Beginning-of-Semester Checklist: Canvas Edition!

Hello and welcome to a new semester, everyone! We’re glad to see you back.

1. Things to Remember

  • You can still merge your courses in Canvas like you did in Blackboard – for more information on that, check out our guide!
  • You have access to 24/7/365 technical Canvas support through the Help menu in Canvas.
  • For instructional design support, reach out to us at We’re happy to share useful tips, suggestions for teaching or facilitating your course, or just having a chat! We can also schedule an appointment with you to do a one-hour Canvas overview, if you’d like.
  • If you’re a new faculty member and you don’t seem to have a Canvas account, reach out to
  • If you want to send Canvas course mail to your students through the Inbox, you need to publish your course first.
  • If you want to use the Attendance (Roll Call) tool, you’ll need to modify your Canvas navigation menu.

2. Update the Syllabus

If your course content has been copied from a previous semester, don’t forget to update any course information! Students really notice when course materials appear “recycled.” Double check your syllabus and Canvas’ “dynamic syllabus” tool and update the following, if necessary:

  • Textbook details
  • Course policies and expectations
  • Grading schemas
  • Office hours/location
  • Classroom location
  • Contact information, and expectations for your response time

If you want to try using the “dynamic syllabus” that’s built into Canvas, great! Online Learning Services is happy to help you structure this tool. If you’d like to post a link to a downloadable PDF or Word version of the syllabus, remember to try using a descriptive link to it instead of a file name.

3. Course Copy

If you copy your course from semester to semester, you can follow Canvas’ guide first. You can also adjust due dates during the course copy process. The process isn’t completely magical, though! Here are some things to remember when you copy your course from one semester to another:

  • Some external tool assignments, like VoiceThread, TechSmith Relay, and Chalk & Wire may need to have their links updated. In particular, a VoiceThread course copy will copy the old version of the VoiceThread, which contains student work! You’ll need to create a new copy of the VoiceThread object (in VoiceThread) then re-create a new Canvas link to that. We’re happy to help.
  • Copying and pasting lists of file links from one course to another will break those links. Course copying will work correctly (if you’ve done it right the first time around). Check out our file link post for more info on that.
  • You’ll have to make sure to adjust assignment due dates for holidays or other days there will be no class. You can drag and drop assignments directly from the Canvas Calendar, which might be the easiest way to adjust.

4. Assignments

If necessary, update due dates, point values, or instructions in your Canvas assignments. Remember that you only get a column in the grade book by creating a corresponding assignment!

When creating assignments, best practice is to create a description for your assignments – it’s clearest to the students.

A Canvas assignment with no description.

A Canvas assignment with no description displays “No Content,” and may be confusing to students.

A Canvas assignment with a description.

A Canvas assignment with a full description provides instructions directly to your students, and looks much cleaner.

5. Quizzes and Surveys

If you use quizzes or surveys in your course, consider the following:

  • Updating questions or adding new questions – check out Canvas’ quiz guides!
  • Update point values for questions or the entire test.
  • In copied courses, make sure that quizzes are available only when you want them. For pop-quizzes or situations when you don’t want students to know a quiz will be coming, make sure to leave it unpublished.

6. General Cleanup

Shows the difference between an unpubliished (grey no symbol) and published (green check mark) module.

  • Make sure to publish your course! By default, all courses are unpublished so that instructors can prepare without student eyes! But remember, once a student clicks into the published course you can no longer unpublish. Publishing your course will also make it so that you can send Canvas mail to your students.

Canvas course publish button

7. Photo Roster

Remember that the Photo Roster (the big photos of your students with their names) doesn’t live in Canvas anymore. To get the big photos of your students, follow these directions:

  1. Log in to Banner Web (the Secure Site)
  2. Click on the Faculty link at the top
  3. Click on Faculty Menu
  4. Click on Summary Class List
  5. Select a term, then a CRN
  6. Scroll to the bottom and click the “Photo Roster” link