Using Canvas for the First Time


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Canvas Overview For Instructors

Heads up: this video mentions a button to "Create a new course". This feature is disabled at Cal Maritime. All Canvas academic course shells are automatically created and instructor assignments automatically applied.  Should you require a blank Canvas shell for a campus organization or for testing purposes, please email


Quick Start in Canvas

Before Getting Started
To improve your course development process, review these quick references to be more familiar with Canvas:

  • Canvas Course Types:  On your Canvas Dashboard, you'll notice a variety of different course "tiles," such as Sandboxes, D2L Migrated Courses, and course shells for the upcoming semester. Learn how to use each of these courses in your development process.
  • BrightSpace vs. Canvas Comparison:  a side-by-side look at features in both systems to become familiar with the terminology.

Follow the steps below to get your Canvas course ready today!

Create a Homepage
The Homepage provides a brief course introduction and instructions for students. 

Import Content from an Existing Canvas Course
Copy course content, assignments, and quizzes from a course taught in a previous term and quickly import them into an existing course using the Course Import Tool.

Edit Your Syllabus
The Syllabus in Canvas makes it easy to communicate to your students exactly what will be required of them throughout the course in chronological order. You can also set the syllabus as your course homepage.

Upload Files
"Files" allows instructors to upload and store files and assignments within Canvas. 

Create Pages
Pages are used to add content to a course or group. A page can be set as a course homepage.

Create Modules
Add structure to your course with modules. Modules can be organized by day, week, unit, topic, or outcome. 

Organize Your Course Navigation Menu
The Navigation Menu on the left side of your course helps you and your students access different course areas. Instructors can choose to reorder and hide course navigation links as needed to help guide students.

Check Your Course
Make sure your course contains all the recommended, essential elements using this AT checklist:

Use the tools below to communicate with your enrolled students after you have published your course:

INBOX:  Send an email through Canvas:

  • The Inbox is a messaging tool used to communicate with a course, a group, an individual student, or a group of students. You can use the Inbox to communicate with others in your course.
  • Users display in the Inbox once they have an active enrollment in the course, and users cannot join a course unless it is published.
  • Once a course has concluded and its term date has passed, you can no longer message students in that course.
  • Get step-by-step instructions for using the Inbox to send emails.

ANNOUNCEMENTS: Post course announcements and updates on Canvas:

  • Announcements allow instructors to communicate with students about course activities and post interesting course-related topics.
  • Designed to allow instructors to broadcast information to all course members or to all members of sections within a course.
  • Students may be able to reply to announcements, but replies are not considered to be a conversation and will not appear in the Inbox.
  • Instructors should post announcements on BrightSpace if they are teaching on Canvas.
  • Get step-by-step instructions for using the Announcement tool.

DISCUSSIONS: Stay connected and engage students:

ZOOM: Hold live (synchronous) meetings or record lectures:

  • Consider using Zoom to hold virtual office hours and to keep appointments with students.
  • Chat with students via Zoom.

Organize student assignment submissions with the Assignment Tool in Canvas:

Set up Quizzes on Canvas:

Manage and share grades with students using the Grades in Canvas:

A template has been automatically installed in all Fall and Spring courses (2023-2024).

This template has been designed by experts at the Chancellor's Office to help expedite the course development process for all CSUs. Instructors can easily customize a layout to adapt to their own subject or teaching mode, including face-to-face instruction. This pre-built frameworks adheres to evidence-based, Quality Assurance standards. It is a great example of what many CSUs are doing to build effective, consistent, and engaging courses for students. The template is ready for you to begin adding your content into the placeholders. Here are the modules you can expect to see in your courses:

How to Use This Template Module - Used to help inform instructors how to use the template.

Start Here Module - Used in the first week of school to help you and your students to get to know each other with:

  • Syllabus Activity - this activity (quiz) helps your students get to know your syllabus and ensures they read the entire syllabus knowing they will be quizzed on all the questions you create.
  • Student Survey - this activity (quiz) helps you get to know your student better by asking all the questions you need to know as an instructor.
  • Introduction Discussion - this activity (discussion) helps students get to know one another and connect as they begin this journey together in your course. (not needed if you have a fully in-person course since you most likely do introductions on the first day of class)

Modules 1-16 - Used to help instructors visualize and build consistent modules for their course delivery. Each item is a placeholder ready for instructors to use and modify or delete if it does not align with your teaching. We recommend using at minimum:

  • Module (X): Title/Topic Overview
  • Module (X) Summary and Next Steps

Canvas Training Options


In Canvas 101 (50 min), you'll discover comprehensive guidance for leveraging Canvas as a teacher, covering everything from crafting modules to fine-tuning course settings. This meticulously designed course comprises five modules crafted to seamlessly orient you and establish the foundation for your upcoming teaching endeavors.

Access Canvas 101 Now

In Growing with Canvas (9 hrs), participants in this course will watch videos, use Canvas documentation, complete activities, and participate in discussions to learn and apply Canvas features.  Along the way, teachers will earn Growing With Canvas badges to demonstrate their accomplishments. Each module contains about 45 to 65 minutes worth of videos or reading. Plan on 1.5 to 2 hours per module to watch the videos and submit activities related to the content presented.

Access Growing with Canvas Now

The Instructor Resource Course provides instructors with the resources they need to successfully use Canvas. The course includes videos, guides, and detailed instructions. Click on the buttons below to learn more.

Access Canvas Resources for Instructors


quick guide - Learn how to navigate your CANVAS COURSE interface

Quick guide - add a COURSE TEMPLATE from canvas commons

quick guide - brightspace MIGRATIon (step-by-step)


Quick guide - Merge your CAnvas Courses 



Canvas Assessments

Canvas Gradebook

Ally in Canvas (Accessibikty Tool)

Group Work in Canvas


SpeedGrader Video
Assignment Overview Video
Peer Review Overview Video
Gradebook Overview Video
Group Collaboration Video


View all Canvas Guides for instructors in canvas Community