What is Canvas?

Canvas is an open-source Learning Management System that offers many useful tools for both students and instructors, including discussion forums, announcements, calendars, assignments, quizzes, gradebooks, and file sharing. There are also many enhanced features such as real-time web conferenceing, multimedia recording, Google Docs integration, rubrics, and course analytics.

  • Canvas Glossary: List of terms and definitions of many important terms for understanding and using Canvas.

"Canvas allows you to integrate multimedia course content, course communication, student assessments (quizzes, assignments, surveys, portfolios), and student grades to create a cohesive, connected virtual space for your class."
Faculty Innovation Center, University of Texas at AustinĀ 

See also: Canvas Help, Canvas Accessibility Resources, Canvas Standards of Practice

How is it used in Education?

Canvas provides instructors and students a virtual classroom space online, either for fully online instruction or as support for face-to-face courses. The many tools and features of Canvas make it adaptable and purposeful for a variety of uses. Some of the most commonly-used functions of Canvas include:

  • Announcements: Especially useful in the event of class cancellations or campus closures, this communication tool allows instructors to post text or video announcements for all users (faculty, students, TAs) in a course. The feature includes an option that allows students to respond to announcement in a discussion forum format and can be set to push the announcement to users' linked e-mail accounts.
  • Assignments: Faculty can create assessment activities for students to complete or submit either online or in person. Assessment activities can include quizzes, discussions, or assignments (such as essays) and can be graded using the Speedgrader feature, which allows instructors to post grades and written or video comments for feedback.
  • Calendars: Instructors can add events or assignments to the Course Calendar (assignments with due dates are automatically added to the calendar). Users can set the calendar to provide text or e-mail notifications at intervals of their choosing to be reminded of upcoming due dates or events.
  • Discussions: Discussions allow students and faculty to maintain threaded conversations and can be graded or ungraded assignments. For example, students might participate in an online discussion about a course topic where they are graded on quanitity and timeliness of participation, or faculty can set up "Questions for the Instructor" or "Student Lounge" forums for optional, ungraded participation.
  • Files: Instructors can upload files for students to access, such as syllabi, PowerPoint slides, lecture notes, or other documents in a variety of formats (doc, pdf, ppt, etc.) Files can be locked so they are inaccessible to students or can be placed in Modules, Assignments, or Pages for students to view and use.
  • Gradebook: This tool tracks students' progress and is a useful tool for storing and calculating grades. Students can see their grades by assignment, by category, or overall.
  • Links: Whether an instructor wants to make course reserve material available or link to external websites or articles for students to see and use, Canvas serves as a useful vehicle for directing students to resources beyond the textbook. Links can be included nearly anywhere in Canvas: on discussion posts, in assignment descriptions, on announcements, and in Modules.
  • Modules: Useful for organizing tools and files on Canvas, faculty can create modules by week or by topic that help students find and access relevant resources, links, assignments, discussions, etc. on Canvas. Modules can even be set to be accessible only at certain times or in certain orders, where users can be required to complete one module before gaining access to the next one. Modules can be hidden or published at the click of a button and can be set to open or close at specific dates or times.
  • Rubrics: Instructors can use shared rubrics or create their own rubrics to streamline grading of assignments in the Speedgrader function. When using a rubric, faculty can open a student's assignment and click on the corresponding boxes in the rubric to instantly assign points or grades to a students work. When set to be used for grading, students grades will automatically be saved in the Gradebook on Canvas.

What are some Resources?

WWU Resources


Where is there Help?

  • Canvas Quick Start Guide (WWU ATUS): Includes Faculty Drop-in Center Hours and contact information for support with Canvas technical issues and instructional design, as well as links to other resources
  • Help for Canvas Support resources from the Canvas Community website for anyone using Canvas.