Canvas Best Practices

The overall goal of using the Canvas learning management system (LMS) at Samuel Merritt University is to provide students with an environment conducive to effective learning. Canvas courses designed using best practices are easy for a student to navigate and easy for instructors to use, verify, and maintain. When Canvas courses are well-designed and consistent within a program, students can quickly see how the courses are organized, know where to find learning materials and assignments, and the expectations for courses are clear.

The Office of Academic Affairs expects faculty to have implemented by the end of 2016 the LMS Use Policy requirements and additional course design best practices agreed upon by each program. The LMS Use Policy requirements, as detailed in the Faculty Handbook, are noted in the Canvas Best Practices Support Kit resources.

Five Principles for Course Design

These five principles inform the best practices for a well-designed Canvas course:

  1. Make a great first impression.
  2. Create a course that's easy to navigate.
  3. Make it easy for students to find everything.
  4. Let students know what to expect.
  5. Keep students informed and engaged.

Support Kit

This set of resources will guide you in implementing the Best Practices for Canvas Course Design and LMS Use Policy requirements.

Benefits of Using Canvas Best Practices

There are many benefits of using best practices to design a Canvas course.

For students

  • Ease of use of the LMS saves time and cognitive energy when locating and using course materials
  • Facilitates student centered learning

For faculty

  • Efficient course management and grading
  • Fewer student questions/disputes about expectations, what to do, and where to find resources
  • Ease of verification for instructors that all intended content is on the course site
  • Ease of course site maintenance for instructors
  • Facilitates student centered learning
  • Helps meet requirements of the LMS Use Policy as indicated in the Faculty Handbook

For SMU programs and the university overall

  • Continuity across each program projects professionalism
  • Allows easy access and understanding for faculty reviews and accreditation
  • Reduces liability¬†because students can easily locate the correct syllabus and rubrics

Plan for Implementing Canvas Design Best Practices and LMS Use Policy Requirements

Through Fall 2016, A&II staff will support each program in improving Canvas course design, consistency, and LMS Use Policy requirements. By that time, all Canvas courses should comply with the LMS Use Policy and instructors will have implemented any additional course consistency and design recommendations that they've decided would be beneficial.

  • During Fall 2015, faculty can analyze the state of their courses using a course design checklist and identify areas needing improvement.
  • During Fall 2015, program leaders will determine the extent to which their program will apply additional design best practices.
  • During Fall 2015, faculty can attend Canvas course design workshops provided by A&II for their program to help establish course consistency.
  • Fall 2015 through Fall 2016, faculty will follow the Canvas course design checklist and use A&II resources as a guide for improving their courses. A&II staff will be available for consultation as needed.

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