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Renee Conrad here. I am completing an assignment called Course Evaluation Checklist and need feedback. I have found the Checklist a valuable tool in assessing my course called Introdution to Art Therapy. I am unsure how to proceed from here. If you have completed this assignment for the course called  Canvas Design Summer Institute can you share with me how to do that?  Thanks, Renee 

There are many important pieces to consider when migrating to a new LMS or adopting an institution-wide LMS for the first time.  An important step in the process is determining how to introduce the platform to students and what resources they will need to learn how to use the platform. 


Our popular “Be the Hero” and “Growing with Canvas” courses were created as a free resource to help train new admins and instructors. Since their release, we’ve had an increasing interest in a similar resource for students. The Training team is excited to now introduce you to our newest course, Passport to Canvas, which focuses on the student perspective. 


About the Course: 

Passport to Canvas consists of nine modules of content that takes your students through everything they need to know about using Canvas as a student. Participants are taken on a tour around the globe stopping at each of our Instructure offices to learn another facet of the Canvas platform and some fun facts about each of our Instructure offices. This course has been designed for middle school through higher education students. 


Where You Can Find This Course:

You can find this course in the Canvas Commons at this link: Passport to Canvas (pro tip - make sure you're logged in to Canvas!) it is offered under an Attribution-Non-Commerical-ShareAlike license. That means you’re free to share the course, as well as to adapt it to meet the needs of your institution.


If you’ve never used a resource in the Canvas Commons before, all you need is an empty course in your Canvas instance in which to copy the Passport to Canvas course. Once Passport to Canvas is in your instance, you’re free to edit and use the course as you wish. Check out this guide - How do I use Commons? - if you need more help.


It is also available in the Canvas Network. More information about this is in the student section below. 


If you are a Canvas Admin: 

This course will give your students a nice intro to the platform. Check out the Information Module for content that is geared towards helping you get the course set up for your institution. It can also be a great way for you to learn more about the student experience side of Canvas. 


The course is configured to work with Badgr and award badges for completion of each module. Instructions are in the course for setting up the integration, using the images, and awarding the badges.


If you are a Canvas Teacher: 

This course is designed to help your students learn how to navigate the Canvas environment. This free resource will help them to learn more about the various elements of Canvas from the student perspective. This is also a great way for teachers to learn about the student experience in Canvas. If the course is not available to teachers through your institution, but you’d like to participate you can enroll in the course through the Canvas Network. 


If you are a Canvas Student: 

This course is for you to learn how to navigate the Canvas platform. If your institution has not enrolled you in the course and you’d like to participate you can enroll in the course through the Canvas Network. Check out this guide to learn more about enrolling in a course through the Canvas Network


Resource Document: 

This resource document offers several quick links that will be helpful when learning more about Passport to Canvas. 


New Course Orientation: 

Check out the recording of our Canvas LIVE session held on October 23rd, 2019 to introduce the course. 



We will post all updates to the course below, as they are made. Subscribe to this post to stay up to date!


Update Date: October 24th, 2019
Course ItemMore Detail ReasonAction Needed
3.3 | Viewing your Course StreamGif was not looping properly.The video was saved incorrectly.Download the course, then download the video and add it to your live course with participants OR download the updates to the course from Commons. 
3.3 | Viewing your Course StreamA comma was missing after the word stream. Punctuation was not included. Add a comma after the word stream: To see the Course Activity stream, click the View Course Activity Stream button.
8.1 | Peer Interactions | ItineraryChange the word "a" to read "are".Word was spelled incorrectly. In the bulleted list change the text to read: View Groups that you are a member of
9.8 | Replying to a DiscussionRemove the additional space between About and Discussion. Extra space was added between two words. 

Remove the extra space in the page title: About Discussion in the Student App



Update Date: April 16th, 2020 
Course ItemMore Detail ReasonAction Needed
2.8 |    Obtaining a Pairing CodePairing codes can be generated from the Student App. In a recent update to the Student App, Students are now able to generate Pairing Codes from their mobile devices. Update the wording to refelct this update in functionality. 
4.4 |    Text Entry with New Rich Content EditorNew RCE version of Text Entry Assignment option. If students are enrolled in courses with New RCE enabled this option shows them what they are experiencing. Choose if you want to enable the New RCE version for students in addition to the classic RCE or in place of the classic RCE version. 
6.4 |    Replying to a Discussion with New Rich Content EditorNew RCE version of  Replying to a Discussion. If students are enrolled in courses with New RCE enabled this option shows them what they are experiencing when replying to a discussion. Choose if you want to enable the New RCE version of Replying to a Discussion for students in addition to the classic RCE or in place of the classic RCE version. 
6.5 |    Adding an Image with New Rich Content EditorNew RCE version of  Adding an Image. If students are enrolled in courses with New RCE enabled this option shows them what they are experiencing when adding an image.Choose if you want to enable the New RCE version of Adding an Image for students in addition to the classic RCE or in place of the classic RCE version. 
6.6 |    Attaching a File with New Rich Content EditorNew RCE version of Attaching a File. If students are enrolled in courses with New RCE enabled this option shows them what they are experiencing when attaching a file.  

Choose if you want to enable the New RCE version of Attaching a File for students in addition to the classic RCE or in place of the classic RCE version. 

Please comment below with how your institution is planning to implement this course. We’d love to hear from you!

Canvas Course Evaluation Checklist v2.0 is Here!

A few months ago, it came to my attention that the original Canvas Course Evaluation Checklist had been reviewed in the International Review of Research in Open & Distributed Learning journal. I was thrilled to discover the checklist had received that type of attention. Additionally, it opened the door to an excellent opportunity to collaborate with one of the authors, Sally Baldwin, implement her suggestions, and make some overall improvements. 


The purpose of the Canvas Course Evaluation Checklist is to support the majority of Canvas course creators as they strive to elevate the quality of their Canvas courses. What are the strengths of the checklist? Just like Canvas, the checklist is designed to support a variety of course creators (instructional designers, K12 teachers, higher ed faculty, etc.) in diverse settings (brick and mortar, hybrid, fully online, etc.) as they create Canvas courses for learners of all ages. As we say, “Our mission is to enable the learning and development experience — from the first day of school to the last day of work.” The checklist doesn’t require any formal training to use and is helpful whether you’re starting a course from scratch or evaluating a more mature course. It’s short four pages! In no way is this tool meant to compete with or replace proprietary evaluations. Rather, this free tool serves as a great starting point for institutions to make a copy and customize it to meet their individualized needs. That’s why we put it in the Canvas Community — to encourage conversation amongst Canvas users and create a space for ongoing dialogue. 


Potential Uses

  • Share this checklist with your colleagues
  • Apply the principles to your own course
  • Elevate the quality of your institution’s courses



checklist preview



The checklist is available via Google Docs (shared as an easy-to-copy preview) so you can customize for your institution. Please select the following link for access: Canvas Course Evaluation Checklist v2.0.


Note: We ask that you comply with the Creative Commons licensing located at the bottom of the document. 


I’m grateful to work for a company that consistently looks for ways to make the world a better place, to be part of the Learning Services Department, to be led by an amazing leadership team at Instructure, ( Melissa Loble (Instructure), Carolyn Passey, Shauna Vorkink and Michelle Lattke) and to collaborate with insightful, intelligent and inspirational colleagues ( Lily Philips, Erin Keefe and Tom Gibbons). 



Wishing everyone a happy holiday season. Enjoy this gift from the Learning Services Department. 


P.S. Look for a blog post next quarter that will share hands-on, researched-based principles that will elevate your courses to a whole new level. 


Please comment below. We'd love to hear from you!


Some other useful checklist in the community:

Recently I've had the pleasure of working with the good folks at addalingua in their journey to use Canvas to help fulfill their mission: inspire global empathy through education in two languages. As I was showing them some Canvas Rubrics I'd built for their partner teachers to use to evaluate students, they stopped me. "We need to change that," they said. The thing that needed changing? The thing I didn't ever notice in all of my time working in Canvas with the countless number of institutions and teachers in my role at Instructure? The colors. 


You see, what I had been overlooking, because I was focused on the functionality and ease of use, was that when you assess a student on rubric, a color bar with an arrow appears, like so:

Canvas standard rubric

The very highest rating is green, and the lowest is red. The rest of the colors between green and red are varying shades of orange-yellow, depending on how many ratings you have. So even a 3, which, on addalingua's proficiency scale is mastery/proficient, appears as less than green, veering toward red. And red, we all know, whether we like it or not, isn't a friendly grading color. 


I was taught in college not to use red to grade my students. So I used purple. But I didn't ever read any research about it, until recently. I found an article - "The pen is mightier than the word: Object priming of evaluative standards"  - written by Abraham M. Rutchick, Michael L. Slepian, and Bennett D. Ferris and published in 2010 in the European Journal of Psychology. This article states the anti-red reason in a nutshell, for me:

"Because red pens are closely associated with error-marking and poor performance, the use of red pens when correcting student work can activate these concepts.” red. Now, back to the comment, "We need to change that." My initial response was...we can't. There's nowhere to customize the rubric colors within Canvas - that's just what it does. My second response was...well, let me see about that. I had an idea that might just work. Turns out, it did. I want to share that with you.


Canvas Admins can customize their Learning Mastery Rating Scale colors and definitions. This I knew. What I wondered, though, was if you used the Outcomes that were tied to Learning Mastery and pulled them on to a Rubric, would those Rubric colors be the Learning Mastery Colors? The answer is a big, happy, YES.


So what I did for addalingua is build all of their Rubrics strictly using Outcomes. This takes some time, but it has a lot of benefits, including being able to run amazing reports about mastery, and allowing teachers to see student mastery at a glance through the Learning Mastery Gradebook. What does this look like for them? 


Their Learning Mastery ratings and colors were customized this way...

learning mastery colors

...and that carries over to all of their Rubrics...

addalingua rubric


I'd love to hear if you tried this, if you want to try this in the future, or any thoughts that you have about this idea! 


-Erin Keefe

Principal Consultant, Instructure

Kyle Cole

Canvas Outside the Classroom

Posted by Kyle Cole Employee Dec 18, 2019

As part of a leadership cohort, we were tasked with creating a new vision statement and value statement. The entire institution gathered in the gymnasium for three sessions in two-hour increments throughout the summer. My leadership cohort used that time to create and vote on the creation of both statements. We quickly identified that this was not enough time to complete the task. I then suggested we create a specific Canvas course for this endeavor, enroll all employees into the course, form groups within the Canvas course, and create two assignments asking the groups to submit their proposed statements. 


We designed the course to also host any materials that were used in the face-to-face sessions. Any employee who could not attend would still have access to every document or recorded activity, allowing them to stay in the loop with their group. The course also allowed us to collect data on participation and acknowledge those groups who were participating on a higher level. The two assignments were created not only for the groups to submit but to help eliminate the use of paper and to keep the submissions organized. 


Using the groups feature in Canvas, I had the groups formed randomly, allowing cross-department collaboration. This collaboration was vital because we very rarely had the opportunity to work with our colleagues in other departments. Thanks to the robustness of the groups feature in Canvas, this also gave each group a place to collaborate and share documents, meet virtually through BigBlueButton, have discussions, and submit their group’s vision and value statements. 


The plan to utilize Canvas worked perfectly because it allowed us to use those three two-hour sessions more efficiently to discuss the purpose of a vision and value statement, vote on the best statements, and have the institution engage with the administration in the process. What are some of the ways you have used Canvas outside of the classroom?


Want support getting your team to embrace all the Canvas awesomeness? Feel free to reach out to Michelle Lattke via email (, Senior Manager, Learning and Strategies, for help and options to drive adoption within your organization.

In my work as an Adoption Consultant for Canvas, I often collaborate with stakeholders, designing solutions to help meet their needs. A recent situation came up as it relates to tracking completion of professional development courses. Most traditional professional development opportunities require full completion of content to be awarded appropriate credit. This is largely true in online PD courses as well; you must pass the whole course to earn the credits. I was recently working with a content provider who was tasked with creating professional development courses which will be used to earn continuing education credits issued by the Wyoming Professional Teaching Standards Board (PTSB). The challenge in the course design was that these courses will be running autonomously without a facilitator regularly checking in on user progress. In addition, full completion of these courses would result in earning multiple PTSB credits from Wyoming. However, the PTSB will award partial credits for partial completion of the course.  Below is the solution that I helped engineer so that autonomous courses could be easily checked at the end of their terms to award the appropriate amount of earned credits for each user, including those who didn’t fully complete the course.


The solution I proposed to the content provider revolved around two Canvas components: Modules and Quizzes. Before we begin creating Modules, it should be noted that this solution requires the course be graded using a points-based system that is not weighted by grading category. Once we start creating the content, Modules are used to chunk the content into pieces allowing the participants to complete as few as 15 minutes of content in one sitting. Requirements were used in the Modules such that content was to be completed in a specified order, with the final element in the content chunk being a Quiz (or New Quiz). Multiple Quizzes could be used in a given Module.


Using Quizzes was the most important piece of this solution, specifically using questions which will autograde, so the course would be left to run without frequent intervention. The point value of the Quiz at the end of the content chunk was set equal to the number of minutes the designers anticipated the users should have spent on that content chunk. For example, if the designers determined the users should spend 45 minutes on a Module related to autism and education, the Quiz (or Quizzes) at the end of the Autism Module should be worth a total of 45 points. The questions in the Quizzes could be related to the content in the preceding pages, videos, etc., or simply be one true/false question where the user certifies that they have completed all the content in the Module. At the end of the course, the number of points earned should be equal to the number of minutes spent in the course. The Gradebook can then be exported as a CSV by selecting on Actions in your Gradebook, followed by Export. This will automatically create the CSV file and download it to your computer.

Image showing how to export the Canvas Gradebook to a CSV.



A Google Sheet has been created to help illustrate the following scenario (click here for a copy). (NOTE: The students in this example are fake students from my personal Canvas FERPA violations have occurred!) A course was designed to be worth two credits, which is equal to 28 hours (1,680 minutes) of content. In Wyoming’s case, the PTSB awards a half credit for every 7 hours of completed PD. The “Final Points” column from the CSV download of the Gradebook contains the points earned (minutes spent) in the course. The content to the right of that column was added to show how credits can be calculated using the “TRUNC” function (same function name and syntax in Excel). In this example, many users completed the course (1,680 points), and would earn the full two credits. Even those who didn’t complete the entire course would still earn a half credit for each 7 hours (420 minutes) completed! 


I’d love to hear what methods have you found to help track completion of Canvas courses. professional development or otherwise! Feel free to reply with your engineered solutions and/or any other comments in the space below. In the words of the ever wise Red Green:


Red Green Meme: "Remember I'm pulling for you, we're all in this together!"


--David Stokowski

Canvas Adoption Consultant

Mark Sluzky

Starting with the WHY

Posted by Mark Sluzky Employee Dec 17, 2019

Educators often struggle finding sufficient time to build fluency with new educational tools. It has become a given that teachers will be overwhelmed by responsibilities and obligations that go above and beyond the available time to accomplish their tasks. As a result, it is difficult to dedicate the necessary time to learn a new skill or tool. It often has little to do with a teacher’s resistance to change; there simply is insufficient time available to allocate to the endeavor. With this truth in mind, it is vital to showcase the benefits of a new tool so as to build teacher buy-in. For Canvas adoption to be successful, it is critical to show teachers why the tool is worth the time to learn. Teachers can be shown that the tool is worth the investment of their most precious resource, time, by showcasing how Canvas creates transparency, efficiency, and improves communication.  

Canvas connecting Transparency, Efficiency, and Communication


Transparency is a key element in connecting the home, student, and the school. A disconnect can cause friction and lead to a breakdown in student achievement. A lack of understanding about what is taking place in a classroom can cause confusion and frustration by stakeholders. Canvas can serve as a critical tool in developing transparency for parents, students, and teachers. Students have the ability to connect with the curriculum even if they were not in the classroom; or if they were present but not actively engaged and learning the content. Parents get a window into the classroom and can develop a deeper understanding of both the curriculum and teacher expectations. Often times parents become frustrated because they don’t know what is taking place in each child’s classroom. Canvas provides observer accounts that give guardians access to a Canvas course. Creating curriculum in Canvas allows for the teacher to share resources, expectations, and feedback with both parents and students. This added transparency will hopefully lead to more support at home, increased understanding of what is expected in the course, and provides the opportunity for a collaborative learning environment by all stakeholders. 


Educators never have enough time on their hands. A tremendous selling point for Canvas is to showcase how it can save teachers time. Making copies, handing out and collecting assignments, manually grading work and entering scores into a grade book are all tasks that require a significant time investment for teachers. Can we imagine a world where a teacher does not waste valuable time walking around the classroom asking students whose worksheet was turned in without a name on it?  Answering questions such as: “What did I miss yesterday?” or “Can I have another copy of the worksheet” are questions that can be eliminated with Canvas LMS adoption. Speedgrader provides rapid and robust feedback to students and parents. Quiz activities create a mechanism where work is automatically graded, feedback given, and scores are added into the gradebook. Discussions provide a forum for students to communicate and collaborate outside set class times, allowing for added learning and mastery of the curriculum.   


Clear and consistent communication is a key element to student success. Teachers have often struggled reaching out to parents and building bridges of communication between the home and the school. When these lines of communication break down, student achievement falters, frustrations mount, and tensions rise. Canvas’ notifications provide a mechanism for Canvas to communicate with both students and linked observers (parents and guardians). Notifications can be set to allow Canvas to communicate by email or SMS text messages. Stakeholders can receive push notifications about a wide variety of actions in Canvas, keeping them in the loop. The grades tab in Canvas also has a dynamic messaging tool. Message Student Who … is located as an option when hovering over an activity in the Canvas Grades tab. Instructors can create mass emails (bcc’d) for students who have not turned in the assignment, who scored less than a given amount on the assignment, or scored more than a given amount on an assignment. This allows teachers to quickly reach out to non- participants, those that underperformed and didn’t demonstrate mastery, and those that excelled on the activity. Swarms of emails can be sent out rapidly without having to look up individual email addresses and contact methods. 

Options button for individual assignment in Canvas grade book

Message Students Who communication window.

Once teachers are shown how Canvas can support the learning environment many of the blockers to adoption begin to lift. Teachers are willing to learn and implement tools once they are shown its benefit to the learning environment. Taking the time to demonstrate the worth of a tool is critical to changing mindsets and driving adoption. It is critical to sell the WHY we are using Canvas. Skipping this step risks not building the teacher buy in required to implement a new initiative and have a successful roll out. Once teachers understand the why, many will be willing to invest the time and mental bandwidth required to learn the what, how, and where of the Canvas LMS.  


What are some strategies that you have found successful for promoting the adoption of Canvas? Canvas Rollout, Training, and Adoption Strategies Collaboration is a great resource of crowdsourced ideas for boosting buy-in. Trouble getting your team to embrace all the awesome that is the Canvas LMS? Feel free to reach out MIchelle Lattke, leader of Learning and Strategic Consulting, for help and options to drive adoption within your organization.

Using technology in the classroom with our littlest learners can be a daunting task for teachers. Thinking of teaching our little ones basic skills like letters and numbers is hard enough, so to incorporate technology skills can be a scary thought! It doesn’t have to be though.

Digital Natives

These little learners are digital natives and are now growing up with a variety of devices and a basic knowledge of how to use them. Sometimes they even teach us a few things. Many young students go home and go straight to their smart devices. They seem to instinctively know how to use these and are easily engaged. Why should we take away that engagement when they come to school? Studies, such as Project CHILD (Computers Helping Instruction and Learning Development), proves that our youngest students are more engaged when technology is incorporated into lessons. The growth of technology is inevitable, so as educators we have the opportunity to enhance our students' learning experience by embracing technology and taking the time to teach them safe technology skills.

Canvas in Preschool

This is where Canvas comes in. Canvas with our Preschoolers?! Absolutely! Just like from K-12 to HigherEd, Canvas looks different across all institutions and grade levels; this is the same when it comes to Pre-K. While some of the more advanced features may be a better fit for older students, it can be an excellent tool in Pre-K for communicating with parents and housing resources that are used every day in the classroom.


In Pre-K, students are learning the basics: the alphabet, numbers, letter sounds, etc. A lot of these skills can be practiced through games and activities that can be embedded, linked, or added through an external tool within Canvas. These external resources are engaging for students! For example:


  • Websites like Starfall can be added right into the course’s navigation using the simple Redirect Tool
  • External tools like FunBrain and Nearpod can be easily added to course content for young learners. 
  • Activities can be created by educators on external programs, just like in SMART Learning Suite can be linked in Canvas.


Here is a resource with some ideas on Best Practices in Canvas with Pre-K students.


I was able to work with a Pre-K teacher recently who created amazing learning games for her students in the SMART Learning Suite. Her challenge after she created these games was getting the links to her students without having to have them type in a long and complex URL. I was able to show her how to add all of the games she created as external tool links in her new “Games ”  module. She also LOVED the fact she could add emojis (check out Emojipedia) to titles! Emojis are great for those little ones who are still learning how to read. 


Games Module


After showing her the steps to add the links into her course, she told me it was a game-changer! The students and parents are easily able to access these activities.

Why use Canvas in Preschool

But why Canvas? If they are able to get to these engaging academic games on the internet - why even bother with Canvas? Great questions and they are questions I get a lot when I am giving workshops with these lower grade-levels. These are the reasons I typically give to teachers:

  1. It is a one-stop-shop: Students don’t need to be wandering around the vast internet searching for the resources we want them to access.
  2. It is a safe place for students: To go along with the first reason, students can access all resources from the teacher without accidentally getting to an inappropriate site or search.
  3. Teaching 21st century skills: These students are digital-natives; Canvas can help teach them the skills they need to be able to be successful academically in the 21st century.
  4. Parents have resources for their students at home: As a former teacher, it was so easy to keep all these awesome resources in one place so the parents can have their little ones play these fun learning games and activities at home without having to search and research all of the games and apps out there. As well as a great place to communicate with parents and guardians.
  5. It is a place that teachers can build and keep building for years to come: Teachers will not have to reinvent the wheel each year they have a new group of little ones. They can continue to build on the courses they have made in previous years.


I would love to hear from anyone out there who has experience with Canvas and Pre-K or any of the primary grade levels. What are your favorite ways to use Canvas with your students? What are your favorite apps to add in Canvas? Can’t wait to hear from you!


Attached you will find a resource that will help you with additional ideas and best practices to using Canvas with our littlest learners.



Sarah M. Butzin (2001) Using Instructional Technology in Transformed Learning Environments, Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 33:4, 367-373, DOI: 10.1080/08886504.2001.10782321


If you would like to explore more about using Canvas to connect with our youngest learners, check out this blog by Melody Williams, Yes They Can.

For the past two years, I have had the opportunity to promote Canvas adoption in elementary schools across a large school district. While many schools were excited to learn more about Canvas and create a roadmap for implementation, others seemed more hesitant. It can be intimidating rolling out new technology, and often schools are faced with barriers including a lack of time or resources that can lead to resistance. As a solution to this obstacle, three of the schools I support decided to try something not so new during the 2018-19 school year, using pilot teams, to build capacity in Canvas.  


Pilot teams are an awesome way to build an army of Canvas early adopters who become the go-to digital teacher leaders on campus! These digital leaders can then help drive future school-wide technology adoption. While helping facilitate pilot teams was not part of my initial consultant offerings, it came to be out of growing demand from the schools I was supporting.


Pilot Team Members


At each of my three elementary schools who chose to introduce Canvas with Pilot Teams, the composition of the teams varied. Pilot team members were either nominated by school leadership or self-selected to participate. One school chose to have one teacher representative from each grade level PLC including special areas, another selected a single grade level to participate joined by an instructional coach, and the final team was composed of an instructional coach in addition to pairs of teachers from the intermediate grade levels at the school.

Pilot Team Models

Pilot Team Model


At each of the three Canvas pilot team schools, the framework for Canvas adoption appeared very similar. I would meet with school leadership to develop the team’s Canvas goals and schedule a series of visits to work with the team on topics relating to the selected goals.  Sometimes I would meet with the entire team at once, or other times team members would be grouped to meet with me throughout the day to minimize the need for substitute coverage in the classroom. During the sessions, we would focus on the selected topics to develop and enhance Canvas courses including Developing a Homepage, Building Robust Modules, Assignments & Speedgrader, Using External Tools, and Quizzes 2.0. Pilot team members would use their course with students, reflect and refine the activities, then demonstrate how they were using Canvas with their PLC team and other teachers at their school. During subsequent sessions, the team would continue to develop their course while being introduced to other Canvas topics.



Moving Forward


Several members from the 2018-19 Canvas pilot teams at the three schools have now become digital teacher leaders during the 2019-20 school year, helping roll-out Canvas as the official LMS at their school sites. These schools find it helpful to have teachers who are comfortable with the technology supporting their colleagues by helping lead professional development and being available to answer questions from their colleagues who are just getting started with Canvas. Recently, I was so excited to be contacted by one of my pilot team members who was preparing resources for supporting her grade level team with Canvas. This year, her school will go from having 7 teachers using Canvas to over 60!


While technology adoption looks different at every institution, I would love to hear back from you!  Have your schools used pilot teams to develop capacity in digital teacher leaders? How does this model look in your school?

Calling all school level administrators and leadership teams!

Have you ever had a bajillion resources you needed to hand out to your faculty but hate the idea of making all those copies?? Not to mention killing a bunch of trees?! Well, here it is folks… a little something called a Principal Corner course.


What is a Principal Corner?

Principal Corner Course CardSome K12 districts have a course where the administration team is enrolled as “teachers” in the course (to add and edit the content in the course) and faculty and staff members are enrolled as “students” (so they can access and interact with all the published information). At my school district, we’ve coined the term “Principal Corner” for these type of courses.


If you don’t have one of these courses at your school yet , don’t worry! All you have to do it create a new course and enroll or add all of your faculty in as “students.” 


What is the point of the Principal Corner?

Why have all your faculty and staff enrolled in a Principal Corner course? Administrators are leading by example and jumping right into the deep end of the 21st-century digital learning pool. Think of all of those copies you have to make of resources and that humongous binder you have to prepare and organize at the beginning of the school year. You spend all that manual labor working on such a grueling task and you hand them out to all your teachers during pre-planning. Sure, it’s useful information that everyone needs to know and important resources they will need as teachers, but let’s be serious, who knows if they will ever even reference that binder ever again. 


Why not make it digital?

It will be easy to access, visually appealing, and something that your teachers want to reference the entire year. Utilizing the Principal Corner course as a “One-Stop-Shop” school resource hub could be a life saver! As a Canvas Adoption Consultant, I have the pleasure of working with numerous K12 schools and have realized there are so many different ways you can organize your Principal Corner course. 

  • Use modules to organize important school resources such as bell schedules, faculty phonebook and locator, school maps, safety information, faculty handbook, important links… you name it!
  • Upload professional development slide decks and even create a quiz with one question as documentation of their acknowledgment or attendance purposes.
  • Post announcements to communicate out daily school news, important announcements, reminders, and updates to faculty and staff.
  • Add school events, field trips, deadlines for submitting grades, and faculty meetings on the course calendar.
  • Create assignments in order for teachers to digitally submit their lesson plans. They’ll all be in one convenient location and you can easily view who has (or has not) submitted their lesson plans (with a timestamp). You can even create a template with Google Docs and have them submit a Google Docs Cloud Assignment, automating the process for everyone to have an individualized copy!
  • Have faculty participate in a discussion as a place to ask colleagues for any questions they may have, or to share out helpful information. Discussions could also be a great place for teachers to collaborate with their PLC groups.
  • The possibilities are endless!


Take a look at this for some inspiration:


Screenshot of Principal Corner Buttons


Who doesn’t love benefits?

Creating something like this can also help with buy-in. Introducing Canvas this way allows teachers to dive right in and start using Canvas, as well as model all of the different ways Canvas can be used. I personally have witnessed increased usage of Canvas by teachers enrolled in Principal Corner courses. It also gives teachers the opportunity to view Canvas on the student side of things. This way, when students need clarification on how to do something in Canvas, teachers will already have some background information to assist them! Who knows, maybe they’ll even gain some troubleshooting knowledge in the process. 


I imagine you’re thinking, “How would I even tackle something like this?!”

Easy Peasy Squeezy - Start with a plan!

  • What exactly would you like to include in your PC course?
  • How can you organize those resources into sections or categories?
  • Start with a homepage
    • A homepage should provide a visual representation of your course
    • Create a banner or use Header 2, 3, or 4 for a title at the top
    • Include a brief description, introduction, or even a Principal welcome message
    • Create buttons for your different categories (Don’t forget to link those buttons to the appropriate module, page, or resource!)
  • Create your modules and pages
  • Begin placing all of your resources within those modules or pages


Don’t have time to do all the fancy schmancy “design” work?? Not a problem. In the spirit of generosity, I’ve added a Principal Corner Template for K12 Schools to Commons for you to use! For free. You’re welcome.


Principal Corner Template Screenshot


Got some feedback? 

What other information would you consider incorporating into a Principal Corner course??

Does your institution or school have something similar? If so, how is it currently being used? What improvements do you think could be made after reading this post?

In my role as an onsite and dedicated Instructure Principal Consultant in Broward County, Florida, I am fortunate enough to collaborate on many creative Canvas engagement strategies and projects developed by the district. While the need for creative engagement strategies is not necessarily a new topic, it is often revisited year after year after year. To help facilitate engagement conversations, the Canvas Community provides many articles that are definitely worth a close read. Have you read the following articles? The Canvas Rollout, Training, and Adoption is a collaborative community page with tons of suggestions for all things Canvas. VCSS ran a creative contest during their transition to Canvas that others might want to replicate. A Spoonful of Sugar Helps Canvas Go Down examines district transition planning strategies. Shared Practices: Canvas Rollout Strategies is an ongoing discussion about rollout, adoption, and engagement. And Horse before the Cart is a reflection on the need to figure out the why and purpose first!


My favorite engagement projects are those that help to solve challenges in unique ways. A recent challenge that Canvas was able to help solve was overcoming the difficulty of sharing new information across a district. Does your school, district, institution, or organization struggle with this as well? In Broward County, I collaborated with district specialists who had spent the past couple of years creating, curating and publishing instructional materials. The district needed a way to share these resources and teachers needed to know that these new resources were available. Resources such as:

  • fully developed courses by quarter and semester.
  • TCC & QTI cartridges of resources from textbook providers.
  • integrations with numerous external tools.
  • published courses, modules, and assessments in the Canvas Commons.
  • custom designed account roles for school admins and support personnel.
  • multiple paths for learning more about Canvas and just-in-time training in the Canvas Catalog.


Over and over they would hear, ‘No one knows that these resources are available.” Sound familiar? The leadership team began discussing how Canvas might be able to help and how happy teachers would be if they only knew these resources existed. We joked that “Digital Resources Are Easy As…1, 2, 3!” And boom! My favorite engagement idea was born. We uttered aloud, I wonder if we could use course #123 to as communication gimmick to provide teachers information about all of the incredible digital and instructional materials now available? As it turned out, it was course number not being used and has quickly become one of the most popular courses in the district. Overheard in many conversations is the question, “Is that information in the #123 course?”


This course is organized into 5 sections: Canvas Help, Digital Resources & LTI Tools, and Instructional Materials broken down into K-5 Instructional Materials, 6-8 Instructional Materials, and 9-12 Instructional Materials. 

  • The Canvas help pages discuss syncing grades, link to checklists for starting or ending the school year, detail how to use custom roles, describe where to learn more about Canvas, and much more. 
  • The Digital resources pages share step-by-step guides for each of the products integrated into Canvas, as well as, where to get additional support on each of the products.
  • The Instructional Materials pages detail by grade level band how teachers can find fully developed courses, including the student resources or assessments that go along with their textbooks.

General Patton stated one should “Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.” And so it is! In Broward County, they are basking not only in the hot Florida sun but also in the exhilaration of this victory!


As I reflect on this success, I hope other community members will join into the conversation sharing their successes and answering the question, “What challenges has Canvas helped your school, district, institution or organization overcome?”

As a Canvas Adoption Consultant, I have had the pleasure of working with Career and Technical Education (CTE) instructors over the past few months. These instructors teach a wide range of courses from HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) to digital media, cosmetology, and culinary. These instructors were just beginning to use Canvas and administrators had set one requirement -- use the Canvas grade book. While some instructors just wanted to learn how to use Grade Book, others wanted to improve students' learning experiences by utilizing more features. 


After discussing the differences between K12 and CTE, I quickly realized we were going to have to think outside the box to find unique ways to use Canvas that support their specific curriculum. 




Rolling Enrollment


All of their CTE courses have rolling enrollments. In many of the programs, new students can begin at any time and instructors are expected to support existing and incoming students. Each course is completed after a specific number of hours, not necessarily at the end of a semester/term. Some students coursework may extend into the next term.


Assignments - Many Do Not Count Towards Grade


Students complete traditional assignments throughout their courses to help them learn the content and earn grades. However, they must complete a required set of competencies as well (but these do not count in their grades). For example, in a cosmetology course, students would have to complete twenty shampoos and fifteen conditioners. They do not earn grades for doing these tasks but must have each checked off to indicate completion.




Over the past six months, I have worked through these dilemmas with the CTE faculty to decide how to structure their courses to flow smoothly. The two dilemmas above were our biggest challenges. However, with some creative strategizing, we were able to invent workable solutions. 


Rolling Enrollment


Our initial attempts didn't actually fix our dilemma. We tried to utilize modules with requirements. However, we realized this was not a valid solution since students do not necessarily complete a course at the end of a term. Why? The courses are set up by the district to conclude at the end of the semester. However, if students do not finish a course the previous semester, they are enrolled in a new course the following semester that represents the same course they previously were in. In the new course, the module requirements would dictate that students must restart the content in each module since it is a new course shell. This made us go back to the drawing board.


What worked? We came up with two strategies that fixed our rolling enrollment dilemma. First, we incorporated differentiated due dates. In their courses, instructors would be able to set unique due dates on assignments, as needed, to ensure that students are following the program and progressing through the assignments in order. As students enroll in the course throughout the semester, they could use the "Add" button on the "Assign To" box.


The second component? Utilize the export and import function of the grade book. This ensures students' grades are up to date in the current grade book to show the current level of mastery.


Assignments - Many Do Not Count Towards Grade


As I worked with instructors to enter competencies as assignments, instructors gave feedback that there were too many assignments to manage -- twenty assignments for the required twenty shampoos to mark as complete. Due to this feedback, we decided to use rubrics. We created an assignment group that counted as 0% of the students’ grades to ensure the competencies would not affect their final grade and would allow for quick data collection. 


The entire cosmetology program has over 400 competencies for a student to complete. For each section of competencies, we created a rubric and added criteria for the required tasks. We used the total number of tasks they were required to complete as the number of points. As the student completes each task, the instructor can leave a comment with the date and number of tasks completed that day. An example rubric is below.


One piece of information we found to be important was to explain to students this process since the grade would “count up” as they completed the competencies in the course.




If you are a Career and Technical Education educator using Canvas, what successes have you experienced? What challenges has your organization faced and what solutions were implemented? 


If you still have questions about using Canvas in a vocational setting, check out some of Candice Lim's blog posts:

Tracking Behavior


Keeping track of student behavior can be a challenging task for most teachers.  It needs to be done with fidelity and privacy. It should be recorded as it happens in order to be truly accurate.  It must be done daily, and continue on a consistent basis, regardless of any events which interrupt the regular course of events of the school day.  


As a Principal Adoption Consultant at Instructure, I have experienced several occasions where educators were looking for a way to keep track of behavior within Canvas, especially at the elementary level.  A solution that I devised for them is to create custom Outcomes in Canvas that you can simply swipe to track using the MagicMarker app on an *iPad.  


Magic Marker Logo




Imagine walking around your classroom with just an iPad in your hands, observing as students are interacting in their small groups.  Susie just demonstrated an understanding of a new math standard by using manipulatives? Just swipe up on that standard to give her credit for perservering.  Tommy just got out of his seat and ran to the pencil sharpener, tripping over Melandra on his way. Swipe down for not staying seated. Tory just voluntarily helped another student who didn’t understand how to make equivalent fractions with sets of colored blocks.  Swipe up and smile because you know his mom is going to be thrilled at this show of kindness!


Steps in Canvas

  1. Create a custom outcome group in your Canvas course.
    • Select the outcomes tab in course navigation.
    • Click the +Outcome button.
    • Click the +Group button.
    • Name your new group appropriately, like “Behavior.”
    • Optional: Add details.
    • Save
  2. Create custom behavior outcomes in your Canvas course.  Use this Guide: How do I create an Outcome for a Course?
    • Select the Outcomes tab in the course navigation.
    • Click the +Outcome button.
    • Input a name for this outcome.
    • Optional: Add a friendly name and details.
    • Edit Criterion ratings as necessary by clicking on the pencil icon for each.  
    • Choose a Calculation Method.  Calculation Method information is also found in the Guide: How do I create an Outcome for a Course?

Steps in MagicMarker

  1. Download the ios MagicMarker app from the App Store and install it on an iPad.
  2. Sign in as a teacher on the app.
  3. Choose your course, add students and outcomes.

screen shot from Magic Marker


    • Name your outcomes table “Behavior Outcomes.”
    • Create a table for each small group in your class. 

    4. Assess your students’ behaviors.

screen shot from Magic Marker
    5. Tap on a student to view analytics, or tap on the send icon to email yourself a report of outcome results. 
        You can also view your behavior outcomes within the Learning Mastery Gradebook.

    6. Share results with students and parents.



  • Note: The MagicMarker app does not work on iPhones.




You can view Community Guides to learn more about the MagicMarker app, which are linked below. 


For Community Guides about Outcomes, use these links below.


In my role as a Principal Consultant at Instructure, I work closely with our customers during their transition to Canvas. Using our Canvas Success Model, I help schools connect their vision for teaching and learning to Canvas, and use that vision to create effective plans for communicating, training, and engaging teachers and students. 


As I work with schools on their communication plans, one question is often asked, "Do you have any pre-made communication templates we can use or tweak?" With the help of our very talented marketing team (Shash Cates and Emily Tanner), now I can answer, “YES! We do! You can edit them too!”.


These Canvas communication printables include one-pagers, posters, flyers, student cards, and engaging stickers. Schools have the option of using our pre-made printables or edit the messaging to fit their unique situation and timing. 


To access both the higher education and k12 printables, please view the communication plan phase of the Canvas Success Model. In addition, you can also visit this Google Drive folder link. If you have questions, please reach out to your Customer Success Manager. 


Bobby Pedersen

Learn Bravely

Posted by Bobby Pedersen Champion Oct 9, 2019

On my way to work I go past several schools and notice the different School Visions emblazoned on flags and gateways. It seems that over the past decades the trend has been to display school visions, mission statements and values for all to see. Of course much time and wisdom has gone into creating these statements that help create a school culture. Some are catchy, some very deep, some way too long. But one has stood out for me lately and really made me ponder about the impact it has on me - just a passerby. 


‘Learn bravely’


So simple. Effective. Challenging. Encouraging. 


If I was a struggling student at that school I would find those words comforting as well as encouraging.

If I was a capable student I would find those words provoking enough to perhaps push myself a little harder. 

If I was a teacher at that school I would feel supported enough to try new things and dig a little deeper to improve my knowledge and skills.

If I was a leader in that school I’d be excited about the potential in those two simple words. The potential to support learners for now and their futures.

If I was a parent in that school I’d be comforted to know that learning bravely was part of my child’s everyday experience. And I’d try to model that myself when they came home from school. 


Learning how to use a tool like Canvas can be scary. It can challenge the bravest among us. It can cause us to try to build walls to hide behind, walls that say ‘too hard’, ‘I don’t understand’, ‘I feel stupid’, ‘I can’t’. 


Perhaps we need to gently encourage each other, and ourselves, to learn bravely

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