Canvas Quick Start

Whether you teach online or in-person, you can use the Canvas learning management system to share course materials, assess learning, and communicate with your students. This page will show you how to use templates and tools in Canvas to leverage design principles like modules and alignment for your course regardless of delivery method. By following these strategies, you’re on your way to creating a high-quality learning experience for your students.

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Organize your course content.

Students learn better when they can find and access material easily. It’s also helpful for students to see how content and activities are connected throughout the course. Before delving into your Canvas course site, use our course planning worksheet to lay out the course content. You can use this worksheet to check the alignment of course and module objectives with instructional materials, activities, and assessments. Alignment occurs when these key course elements work together to help students focus their learning and ensure they achieve stated outcomes.


Use a quality course template.

When designing a course in Canvas, an important first step is to use a course template. By importing the ODL quality course shell into your Canvas site, you’ll automatically build your course on selected standards based on the nationally recognized Quality Matters (QM) rubric for online courses. While the QM rubric outlines standards for online courses, instructors have found it a valuable resource in organizing face-to-face courses.

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Use syllabus & module overview templates.

The course shell provides templates for home and start here pages, syllabus, and module overview, as well as pages for discussions, assignments, and quizzes. The syllabus template is customizable, accessible, and responsive and includes university policy blocks that can be updated automatically when the page is edited. Use the module overview template to give students a clear understanding of module content, including objectives, materials, assignments, activities, and multimedia. From here, you can use the DesignPLUS Multi-Tool to populate your Canvas course site quickly and easily.


Communicate with your students.

Canvas offers options like integrated email, announcements, and discussion boards to help you facilitate communication with your students. You can use announcements to give your class updates on course content and feedback on how students are doing. For more specific feedback, use SpeedGrader to provide personalized written, audio, or video comments.

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Assess student performance.

Canvas offers assessment tools to measure student performance and learning, including quizzes, group projects, discussion boards, and the plagiarism detection tool Turnitin. The FSU Testing Center is proctoring course exams with priority scheduling given to distance learning courses as well as to high-enrollment and/or high-risk face-to-face courses. As an online alternative to in-person proctored exams, consider open-book tests, discussion forums, student portfolios, or multimedia presentations.


Keep universal design in mind.

Using tools in Canvas, you can ensure your course content is student-friendly regardless of ability or learning preferences. Begin by using the Ally accessibility tool, which scans course materials for accessibility issues and offers feedback on how to fix them. Ally also converts files into alternative formats, which helps meet a principle of universal design by providing multiple ways for students to engage with the content. Instructors wanting to create video content can use the Kaltura media platform, which provides automatic video captioning that can be easily edited.

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Teaching online?

If you’re developing or teaching an online course, explore the FSU Online Quality Initiative to learn about the process to achieve high-quality certification for your courses. To review resources for developing your course, designing assessments, creating online activities, ensuring accessibility of course materials, and engaging students in the online environment, visit our Quality Course Design page.

Below you’ll find Canvas technology, training, and design resources.

FSU Canvas Support Center

Search our extensive knowledge base for answers to all your Canvas questions.

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Canvas Development Site

Request a development site to begin building your course.

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Canvas Video Guides

Access Canvas video tutorials for instructors, students, and administrators.

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Consultations & Workshops

Register for consultations or virtual workshops on course design or academic technologies.

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Online Quality Design Course

Learn helpful strategies for developing quality online instruction using Canvas.

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FSU Online Quality Initiative

Learn how to apply for FSU high-quality certification for your online course.

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