tools used to evaluate a student's performance based on the sum of a full range of criteria rather than a single numerical score. It is a working guide for both you and your students. It gets your students to think about the criteria on which their work will be judged and helps them understand the connections between assignments and course goals. Learn how to integrate rubrics in your assignments.
  • With the integration of video into the rich content editor, students can submit video assignments directly through the Assignments tool, whether uploading video clips or capturing the video with their webcam. You can also integrate video into the Assignment instructions.
  • In peer review assignments, students have the option to give audio or video feedback, and they can upload files with their comments. You can also randomly assign papers to students or pair them up. Learn more about Peer Review.


Assignment Groups

You will need to setup Assignment Groups if you weight your grades. For example, if your assignments are setup like this: Papers worth 30%, exams worth 40%, discussions worth 10% and so on, you would have group created for Papers, Exams and Discussions with the assignments entered under the appropriate group heading. That way the assignments under each group will get weighted correctly in the gradebook.

Individual Assignments

Assignments for Groups working together

VeriCite Plagiarism Detection


Quizzes is used to deliver graded quizzes, practice quizzes, or surveys on course material. As with quizzes in a regular classroom environment, the quizzes in your course space will give you the opportunity to gauge student understanding of course content. You can create quizzes or they can be imported from publisher test banks. There are eleven question types:

Quiz Options
When using the Quizzes tool, there are several variables you can choose from that allow you to create just the type of assessment you want (e.g. timed assessment, single or multiple attempt assessments, and objective assessments that can be automatically graded).

Question Banks
Question Banks are a place to house questions that can be added to quizzes across courses or accounts.

Publishing and Grading


The gradebook is a tool that will allow instructors to keep track of student grades in the course. Through the gradebook, instructors can easily input grades and have them calculated for themselves and the students. The gradebook provides a comprehensive view of grades in the course and additionally allows the instructors to group, weigh, and assign points or percentages to assignments.

  • You can mute/unmute (now called Grade Posting Policy) a column in your gradebook so that no grades or comments are released to students until you are done grading all the work.
  • Canvas also includes a feature in the gradebook called SpeedGrader which simplifies the process of grading student work.


Setting Due Dates

Group or Peer Reviewed Assignments

VeriCite Plagiarism Detection

Weighting Grades


Crocodoc Annotation Tool


UW-IT has ended our contract with Turnitin and has signed on with VeriCite to help instructors and students check their work for improper citation or potential plagiarism by comparing it against their text comparison database. When a file is submitted, VeriCite shows how much of the student’s paper matches content from their databases so instructors and students can quickly understand how much of the paper is unoriginal or improperly cited.


Rubrics are an assessment and evaluation tool used to communicate expectations and standards of quality for online-submitted student work.

Each rubric is comprised of various course outcomes that can be uniquely created for a specific assignment or built using existing outcomes. Rubrics consist of rows, which are used to define the criteria to grade an assignment, and columns, which dictate levels of performance for each criterion.

Rubric example

All rubrics and coursework evaluations on Canvas are stored in Outcomes, which acts as a central rubric repository where creating and editing rubrics can take place.

Why use Rubrics?

Rubrics are used to:

  • Communicate coursework and assignment expectations to students.
  • Align pre-determined learning objectives and outcomes to course assessments.
  • Assess and evaluate online submissions, in combination with SpeedGrader.

Peer Review


Analytics evaluate individual components of a course and evaluate student performance. Course Analytics takes a three pronged approach to creating substantive data for Canvas users.

  • Justification focuses on system reports and how the system is being used.
  • Intervention looks to predict at-risk students and how to meet their needs.
  • Learning focuses on learning outcomes, the effectiveness of the teaching style, and the division of time between students achieving competence and those falling behind.

Communicating with Students


An Announcement is designed to give information to everyone in the course. You create an announcement as part of your course and Canvas sends it out to everyone in the course.

All of the announcements are archived and accessible by clicking the Announcements button in the Course Tools Menu. Each announcement is also added to the discussion forum so that anyone can ask a question or make a comment about announcements. There is also an option to receive the announcements as an RSS Feed. Students may also set their Notification Preferences to receive notifications of new announcements outside of the course (as texts, on Facebook, etc.).

Notification settings for Announcements

Tips on Working with Announcements

  • Going away for a few days, but need to remind your students of an upcoming important assignment? Create an announcement and delay the posting until a specific date and time.
  • If you want to be sure that your students receive Announcements immediately rather than the next time they log into canvas, have them set their Notifications to receive an email, tweet, or text message whenever you post one. Going over this type of expectation early in the quarter can help to prevent students from missing important or time-sensitive information.

Conversations (your inbox)

Conversations is a fresh approach to private messaging in an LMS that makes it easy for students and teachers to communicate. It also makes it easy for Canvas users to keep track of all of the different kinds of communication going on inside the platform, whether it's a conversation about an assignment, within a group, or with another user.

Conversations are accessed by clicking Inbox on the upper-right hand corner. With Conversations, there are no subject lines so the actual dialogue gets the focus. There is history of all your past conversations. You can see who the conversation is with, how many messages there are, and a chronology of all messages in each conversation.

115 - Conversations Overview (CC) from Instructure on Vimeo.

Conversations in Canvas


Communicating with Groups

Tips and Quirks for working with Conversations

If you are have been commenting with a student about a graded assignment thorough Grades, MAKE SURE students continue to go through the assignment or grades area to continue the conversation. Some make the mistake of going into the inbox to start a new conversation. This will produce two separate conversations that will not be linked or recorded in the Grades area!

Discussion Boards

Discussions are asynchronous online forums where you and your students can discuss a topic. When utilizing the discussion tool, users have the ability to use whatever format they are most comfortable with to communicate. Users can type text, or use the multimedia feature to record and upload video or audio.

Discussions can be integrated into the curriculum of the course by having the discussion be gradable. A graded discussion shows up to the student as an assignment and the SpeedGrader feature allows the instructor to easily grade and give points for online discussions. Instructors can also create group discussion boards for groups which are viewable only by people within a group.

Discussions are useful for:

  • Following up on a conversation or lecture in the classroom
  • Conversations and debate about topics in the class
  • Introduction to an upcoming assignment or class discussion

Setting up a Discussion Board

Adding Content to a discussion post entry


The Canvas Chat function is an open interface that allows members of a Canvas course to communicate amongst each other in real time.

Embed Video/Docs


YouTube™ videos are automatically embedded in any feature that uses the Rich Content Editor. This lesson applies to the Announcement, Assignments, Discussions, Pages, Quizzes, and Syllabus features.

There are two different ways to link a YouTube™ video, depending on what you want it to look like:

  1. Insert Link into the Rich Content Editor (full link with embedded video)
  2. Insert Link with the Chain Link Icon (shortened link with optional embedded video)


Google Docs

You can create a document, slide presentation, or spreadsheet using Google Drive and then embed that document anywhere you can use the Rich Content Editor in Canvas. Any time you edit the Google document, it will be automatically updated in Canvas. For more information on how you can use this feature, visit this topic in the Community Forums.

Note: You might notice that some formatting, such as margins or line spacing, is lost when you embed a Google document into your course.

Managing Access to your Course

Students or Users with a NetID

Registered students are automatically enrolled in courses based on the official time schedule. If student names that you expect to see in your Canvas course are missing, the delay may be due to a hold or an issue with registration. Please contact UW Canvas Support at with a request to update your course enrollments. If students require immediate access, you can manually add students to your course, as long as they have a UW NetID.

Give Course access to users without a NetID

You can provide access to your Canvas course site with a UW Group. If you have a group of instructors or cohort of students that are not officially registered for a course, but you would like them to be able to observe or participate, you can grant this access with a UW group.

Instructors and administrators will see a UW Groups tab in the Canvas course navigation. This tool enables you to add a UW group to any role in a Canvas course. If you do not see UW Groups in your course navigation, add it to your navigation menu.

Mobile Device Options


You can access Canvas on your mobile device through any mobile browser. However, mobile browsers are not officially supported. We recommend using Canvas mobile applications for an improved user experience.


You can access Canvas on your mobile device through any mobile browser. However, mobile browsers are not officially supported. We recommend using Canvas mobile applications for an improved user experience.

Linking to E-Reserves in Canvas

Adding a course file to a Module

You may want to create a single Module to house all of your course related readings or electronic resources or you might just add these materials throughout numerous modules in your course. Whatever option you choose, follow these steps to add files to your Module area.

Create a Module in Canvas

Add a file to a Module in Canvas

Adding a course file to a page

Pages are where you can put content and educational resources that are part of your course but don’t necessarily belong in an assignment, or that you want to refer to in multiple assignments. This is a place where you can include text, video, and links to your files. An example of a page in Canvas is your Syllabus Page.

Create a New Page in Canvas

Add a file to a page in Canvas

Adding a URL (Link) to a Module

Once you have the URL's for the electronic resources you want your students to access, you can add them within a Module in Canvas for easy viewing.

How do I link to external URL's in Modules

Adding a URL (Link) to a Page

Adding a hyperlink to a URL is easy to do in Canvas.

Edit your Canvas page

Create a hyperlink on the page