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Leveling Up Your Course Design Using Canvas

"How can I make my site great?"  (or versions thereof) is one of the most commonly asked questions we receive.


Our answer is the following list of questions. We designed it to help you prepare your course according to current "best practices" in student learning and course design.  Each is also grounded in the principles of Universal Design.  You'll notice that there are many items here that you might consider addressing outside of Canvas - that's great too!

Many items include links for you to learn more about each particular topic.  Please also feel free to contact your Instructional Designer to discuss any or all of these items!

Course Overview and Introduction
  • Do you provide an introduction on how to get started, and how to navigate the site? 
  • Does your course includes an opportunity for both instructor and student introductions?
  • Is all pre-requisite knowledge made clear as such?
  • Are students introduced to both the purpose and structure of your course?
  • Are students introduced to all relevant Dartmouth policies and services?
  • Can students clearly see how they should communicate with the instructor and how the instructor will communicate with them?  (e.g. email, in-class announcements, Canvas announcements)
  • Is your Canvas homepage consistent with the course structure (e.g. divided by unit, module, lecture)?
  • Are all items (assignments, files, dates, etc.) contextualized in your course, regardless of how or from whatever device your students access them?
Course Description and Information
Assessments and Grading
  • Does your course use an assessment strategy that measures the stated learning objectives?
  • Are your  course grading policy and its components explicitly stated, clear, and timely?
  • Are the specific and descriptive criteria for evaluating student work articulated and consistent with the course grading policy?  
  • Are your course assessments frequent, varied, and scaffolded/sequenced?
  • Have you made clear to students what feedback they will receive and when they will receive it?
Course Activities, Collaboration, and Engagement
Instructional Materials
  • Are all instructional materials aligned with the stated learning objectives?
  • Are all instructional materials (PDFs, Word documents, PowerPoints, images, videos, etc.) created using methods that promote readability, accessibility, and multiple modes of access?
  • Is the purpose of all instructional materials made clear?
  • Have you made Fair Use determinations for copyrighted materials, and are all materials appropriately cited?
  • Are all instructional materials up-to-date and represent a variety of perspectives?
  • Are all materials labeled as required or optional, if applicable?
  • Are all instructional materials easy to find and presented in a clear and organized way?
Course Technologies and Canvas Use
Access, Usability, and Mobile


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