Canvas Modules: Organizing your Canvas Course

When you develop a course in Canvas, you’ll soon find yourself thinking about Modules. Check out our KB document, Recommendations for Modules in Canvas, describing what modules are, some ways to structure them, and how to set permissions or restrictions to guide students through a course.

Before diving into the details and the how-to, you may want to think about the many possibilities for organizing your course material. What are the patterns that recur throughout your course? Is there a rhythm or a flow of work that you want to communicate through modules? Let’s explore 3 options for course organization: Linear, Topical, and Student-Driven.


This type of organization is probably the most common and the easiest to set up in Modules. Students progress from one item to the next. They can navigate using the modules page if you make it available, or they can use the Previous/Next buttons on each content page to move in sequence. You might use a module for each day of class or each week. You might have a pattern of Reading/Viewing/Lecture → Practice/Lab/Discussion → Homework/Knowledge Check/Assessment.


Depending on the type of course you teach, it might not matter that students work through the course content in the same order. You could make a module for each course topic. Perhaps you’re using the Canvas course as a file repository or course supplement. The Files tab lets you find your files in Canvas and organize them in folders. Unless your files are extremely well-organized, however, we recommend hiding the Files link from students. Instead, link to needed files in pages or as module items.

Learn how to restrict file availability by date.


You may be developing a course to meet students’ specific needs or using input from them to determine which direction the class takes. In this case your modules or module content may change throughout the term, instead of being fixed. And/Or you might want to set up collaborative spaces within the course. Did you know that any course page can be created as a wiki? That means you can set up a page so that instructors and students can edit it. This allows students to post resources for each other, keep track of information collaboratively, and be more engaged in the course.

Hidden Figures: Easy-to-Miss Canvas Icons Doing Important Things

In its attempt to be streamlined and simple, sometimes the Canvas interface can seem to hide important features right under our noses. In this post we’ll take a look at some useful icons you may not have noticed.

Restricting File Availability

You may have files in your course that you want students to access during a specific time frame. You can set availability dates for each file. From the Files page, click the cloud icon to the right of the file details. publish-cloudThis symbol means that an item is published. Clicking on the cloud from Files opens the Editing permissions window. There are now three options: Publish, Unpublish, and Restricted Access. Click Restricted Access and Schedule student availability to set dates and times.restrict-availability

 Finding the course menu from Grade Book view

When you click on Grades, Canvas takes you to the Default Grade Book View. To allow more space on the screen to show your grade book, Canvas collapses the Course Navigation menu. To expand or collapse the menu, click the “hot dogs” at the top left.


Muting assignments, curving grades, and messaging students who . . .

Also in the Default Grade Book View, if you mouse over an assignment, a triangle appears. Click the triangle to reveal a dropdown menu for that assignment. You can mute an assignment, curve grades, or message students who haven’t completed an assignment, haven’t been graded, or those who scored at, above, or below a certain score. (Muting an assignment allows you to hide the assignment grade from student view in the grade book).


Managing rubrics

To create, edit, or delete a rubric for your course, go to the Outcomes tab. (You can use rubrics to grade assignments whether or not you are using outcomes.) Click the  button with three dots in the top right corner, and then click on Manage Rubrics.  manage-rubrics

You can add rubrics to Assignments, Quizzes, and Discussions. If you are a COE instructor who would like to use a large number of rubrics in your class, contact us at CEETE for tips to make the rubric creation process simpler.

Moderate quizzes

To add extra time to a student’s quiz, you need the Moderate Quiz tool. This tool only appears after you publish the quiz. (Remember you can restrict the quiz’s availability to students before you publish.) From the Quizzes page, if you click on a published quiz, the next page will list Moderate This Quiz under Related Items on the right hand side.


Quiz Statistics will appear after students have taken the quiz.

Learn more about the Moderate Quiz tool.


Extended Testing Time in Canvas: Using the Moderate Quiz tool

Extended Testing Time in Canvas

Instructors have a responsibility to provide accommodations for students who work with the McBurney center and notify their instructors of their needs. A common accommodation for testing is extra time. Keep reading to find out . . .

  • how to adjust the time allowed for any student to take an assessment
  • how to give any student an extra attempt
  • how to see how long a student spent taking a quiz
  • how to add time to a student’s quiz attempt during the quiz

A note for previous Moodle users: You may have used hidden groups in Moodle to accomplish this task. It’s important to know that groups in Canvas are public. To avoid possible FERPA violations, do not create a group of students needing accommodations.

Quizzes are a type of assignment in Canvas. They can be graded or ungraded, timed or untimed. When creating a quiz, under options, you can enter a time limit and set the number of allowed attempts.

Continue reading

Resources for moving forward with Canvas

CEETE is here to help any COE instructor in moving to Canvas, but there are many resources available to you in this transition. Here are some resources that may help you.

 Recommended groups that can answer Canvas questions:

  • CEETE can help with any Canvas related needs between 10 and 4, Monday through Friday via, (608) 265-1178, or walking in to 2209 Mechanical Engineering (This option will be able to provide the most customized and responsive support).
  • DoIT Help Desk:
  • DoIT Academic Technology – limited to 1 hour of consultation support to get started with Canvas – email with specific questions and your desired timeline for meeting

Recommended online resources to answer Canvas questions:

Face to Face Training:

  • There are 2 face to face workshops available to introduce you to Canvas. Available dates are listed under “events” on the website

Additional Resources:

  • Help is available via the Help icon in the LMS
  • Search the Canvas Guides:
  • Chat line
  • Ask the community in the Canvas discussion forums

Where to find general information about the Canvas Transition Project:

Download this handy flier!