Getting your Canvas modules ready for a new academic year

Summer is coming and thoughts in the Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) team are turning to the next academic year. Many staff will be involved in assessment and marking for a while yet, but for anyone who is itching to start setting up their Canvas modules for 2021/22 the empty sites are now available.

Where are my 2021/22 Canvas modules?

Depending on how many modules are currently showing on your Canvas Dashboard you may see the new sites there, listed under ‘Unpublished modules’, or you may need to look in ‘Modules’ and ‘All modules’.

To show modules on your Dashboard, click the star icon next to each in the ‘All modules’ list. Your Dashboard can show up to 20 module cards. 

If you aren’t seeing all the modules you are expecting, please check in Sussex Direct that you are listed with a teaching or assessment role on the module and contact your School Office if anything needs to be updated. 

What do I need to do to get modules ready for students?

TEL have created a set of guidance pages and resources tailored to each School. If you are the module convenor, have a look at Step 1 on the Canvas Module Set Up page and click through to your School’s page. Once you have applied the relevant template and imported any content you want to, steps 2-4 will take you through the other things you need to consider and check. Step 5 shows you how to publish your module. 

Top tips

  1. Make your Dashboard work for you. You can edit your Dashboard to show/hide the module cards you want and arrange the ones you use most frequently at the top.
gif showing moving module crd on dashbaord
  1. Make it easy to correct mistakes. If you are editing Pages it’s a good idea to save often. Each time you save, Canvas will retain a copy of that version so if you make a mistake you can then use the ‘Page history’ to revert to a previous version. 
  2. Tidy up your Files and Pages. This is a good time to do some housekeeping on your module. When you are importing content from a previous year you can leave behind any redundant files and pages to avoid cluttering up your new site. If you have files you think you may need at some point in the future, but not this year, download them and save them in Box or OneDrive.
  3. Think accessibility! Use the Digital Accessibility toolkit to help you make your content accessible. 
  4. Banish broken links. Before you publish your site, use the Link Validator to check if there are any broken web links in your site. This will also highlight any places where students are being directed to another Canvas site that they might not be able to access. If your template has support links to Sussex Direct these will show as inaccessible in the validator because they are behind a login, but the links will work for students.
  5. Publish, publish, publish. To ensure that students will be able to see what you want them to, check that items, units and the whole module are published. A published Page in an unpublished Unit won’t be visible to students.
  6. Check what students will see. Each Page in Canvas has a ‘student view’ button at the top right, that will let you see what an imaginary student would see on that page. This is a great way to check that things are as they should be. It isn’t definitive for items that are specific to individual students, such as assignments, but is a great way to check things before publishing and if you have forgotten to publish a unit (see 6) this will be flagged up in ‘student view’.

Further support

TEL will be providing support throughout the summer to help you get your modules ready for September. There will be a mix of School-based workshops, live Q&As, one-to-one sessions and of course email support via

Posted in Canvas

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We are the Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) team at the University of Sussex. We publish posts each week on using technology to support teaching and learning. Read more about us.

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