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Best Practices, Tips, and Tricks

Starting a New Semester in Canvas?

So, you’re getting ready for the spring semester and you want to make sure all the plans and content that were there last semester, (or last year!) are showing up in Canvas just the way you’d expect so you’re ready for a new batch of students.

The good news is that you can transfer the content and assignments you had in Canvas a previous term to your spring section of the same course – you just have to take a few important steps first. We call it “Refreshing Your Canvas Course” so it’s ready for the new term and new students. Doing certain tasks ahead of time will ensure you and your new students are off to a good start in the new semester.  You’ll want to take some time over the next few days to review and refresh your course site.

If you’re copying your course from a previous term, most of the content and activities will transfer over just fine, but other apps, like Panopto and Library Resource Lists, may need to be reconnected so they work with a specific course term and section number. STELAR provides the following checklist to help you think through some of the obvious (and not-so-obvious) course refresh tasks.

  1. Import course content from a previous term or from a Canvas template.  Find many STELAR provided templates in the Canvas Commons (Filter on the University of St. Thomas).
  2. Confirm the course start and end dates under “Settings.”
  3. Refresh and update Assignment due dates. For quick due date changes, use the Calendar feature, accessed by clicking Calendar in the purple navigation menu on the left.
  4. Verify Panopto videos are linked and properly closed captioned (if used).
  5. Use the “Validate Links in Content” tool under “Settings” to check all internal and external links since the source of the online content may have changed since last linked.
  6. Verify links to eReserves and Library Resource Lists (if used). Contact your Library liaison to re-associate your Resource List to your new course term.
  7. Copy (without student comments) and re-connect any VoiceThreads (if used).
  8. Un-publish any Modules you don’t want students to see yet.
  9. Refresh Announcements using the “delay posting” feature and adding a future date for when you’d like them to be made visible.
  10. When everything checks out and you’re satisfied with how your site looks and functions, be sure to click on the “Publish” button at the top of the home page.

To learn more about how to do many of these course refresh tasks, check out the Canvas Instructor Guides. There, you’ll find tutorials and step-by-step instructions for every task in Canvas. And don’t forget about the 24/7 Help Line. Canvas Support is ready to help you with any Canvas related issues via phone call, chat, or email.  Simply click the Help button at the bottom of the purple Canvas menu.

Taking a few pro-active steps to refresh your Canvas course site will go a long way in getting you and your students off to a good start in the new semester.

This post was written by Michael Wilder, an Instructional Designer for the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. To learn more about this topic, please visit our website at www.stthomas.edu/stelar or email us at stelar@stthomas.edu.


Upcoming EVENTS from STELAR (December and January)

Take advantage of these hot topics for December and JanuaryDecember Tech Calendar

New Semester Prep: Canvas Course Refresher Sessions (virtually via Zoom)

If your course was previously taught in Canvas and you are getting it ready for a new semester, come learn 8 quick-tips to refresh your course!  These sessions are all offered virtually via Zoom so you can login from your location of choice!

Canvas Gradebook (St Paul)

Canvas One-on-One Consultation Appointments (in either Minneapolis or St. Paul)

Sign up for 30-minute blocks.

Canvas Hosted Training Sessions

Whether new or experienced with Canvas, sign up and attend in December, January and beyond.

STELAR has purchased access to pre-recorded and live Canvas training sessions, available through https://www.cysalesteam.com/instructure/. This is for all St. Thomas faculty and staff. The classes range from beginner (Introduction to Canvas) to topic specific (Outcomes & Rubrics for Instructors) and everything in between.  If you are interested in seeing what is available, you can Browse by Category and look through the Building Block Series, and the Classroom Application Series.

After you create an account, you have ongoing access to an extensive number of trainings (for both beginners and more experienced Canvas users).  You also have access to any recordings from past sessions. Here’s a short list of upcoming sessions of these Canvas hosted sessions:

Canvas Training Series: Assignments

Canvas Training Series: Course Basics

Many more offered in December and January.

Resources You Can Access at Any Point

You’ll want to bookmark these so you continue to see new opportunities showing up on the calendar.

Other Sessions of Interest

Zoom for Advising, Appointment Hours and Tutoring

Accessibility Practices in Zoom Sessions

Best Practices, Tips, and Tricks, Canvas: Did you know...?

What’s All the Hype About Modules?

Since the university moved from Blackboard to Canvas, we’ve heard a lot about Modules: “Build your content in modules; don’t forget to publish your modules; I never had to use modules in Blackboard, they’re too confusing.”  So, what’s all the hype about modules anyway?

True, Blackboard didn’t use modules. That’s one of the main paradigm shifts we encounter when moving to Canvas. Instead of creating menu items and folders as you did in Blackboard, Canvas has you assemble and display content items in Modules. But once we wrap our heads around the modules concept, we can see they’re pretty powerful.

To better understand the idea behind modules, picture a scrumptious spread of holiday food set out on the dining table. The items on the table really come from other locations: the kitchen, the cupboard, the refrigerator, or pantry; but they are assembled and displayed on the table for the benefit and consumption of our guests.  So it is with Modules. Content items like files, assignments, discussions, and pages really live elsewhere in the course site, but we intentionally assemble and display them in modules so there’s a logical sequence that walks the student through the learning process.

One of the powerful features behind modules is that you can set requirements for viewing or completing the items inside a module, or specify the sequence in which they will be completed. By setting module requirements, you can release individual items based on certain criteria met on previous items. You can also control the visibility of module items or an entire module through the Publishing function.

Modules really help us assemble content in logical, sequential ways, allowing us to display various content pieces, whether it be an assignment, a page of instructions, a file, and so on. The flexibility and capability of modules make them a great feature in the Canvas learning management system.

For more information on the power of modules, check out these guides and videos.


This post was written by Michael Wilder, an Instructional Designer for the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. To learn more about this topic, please visit our website at www.stthomas.edu/stelar or email us at stelar@stthomas.edu.

Best Practices, Tips, and Tricks

The ANSWER is right at your fingertips: Reflections on Faculty Focus article

Article citation:

Yee, Kevin and Boyd, Diane. How Can We Amplify Student Learning? The ANSWER from Cognitive Psychology:
Faculty Focus. June 18, 2018. <
https://bit.ly/2lflsSO> (18 June 2018).


Fall semester is right around the corner.  How do you know your students are going to learn something this term?  Well, it’s obvious that they will learn this semester. Learning is like breathing. It comes naturally. However, by keeping in mind some principles suggested by cognitive psychologists, you can actually AMPLIFY your student’s learning.

The article: How Can We Amplify Student Learning? The ANSWER from Cognitive Psychology from Faculty Focus is a well-researched, yet simple reminder of how people learn.  De-emphasizing “learning styles” as the way we learn, the authors say it’s more about the science of learning based on extensive research in cognitive psychology.

The authors, Kevin Yee and Diane Boyd, present a simple acronym that’s easy to remember as a way to classify the elements necessary for cognitive change (i.e. learning) to take place: A.N.S.W.E.R. You’ll want to skim the article yourself to find out how each of these elements is defined along with appropriate examples.







Granted, there are likely many other factors that contribute to deep learning, and it would be short-sighted to limit our student’s growth and progress by only these six areas. However, synthesizing powerful principles like the ones from Yee and Boyd into easy-to-remember nuggets of information can be extremely helpful in explaining what needs to be present for learning to stick.

In my work as an instructional designer with STLEAR, I often consult with faculty who are trying hard to emphasize to their students the importance of learning their subject matter. At the same time, I find myself trying hard to emphasize the importance of good course design so that we can reach the same goal – deeper student learning!  This is what it means to design with students in mind. Considering what students need for learning to take place is actually in the ANSWER.


This post was written by Michael Wilder, an Instructional Designer for the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. To learn more about this topic, please visit our website at www.stthomas.edu/stelar or email us at stelar@stthomas.edu.

Best Practices, Tips, and Tricks, Canvas: Did you know...?

Duplicating items in modules

Did you know…

You can save time and effort by duplicating certain content items in Canvas and reuse them elsewhere? Yes! Many items like Pages, Assignments, and graded Discussions can be duplicated and then used in other modules. Let’s say you have a Weekly Overview page in Module 1 that includes complex formatting or repeatable instructions. Instead of re-creating a new Overview page for each subsequent module, you can simply duplicate the first module’s Overview page because it retains all the text, images, hyperlinks and formatting, and then just change out the specific text for the new Module.

To duplicate an item, click on the ellipsis (3 dots) to the right of the item and choose “Duplicate.” The item is duplicated (copied) below and includes the word “copy” in the title. The duplicated item will come in “unpublished.” After changing the text to reflect the new item, be sure to update the title and “publish” the duplicated item.

To learn more about this and other Canvas-related topics, join us on August 20-22 for Canvas On Campus: A 3 day event with Canvas representatives on campus covering a variety of topics and Canvas experts from STELAR available for instructional design and technology consultations.