Canvas Descriptive Links and You!

If you’ve been following my accessibility series, you know that descriptive links are a good way to make content accessible to students using screen readers or other assistive technology, and they make content look snazzier and cleaner to boot.

Canvas opens the world of descriptive links up to more than just external website URLs, though: the system lets you create descriptive URLs for files, as well!

What can I use descriptive file links for, anyway?

  • You have a lot of readings, but you don’t want your modules to be very arduous to scroll through.
  • You want to put a downloadable PDF or Word version of your syllabus in the Canvas Syllabus tool.
  • You want to put a link to an article or other course material in an assignment, discussion or elsewhere in a course.
  • You want to link your students to an outside resource or course material.

How, technically, do I make a descriptive link?

It’s easiest for both types of descriptive links (file and URL) if you write the sentence first, then create the link. This will create a more natural-sounding sentence, and prevent “click here” sentences that aren’t actually descriptive!

For an external URL:

  1. Highlight the text you want the link to be. In this example, I’ll use the phrase “Kimberlé Crenshaw’s paper,” since those words will be the link to the file I want.
  2.  Click the small chain-link icon on the bottom row of the Rich Content Editor.

Demonstrates the location of the URL hyperlink option in the Canvas editor

3. Paste or type the URL of the website you want your students to visit in the box that appears, then click “Insert Link.”

For a file in your Canvas course:

You can follow Canvas’ step-by-step guide for creating file links, but be aware that file links require special attention when reusing content. Check out our guide to file links in Canvas for more info!

**Note that for both types of links (external URL and file links), you will not be able to click on your links until you click either “Save” or “Save and Publish” at the bottom.