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VMI Canvas Options for Distance Learning


Dear Faculty, 

This page features the Canvas elements that we encourage you to use. We provide a brief explanation how and why you may choose to use each element and link to comprehensive instructions. Please email us at or call ? with questions. We're pleased to guide you through the process of building your Canvas course.

Sincerely, Laurin Hanger and Liz Kocevar-Weidinger.

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Course Tiles in cadet and faculty dashboards:

Distinguish your course from other faculty members' courses for cadets and your own courses for you by adding an image to each course tile. You may use images from Canvas (unsplash) or upload your own.
From your dashboard, select the course you want to add an image to > in the course, click on settings > click on the details tab at the top of the page > you will see an image box.
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Rich Content Editor

The content editor is your MS Word document of Canvas. To add text to the Rich Content Editor, go to the section that supports this editor (Announcements, Assignments, Discussions, Pages, Quizzes, or Syllabus) and open up a new or existing type of content. The Rich Content Editor will appear. Add a title and then some text in the empty box. To center, justify, or align the text, place your cursor before the text. It supports embedding any video content, math formula, and other rich media

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Use announcements to send out cadet-wide messages. These messages are archived in reverse chronological order under the Announcements button on the left-hand menu. Using announcements keeps everyone's email down and makes it easier to refer cadets to messages. This eliminates "I didn't receive the message," from cadets and no routing around to find and resend old emails, and no distribution lists to create for faculty.

  • Cadets will be emailed a notification when you send out an announcement. Yes, this is another email in their inbox.
  • For ease and emphasis, you can display your most recent announcements on your Canvas homepage.
  • You can easily add video of yourself, embed images, and links and cadets can reply to your announcements. 

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Home Page

Add your syllabus to the Home/Syllabus page:

    1. It is preferred that you  your final copy of your syllabus as a .pdf file (Save a MS Word file to .pdf instructions).
    2. Upload it to Canvas (upload file instructions)
    3. With your cursor, highlight the Course Syllabus text on your homepage; click on Files on the right-hand menu; scroll to your syllabus; and it will create the link between the words and your file.
  • Some faculty embed  or copy and paste their syllabus here so cadets can read it online. This requires a bit of manipulation. Not all MS Word formatting carries over nicely.
  • After you populate your course with your weighted groups, assignments, and quizzes, they will replace the current items in the To Do list,  Assignments are weighted by group, and Course Summary areas.

Switch Your Home Page for Cadets:

  • The Syllabus page has been set as your initial default home page.  This page is the cadet introduction to your course.  Notice that the sidebar section displays a cadet to do list and a mini calendar populated with any graded task that has a due date associated with it.

  • After 2-3 days, you will want to change your home page from the introductory/informational Syllabus  to the working/functional Modules home page. This will be a two step process.

    • Change  your home page.  On the right-hand side menu on your home page, click the 2nd option, Choose your Home Page, and change it from Syllabus to Modules.
    • Change the links in your left-hand navigation. On the left-hand side menu on your home page, click settings, click on Navigation on the top of the Settings page. Move Modules from the top set of links to the bottom and Syllabus from the bottom to the top and make sure you Save! The Save option is at the very bottom of the Navigation page.

  • Your image is  very important for Rats and online courses.
  • Communication etiquette makes it clear when you do and do not reply to cadets.
    • Example: I respond to email from 800 to 2100, M-F. If you email me outside of these times, I will not respond until my next availability.

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Modules are an empty shell to be filled and make a single-point-of-entry and replicable path for cadet Canvas use.   You can organize course content modules by weeks, units, or a different organizational structure. Modules essentially create a one-directional linear flow of what students should do in a course.

Your modules are pre-populated by week because it's a widely used and familiar unit for organizing work. Your first week is populated with samples from the different types of content that you can put in modules. Each module can contain files, discussions, assignments, quizzes, and other learning materials. Module items can be added to the course from existing content or new content shells within the modules. Course content can be added to multiple modules or iterated several times throughout an individual module. Modules can be easily organized using the drag and drop feature. Elements within the modules can also be reorganized by dragging and dropping.

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Pages are content areas where you can add and consolidate text and materials, similar to “Items” in Canvas. Think of a MS Word document with the ability to add text, videos, images, and hyperlinks. Pages can also be used to create simple learning assets, such as lecture notes, or outlines.

A simple way to organize your course using pages is to create a page for each week, and then add and link to all content within a page. In this course, each week has a blank page created and ready for editing. Click on the weekly pages link on the syllabus home page, or click on Pages in the left hand navigation panel and click the edit wheel in line with the weekly page you wish to begin working on.

For information on creating and using pages, click here. To work within a page, you will be using the rich content editor. To learn more about this tool, click here.

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Important: Any assignment created and published in the Assignments page will automatically show up in the Grades, Calendar, and Syllabus features so students can view them.

Assignments can be created for face-to-face or online submissions (i.e. files, images, text, URLs, etc.) and can be can be assigned to everyone in the course or differentiated by section or user.. The Assignments page shows students all of the Assignments that will be expected of them and how many points each is worth.

Assignment Groups
The advantages to grouping assignments by type (e.g. research papers, tests, problem sets). Create assignment groups to assign a weight (percentage of overall course grade) to specific groups of assignments. The grouping will affect how assignments appear in the grade book.

Tips for Understanding Assignments in Canvas:

  • Canvas categorizes five activities as assignments: attendance, graded discussions, graded quizzes, graded assignments, ungraded assignments. If you create any of these, a corresponding column in the Grades area will appear.
  • Assignments can be created from three different places in Canvas: Calendar, Modules, and Assignment page.
  • Assignment groups allow you to organize assignments, weight final grades, and add grading rules.
  • Assignments have different grading options: Point value, percentage, complete/incomplete, letter grade.
  • Students can submit assignments in multiple formats: on paper, online, using external tools, or no submission.
  • Group assignments can be graded as a group or individually.
  • All assignments can have rubrics attached.

Grading Assignments Online

SpeedGrader is your friend. To grade an assignment, click on the “Assignment” tab on the left-hand navigation bar. From there, you will see a  list of all assignments you’ve created in the course. Click on the name of the assignment to grade. On the upper right-hand side, you’ll see a link entitled “Speed Grader”.There are three ways to mark an assignment: draw on the document, highlight sections of text, and/or insert a text comment.

To give an assignment a grade, simply type the grade into the “Grade: out of _____ points” box. This number
will automatically be populated in the Grade Center.

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Important: the Quizzes feature is for online quizzing ONLY. Any quiz and published in the Assignments page will automatically show up in the Grades, Calendar, and Syllabus features so students can view them.

Quizzes refers to any quiz, survey, test or exam that includes instructor-generated questions. This can included graded or ungraded surveys, and graded or ungraded quizzes.

Canvas Quizzes tool allows for multiple question types (e.g., multiple choice, true/false, fill-in-the-blank, essay, matching, etc.), randomized questions, and feedback options. Quiz settings also allows for the customization of things like the number of attempts a student may submit, time limits, and the display of correct responses and feedback from the instructor.


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Discussion Boards

Discussion Boards allow for interactive communication between two or more people; users can participate in a conversation with an entire class or group.  Both instructors and students to start and contribute to as many discussion topics as desired.  You can use discussion boards as graded assignments or to simply serve as a forum for topical and current events.

The discussion boards allows:

  • Every person in the course to contribute to the discussion--even students who are less likely to speak out in class
  • Students have more time to reflect on their responses
  • You to ask a question that was sparked by an in-class discussion
  • You to assign small groups to work on answers to complex questions and then post their answers
  • Students to ask open-ended questions about the course's concepts
  • Like any good question, you to ask students to apply or explain concepts that they are learning in the course

Discussion topics can be organized as focused or threaded discussions. Focused discussions only allow for two levels of nesting, the original post and subsequent replies. Threaded discussions allow for infinite levels of nesting. Focused discussions are relatively short-lived interactions, while threaded discussions allow replies within replies and may last for a longer period of time.

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Grade Book

When you create a graded object (assignment, quiz, graded discussion), an associated column is automatically added to the gradebook. You can view the course gradebook by clicking Grades in the course navigation menu.
You can reorder columns by dragging and dropping the column heading. Hovering over a column heading with your cursor reveals the 3-vertcal dots icon on the right-hand side, with additional options including viewing the assignment details or messaging defined sets of students (e.g., message all students who have not yet submitted the assignment).

Grade book settings
Click the gear icon near the top-right corner of the grade book to display additional options. Among other options, from this menu you can:

  • Hide grades by default
  • Important: We recommend that you apply the manual posting policy to the individual gradebook column before you start grading it if you have not done so already. If you have already started grading your students' assignments, then you will need to use the "hide grades" for an assignment feature instead. Hidden assignments and assignments with a manual posting policy are not visible to your students, and will only become visible once you post grades to unhide the assignment column.In the Gradebook, you can select an automatic or manual grade posting policy for an individual assignment. Posting policies determine grade visibility for students. You should select an assignment posting policy before entering grades.

    If you select an automatic posting policy, students can see assignment grades as soon as they are entered in the gradebook. Anonymous and moderated assignments cannot be set to post grades automatically.

    If you select a manual posting policy, assignment grades remain hidden from student view by default until you post grades for the assignment. If you select a manual course posting policy after assignment grades have already been entered, the policy will not apply retroactively and any posted grades will remain visible. You can hide posted grades from the assignment's Options menu. Additionally, when assignment grades are hidden, students cannot see their assignment grade, instructor comments, or grade change notifications. However, instructors can post comments to students before grades are entered.

  • Set a late submission grading policy.


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