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Creating a great Canvas course site requires time, preparation, creativity and attention to detail. The Learning Design and Technology team created the "Canvy" awards as a way to recognize faculty for their efforts in creating great sites for their students. 

At the end of the Spring 2019 term, we asked students taking courses in Arts and Sciences to nominate course sites that supported their learning during the 2018-19 school year. In addition, we asked students to indicate what contributed most to effective site design. From the 225+ Canvy award nominations received, courses by the following faculty were chosen as this year’s winners:

  • Petra Bonfert-Taylor, Professor of Engineering
  • Stuart Finkel, Associate Professor of Russian Studies
  • Brenhin Keller, Assistant Professor of Earth Sciences
  • Meredith Kelly, Associate Professor of Earth Sciences
  • Kathleen Powers, Assistant Professor of Government
  • Lauren Russell, Research Associate and Lecturer of Economics

While each faculty member has a unique spin on the design of the course sites, there were a few notable commonalities:

  • Faculty members posted the readings, videos and course materials on their sites in a timely manner for students to access and kept them up to date
  • The course sites are well structured and easy for students to navigate
  • Assignments were present in Canvas. Additionally, assignment directions were clear and easy to follow

Overall student feedback was summarized by this student’s comment:

“Everything was up and online on time or very close to on time and the course page was engaging and interesting. The home page has all the key information on it. It basically hit all the necessary pointers for a good course page‚ all resources easily accessible, visually not jarring, and easy to navigate…"

Thanks to all of the faculty who spend their time and energy to deliver great courses for Dartmouth’s students. Students both notice and appreciate your efforts. We invite you to take a look at a few of this year’s Canvy winners (see links below) and to contact the Learning Design and Technology team if you have questions about this or other topics related to course design at

Interested to check out a few examples? The following are a sampling of the award-winning sites!

GOV 50.08: Psychology and International Politics:

EARS.001: How the Earth Works:

ENGS.020: Introduction to Scientific Computing

As you prepare for next term's courses, you might want to begin working on your Canvas sites by copying content from an old course. If so, follow these steps to transfer content from one Canvas site to another:

  1. Navigate to your new site, and click Settings at the bottom of the navigation menu on the left.
  2. Click Import Content into this Course in the column on the right.

Canvas releases updates and performs bug fixes approximately every three weeks. Recently there have been two notable enhancements that could help you organize your workspace.

Drag-and-drop Dashboard Re-ordering
(faculty, staff, students)

Canvas has added the ability to re-order the tiles in the Canvas dashboard by dragging and dropping. Prior to this enhancement, the tiles were automatically arranged alphabetically and there was no opportunity to put the most recent courses at the top of the page. Now, not only can you remove tiles from the dashboard, you can place them in the order that makes the most sense for you. For more information on the dashboard view as well as the drag-and-drop feature go to:

New Gradebook - Beta

One of the most significant recent updates to Canvas is the new gradebook. While there are many new features in the gradebook, the most significant features involve improvements in organization and data sorting. In addition, new opportunities for customization make it easier for faculty to view the status of assignments and of particular student’s grades. This tool is still in development and we will continue to see improvements over the course of this term. It is available for faculty to enable in their individual courses. For more information and to compare functionality with the current gradebook, please take a look at this resource provided by one of the members of the Canvas community:

As always, we are happy to help with using new features or improving your comfort level with existing functionality. For information and assistance please email:

New Feature: Universal Design Online Content Inspection Tool (UDOIT)

UDOIT allows you to check for and resolve accessibility issues across your course. This tool is used at many institutions and was developed as an open-source tool by the University of Central Florida. Refer to our updated post on Creating Accessible Materials for information on developing accessible course materials. If you have any questions, email

In this video (above), Adam Nemeroff explains how to check Canvas sites for accessibility issues.

New Feature: Announcements

If you have a multi-section course, you are now able to choose to send announcements to either specific section(s) or an entire class. 

Choose the section(s) you want the announcement to go to.


By Adam Nemeroff and Erin DeSilva

Accessible materials create access to documents and materials so that they are usable by all students in your class. Most of these changes have the dual benefit of simultaneously helping students with specific accommodations, while also improving the experience for the other users in your class. The following is a guide for creating materials with these types of considerations in mind. In this guide, we include both general guidelines as well as specific steps to follow for specific tools and materials.

This guide from Auckland University gives a wonderful overview of these similar guidelines.

The University of Auckland describes how to create Inclusive Online Courses.
The University of Auckland describes how to create Inclusive Design for Online Accessibility. Here is a downloadable PDF.

Updated March 12, 2018 - An earlier version of this guide was published in 2016. We updated the guide recently to include updates to the Canvas and documents sections. For Canvas, we added specific directions for accessibility features in Canvas (using the accessibility checker and UDOIT). We also posted a screencast video explaining how to use these tools. For documents, we included more extensive directions on creating accessible document and converting them with SensusAccess, a new document conversion tool at the College.

...continue reading "Creating Accessible Materials"

We received this recent question from a professor:

"I find that exceptions for sick, injured, and other students are hard to keep track of, and that my grading gets slowed down by me digging through my email to remember if I gave a particular person an exception. With the flu I'm needing to excuse more people. Is there a way to encode exceptions and personal deadlines in Canvas so that it automatically takes these into account?

Answer: YES!

In any Canvas assignment, when you click Edit, you’ll see a box like this at the bottom:

Click the +Add button and you’ll be able to give any student in the drop down list a different due date. You’ll notice that the “Everyone” in the box above then changes to “Everyone else”.



We all would like to create a classroom environment where productive discussion leads to learning, but how can we set up students for this type of success? Some students are reluctant to speak, while others have no reservations about dominating the conversation. The Discussing Discussions workshop explores the theory and practice of classroom discussions, identifying specific techniques and strategies while discussing the advantages and disadvantages of each.


Harvard Leading Discussions Handbook: This discussion guide was produced by The Derek Bok Center For Teaching and Learning at Harvard University for the graduate Teaching Fellows program. This guide provides an overview of the purpose of discussion in the learning process and practical tools to build productive and diverse discussions among your students. This guide is also used with Dartmouth's Learner Fellows program.

CRTL_Discussion_Worksheets.docx: The Center for Research on Teaching and Learning at the University of Michigan provides these tools for increasing inclusivity in classroom discussions at their workshops. Full of ideas for approaching difficult situations, these worksheets are a great reflection activity.

Peer Review Questions for Discussions: One technique for dealing with the dreaded problem of "participation points" is to ask students to assess each other following a discussion. This rubric can be modified to meet your own needs.

Faculty Focus Discussion Self Assessment: Looking for some great ideas on how to measure what really matters in a discussion? This article encourages student-awareness about the goals of a discussion, which increases student investment in a successful outcome.

Universal Design for Learning Guidelines: The Universal Design for Learning framework asks you to consider multiple means of engagement in a discussion: perhaps you offer participation for either an in-person discussion OR one that happens asynchronously on Canvas.

Discussion Activity Idea: The Popsicle Stick Campfire (can also use Poker Chips)

Objective: Encourage all students to participate while also building empathy among dominant talkers, encouraging thoughtful deliberate contributions.

Steps: Each student receives 3 popsicle sticks at the beginning of a discussion - a green (labeled Go), a yellow (labeled Slow), and a red (labeled Stop). When the student speaks, they throw a popsicle stick into the "campfire" in the middle of the group - first green, then yellow, and finally red. Once a student has thrown their last popsicle stick, they cannot speak again until all students have thrown their sticks and the campfire discussion is blazing hot!

Note: Of course this method can be accomplished without the colors, though some students respond to the go--slow--stop.

You may notice a different course home page default in Winter 2018 Canvas course sites.

Check out the new course home page default starting in Winter 2018 Canvas course sites.

Previously, the "Recent Activity" view was the starting place for your course site design, though many instructors would change the Home Page to Modules, a Front Page, or the Syllabus view. Now, the course home page defaults to the Modules view with the module tool ready to use. A new "Add Existing Content" button is provided to take instructors directly to the Copy a Canvas Course feature.

You are not required to use Modules for the home page or for your course site design. You can set the course home page to your usual setting as part of your course copy from a prior term or by clicking Choose Home Page from your sidebar. You might be prompted to choose a home page when publishing your course if you have not already done so.


Every three weeks Canvas updates features and applies bug fixes. The next production release is scheduled for Saturday, June 24, 2017. View the full Canvas Production Release Notes, watch the release screencast, or continue below for a "what you need to know" summary of the latest updates for Dartmouth.

...continue reading "Canvas Updates for June 24, 2017"

This week is the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative Online Focus Session: New Directions in Instructional Design: Keeping Pace in a Time of Rapid Change. The program is robust, lining up experts to talk about trends and innovations in teaching and learning while focusing on where instructional (learning or educational) designers have impact and directions we might grow in the future. My colleague Melody Buckner (University of Arizona) and I were asked to help design the focus session activity workbook. Our goal was to bring purposeful reflection and meaningful application to participants as they look toward the future of their careers, projects, and roles as potential agents of change at their institutions.

...continue reading "Being Leaderful From Where You Are"