Canvas Site Design Help

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Before you start

To learn about designing and setting up a Canvas course site visit our HWS Canvas 101 site which will walk you through the process with step by step directions and videos.



We recommend you use announcements instead of email to communicate changes in course information and send important reminders. Students are able to view these announcements in Canvas, and depending on notification settings, may get emails and push updates to mobile devices as well. Be sure the set expectations with students that they monitor for Canvas announcements on a set cadence. Directions on how to send students an announcement can be found in the Canvas Community.


We recommend prompting students to reply to a certain number of their peers. It is also recommended that the Faculty member engage in the discussion but not necessarily respond to every student. Directions on how to create a discussion can be found in the Canvas Community.

Modules / Content Organization

We recommend that you utilize modules to help organize lessons, units, links to Zoom meetings and other important sites that students will need access to. Modules can be created ahead of time and left unpublished to control when students have access to materials contained within.

File Storage

Using the file storage in Canvas allows you to attach a number of different types of files for student access, including readings and syllabi. These can be organized in folders and subfolders for ease. For larger files (2 gigabytes or more), you will need to use an external storage system, such as Box. Documentation for this service can be found on our Knowledge Base under the Box category.


Populate the global calendar with critical course events or project due dates. Assignments are automatically added for students, however other important course events, Zoom meetings, office hours, and the like can be added to the calendar to assist students with scheduling and meeting deadlines. Directions for adding events and important dates to the calendar can be found in the Canvas Community.

Scheduler Tool

Canvas has a tool that allows you to create sign-up slots. We recommend using this tool to coordinate office hours with students. Directions for adding sign-ups can be found in the Canvas Community.


The chat tool is a good way to connect with the class or individual students in real time. We recommend using chat as an option for office hours, especially in cases where technology or Internet are a concern.

Embedding videos, screencaptures, lectures, etc.

We recommend that you embed your course materials into their own pages, organized within modules. Best practices for adding videos from common HWS services can be found here.

More Help

For questions or help setting up or designing your Canvas site, contact the IT Services Digital Learning Team.

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Article ID: 63388
Wed 10/3/18 10:20 AM
Tue 10/19/21 10:45 AM

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