Semester Course Template

We have created a Fall 2018 template that you could use to speed up your course development.  The template contains an orientation module with some Canvas tutorial videos for students, and a page to show them how to get help.  There are some additional activities which are unpublished for you to choose to use them. Remove them if you already have similar items. The template also contains modules marked by weeks.

The template also contains some key events from the academic calendar to help you and students to keep track of them.

Additionally, we have created a course homepage which you can customize for your own use. If you decide not to use it, go to course home page, and use “choose home page” to select another course entry method.

To use this template, go to your course’s home page, choose “import from Canvas Commons”, search for “Fall 2018 Course Template” and import it into your course once you have found it.

If you run into difficulty in any of these steps, please contact the Adams Center for help. When requesting help, remember to send the course URL for us to find your course quickly.

Try Canvas New Features

As you probably know, Canvas is a cloud-based application that does not require local users to schedule downtime for upgrades.  Instead, new features are added incrementally.

As you start your new semester, you might want to try some of the new features.  You do so by going to the course settings and then “feature options” to turn on specific features. As you can see, some are in “beta” mode, to allow you to use as early adopters, though these features continue to be improved.  It’s completely up to you whether you want to opt in to use these new features.

Canvas New Features

Here are a few new features that we have tested and enjoyed:

  1. “New grade book”, which gives more options to customize your views, which is helpful if you have many items and students.
  2. “Dashboard image”, which allows teachers to add a relevant image for their course to direct students’ attention to your course.
  3. “Duplicate calendar events”, which makes it easy to copy calendar items.  Please also remember you can duplicate assignments, pages, and rubric criteria, features that were not available when we started using Canvas.

If you have any questions about any of these features, please ask us at the Adams Center.

Adding extra credit

Before adding extra credit to your course, ask yourself what is the purpose of having extra credit.  Read this article for more ideas about the issue.

Once you decide to add extra credit, here are three ways to do that in Canvas:

1. Point method:

If your total grade uses the point system, you can simply create a graded assignment and have the grade contribute towards the final total grade.

If you see your total grade display percentages, you can easily switch to points. Mouse over the “total grade” column in the grade book, click on the settings icon (shown as three dots), and choose “Display as Points”. While you are at it, you might as well click on “Move to Front” to move the total points closer to student names so that you can see who earned how many points.

change display from percentage to points in Canvas2) Percentage method:
If you use percentages for grade calculation, you can create a 10-point extra credit “assignment” with “no submission.” Choose not to have it count towards total grade so that the percentages will not change for those not having earned their extra credit. Then, towards the end of the semester, adjust the final grade manually based on extra credit students have earned.

Extra credit assignment3) Notes method:
In Canvas grade, you can use the notes column to record extra credit and use it to adjust the final grade at the end of the semester.  “Notes” column is under “view.”

You need to have the new gradebook enabled to be able to use the Notes feature.  To enable the new gradebook, go to settings, then “feature options” and turn on “new gradebook.”Add notes column


Add notes

Have Canvas automatically deduct grades for late submission

Deducting grades from students for late submission is not only unpleasant, but also tedious.  You can have Canvas automate the process.  Here is how:

1. Go to course settings.

2. Under “feature options,” turn on “new gradebook.”

Turn on new gradebook feature

3. Click on the gear icon that represents gradebook settings.
Gradebook Settings

4. You can now configure how much you deduct for missing or late assignments.  Remember to click on “update” to save your settings.Missing or Late

Use Blueprint courses to synchronize changes

If you team-teach a course with multiple sections, synchronizing changes across different sections can be a headache.  Canvas has a Blueprint course tool that allows you to make changes to a “blueprint” course and push the changes to all other sections associated with the course. Please check the following video to find out more:

Check this page for additional Canvas resources.

Canvas and Turnitin Dates

If you hear from students that they cannot submit their Turnitin assignment in Canvas, one likely cause is that the due dates have passed.  Canvas-Turnitin due date conflict could also cause the problem.  To check and change, follow these steps:

  1. Go to the assignment with the problem;
  2. Click on “edit assignment settings”;

Edit Canvas setting

3. Check if the due date has passed.  Change if needed.

4. Save if you have made some changes to the due date.

Save in Turnitin setting

5. Look for Turnitin settings.  Depending on your screen size, it could be collapsed into these three bars, as shown below.

Three bar for Turnitin assignments

6. Click on “settings”.

Turnitin settings

7. Check the start date (when student can start to submit), due date (when assignment is due) and release date (when feedback is given to students) to make sure they are set in a way to allow submission.  Make change as needed.

Turnitin dates

8. If you want to allow late submissions, click on “optional settings”, as shown above.

9. Check to allow late submissions, if applicable.

Allow late submissions10.  Remember to save your change by clicking on “submit”.


If this does not solve the submission problem, please contact us for help.

Tools to make scheduling easy

If you constantly email with students for a time to meet for office hours or arrange time for a series of class presentations, please remember there might be a better way of scheduling.

Google Calendar

If both sides know a general time to meet, just create a Calendar invitation which can get the item on the calendars for both you and the other person, if he or she accepts it.  Even if the invitation is not accepted, there is a record on your calendar how many people  (and who) have accepted your invitation. You can also add a notification which will remind both yourself and the other person about the event before it starts.

Canvas Scheduler

For your classes, you can use the “scheduler” tool to create appointment slots.  Here is how:

Go to your course, find calendar for the course, click on “scheduler”, and then “create an appointment group”.


You will then see this page, where you can name your appointment group, select the date and the time range, and specify if you’d divide the time range into equal slots of, say, 10 minutes. Click on “go” and Canvas will automatically create a series of time slots for your appointments. Remember to “save and publish”.Scheduling page

Now, you can tell students to reserve appointments using the scheduler tool.  Ask them to go to your course, find the course calendar from the course home page,  select “scheduler”, and then click on the name of the appointment group.  They will then be able to click on available slots to make reservations. If they change their minds, they can click on the slot they reserved to “unreserve” it.
Student view of schedulerYou can book me:

The Canvas scheduling tool only work for your courses in Canvas.  If you intend to show your availability to others not associated with your class or even ACU, you can use the “” tool to create a public-facing scheduler for others to see your availability and book your time.

Check the following video for more information about this tool:

Use a semester template for your course

We have created a Spring 2017 template course with some common information you might find useful, especially if you are starting the course as a blank one with no content.

The template include some generic university calendar items including the spring break, holidays, and general grades due dates.

Template Syllabus Page

The template also includes modules corresponding to dates in the semester, starting with Monday of each week. This may help you to populate content corresponding to each week, but you can always edit the names after you have populated the content.

Template Modules

As shown above, the template also has some common resources such as Canvas video tutorials your students may find helpful. It is under “module 0”, which also include some common resources as shown below:

Template resources page

After this template is imported into your course, you can adjust the content as you see fit.

The template is a resource, not a requirement. Use it only if it helps you to get ready for the semester. If you are not teaching the course using this weekly structure, this template may not be that helpful.

If you are interested in importing the template into your course for a quicker start in building your course, please send the URL to me(  Go to the settings page and copy the URL of the page  (Example: and email it to me.

Common Turnitin Issues

We have had Turnitin integration in Canvas in a while and we have heard of a few issues which I would like to address in the following question and answer format.

If you are a new user of Turnitin, please check this post for instructions on how to deploy the tool in your course.

Question: My students were told that they have to create accounts in Turnitin.  Why did that happen?  Shouldn’t Canvas have taken care of that?  

Answer: Account creation requires first-time users to agree to Turnitin terms and conditions.  Students will need to agree to allow their accounts to be created.  If they have chosen not to agree, they might want to clear their cache and try again, or use another browser or computer to perform this one-time action.

Question: My students were not able to submit their assignments due to error messages about assignment title and dates.  What might be the issue?

Answer: You will need go to Turnitin settings and give the assignment a title, a start date, due date and feedback release date that should be consistent with the assignment dates you assigned in Canvas assignment settings.

Question:  A student claims that his or her assignment has been submitted but I could not see it.  Why?

Answer: The top reason is that the student may not have followed through in the submission process. One last step is to click on a button to accept the submission.  If a student does not do this, his or her assignment will not go through. If an assignment has gone through, a student should see a confirmation message on the screen.  There really isn’t a middle ground between a successful submission and an unsuccessful submission. You can ask the student to resubmit and make sure the button for confirmation is clicked.

Another possible reason is that you might have switched in your submission method from “online” to “external tools” in the middle of students submitting their assignments.  If that’s the case, submissions turned in earlier can be accessed through the Speedgrader instead of the Turnitin inbox.

Question:  Can I use the Canvas Speedgrader and Turnitin only for originality check?

Canvas has now made it possible for Turnitin assignments to be pushed to Speedgrader as well, so yes, it is possible to use the Speedgrader for grades and comments.

Using the New Turnitin Feedback Studio iPad App

Turnitin released its new Turnitin Feedback Studio app (download here).

For ACU Faculty to sign in, open the app and select “Log in with Access Code.”

Log in with Access Code

Next, open a Canvas course in Safari on your iPad (not on a laptop, and not in the Canvas app). Navigate to an assignment that is using the Turnitin LTI and open the Turnitin viewer by clicking on a submitted paper.

view of Turnitin from canvas


In the Feedback Studio view, tap the i in the circle on the lower right of the screen.  If you do not see the “i” icon, it may be covered by a gear icon. Tap on it and you will be able to see the “i”icon.

Tap the i


Tap the “Generate Code” button.

A view of the information from the assignment

It may take a moment or two before the code actually generates.


Next, copy the generated code and paste it in the appropriate place in the Turnitin app.

a unique code will be generated.


Remove the spaces before hitting Return.

Remove the spaces


Once the code is accepted, you will be able to use the Turnitin Feedback Studio app on your iPad.

An image of a paper in Turnitin Feedback Studio

Tap anywhere in the paper to make comments and suggestions. This app is new and is a little buggy, but has potential to be a great markup tool as improvements are made.

Adding Teaching Assistants to Courses

Canvas is synced to Banner to make sure student, teacher and TA records are consistent across systems. To add co-teacher or students to a course, you may need to contact the registrar’s office Click here to find how.

You can, however, add a TA to your course in Canvas.  If you add a teaching assistant, do not add him or her in Canvas through the invitation method. Instead, add your teaching assistant through MyACU. Here is how:

Go to MyACU, Click on the course tool icon (the wrench)

Course tools

Click on “assistants” tab, search for the person you would like to add as TA to your class and click on “+add” to add him or her. You can add more TAs after that.Add Teaching Assistants

Once you have done this at MyACU, the information will trickle down to Canvas when it is synced with Banner next time. You may need to wait a couple of hours for this process to complete.

Check this page for additional Canvas resources.

Alternative uses of your voice

If you hear me speaking to myself in my office, it is not a sign that I am getting crazy. I might be “typing”.  Voice recognition technologies have made it possible for us to input by simply speaking. Here are a few examples:

  1. “Type” on a mobile device:
    On your iPad or mobile phone, press the microphone icon to dictate in notes, emails, or other applications. Make sure you check the results later on.  You may need to edit the content. The same applies for other suggestions below.

iPAD Dictation tool

2. Dictate in Google Docs:
Google Docs now allows you to dictate as well.  It is called “voice typing” under “tools”.  Give it a try.  It is fairly accurate.

Google Docs Voice Dictation

3. Generate video subtitles:
If you upload a video to Youtube, Youtube can automatically transcribe your voice into subtitles which you can then improve into more accurate ones. The automatic process saves you at least half of the time compared to doing it from the scratch. However, if you do not have the time for lengthy editing, you might consider using a professional service.

Subtitles tool of Youtube

4. Leave voice comments in Canvas:
When grading student work in Canvas, you can use voice comments to give feedback to students, or use the Speech Recognition tool (works in Chrome) to have your comments turned into text.
Canvas Speedgrader Feedback

5. Take voice notes:
If you use Evernote, you can leave yourself a voice note instead of typing it.

Evernote Voice recording tool

I hope this gives you some ideas of using voice to make input easier and faster.

6 Canvas Hacks for the Happy Grader

As you grade student work, here are a few suggestions about Canvas grading that may make your work easier.

  1. When you are in the process of grading, you might want to “mute assignment” and unmute it when all grades have been entered.  This could save some questions from students who wonder why they have not received grades while others have.

Mute assignment

2. Having difficulty telling how much each student makes on the final grade?  Move the “total” column to the front, near student names, so that it is easier to find out.  You can always move it to the back when it is desirable to do so.

Move to front

3. You can drop the lowest grade(s), as long as you put them in a category.  It works now even if you do not use weighted grading.  Dropped grades will be shown in gray in the grade book.


4. Are students still missing one or more assignments?  You can message them directly in the grade book while working on a particular assignment, quiz or discussion.  Click on the options icon Options icon in gradebook for any grade book column, and then choose “message students who…” to contact them with ease.

Message Students...

5. (Contributed by Dr. Mark W. Riggs,  Professor of Mathematics) If you changed a grade but at a later time you want to know what the original score had been, or if you have a teaching assistant grading for you, you could use “view history” to find out more about the grading history, as well as changes you or your TA have made.

view history

You can even revert to an earlier grade if needed.

revert to original grade

6. Last but not the least, you can have Canvas calculate the letter grade for you for your course.  In your course settings, turn on “grading schema”.  You can even customize your own grading schema to convert final scores into letter grades the way you specified in the syllabus!

Grading Schema

If you have questions about any of the above, contact the instructional designers for help.

Do you know of another “trick” that you think others may benefit from?  Share with us!

Check this page for additional Canvas resources.

Canvas Is Getting a New Look!

A new Canvas user interface (UI) will be rolled out on Saturday, June 18th, 2016 at 8:00AM, which we found to be the best time for the change after reviewing the summer schedules of both the Abilene and Dallas campuses.

What will change?

  • The change will be Mostly cosmetic, involving an updated look of the entry page (also know as Canvas Dashboard). The change will not affect the internal structures, functions, or features of your courses. You will see a different global navigation and Dashboard, which has a new view, allowing you to color code your courses.
  • Canvas used to have two Turnitin integration methods. With this upgrade, only one of them will be kept.  We will explain further about this using this blog once we have more details.
  • No upgrade will be made to the mobile app – it has already been updated.  

Where can you learn more?

  • Test the Canvas test site (URL to bookmark: to experience the new user interface. Changes you make on the test site will NOT be saved to the live site, but can give you some experience testing out what has changed.
  • Contact the instructional designers (Berlin Fang and David Christianson) if you need further information.

Introduction to SIPX

Guest post by Mark McCallon
ACU is trying out a new tool for course Readings called SIPX in Canvas.  Through this helpful tool, faculty can find readings that they want to use, whether the library owns the book or has access to the journal or not.  Using SIPX’s copyright compliance tools, you can  instantly see what the total cost of your reading list will be to the students and students who cannot afford the entire coursepack can purchase individual readings through SIPX’s payment processing.  The next time you are teaching the course your readings and content are already available and you can renew your course in a few minutes.  Through SIPX’s robust analytics tools you can view information on student engagement and also rate assigned readings.  The Library can receive reports on what you assign in your courses and help us to invest library dollars in targeted areas that will help save students more money.
For more information about SIPX, you can visit this site  .  Also, see the video below for an example of how SIPX can work here at ACU.

For more information or if you have additional questions, please contact Mark McCallon in the Library at

Creating ePortfolios in Canvas

Canvas has a fairly effective tool for building ePortfolios. It allows one to create pages, add attachments, embed videos and add work directly from courses. Please watch the following video for instructions on how to use this tool.

I have also included an instructional module for ePortfolios in Canvas Commons with the following pieces:

ePORTFOLIO In Canvas Commons

You can search for my name (Berlin Fang) or search for “ePortfolio” to add it to your course and customize it afterwards.

Feel free to let me know if you have any questions.

Check this page for additional Canvas resources.

How to check word count in Canvas

Canvas Speedgrader does not have a Word Count feature, though it is under development according to this thread.  Before this feature becomes available, you can get your word count in either of these two ways. This may be a fairly minor issue, but it can be annoying if you keep having to copy text into a word processor for word count while grading.

Display word count with an Browser extension

If you use Chrome or Firefox, install an extension called “Word Count Tool”. I could not find a similar tool in Safari yet, but please share if you find one.

Word count extension for Chrome

Once installed, highlight any text (or the entire paper), right click, and then click on “Word Count Tool”, you will be able to see the detailed Word Count information, like this:

Word Count information

Display word count with Turnitin

If you enable Turnitin for student assignment, Turnitin allows you to see the Word count for the paper fairly easily.

Click on the percentage that represents matching, such as “8%” below.

percentage of matching

Click on “Text-Only Report” at the bottom right corner.

Text-only Report

Now you should be able to see the word count for the submission.

word count in turnitin

Writing effective assignment instructions

Dr. Dannelle D. Stevens, Professor of Education at Portland State University, and co-author of Introduction to Rubrics recently shared her suggestions to the The Professional and Organizational Development Network (POD Network) for writing assignment instructions which I think are really helpful.  I am sharing these suggestions and examples with her permission:

“1. Title conveys type of assignment.
Not “Term paper” but “Research paper: Describes and explains challenges for women pioneers on Oregon Trail from 1842 to 1865″

2.The purpose of the assignment is clear.
The purpose of this paper is for you to refine your research skills, to practice analysis and synthesis of historical documents, and to learn about and appreciate what women experienced on the Oregon trail from 1842 to 1865.

3. Describes what completed assignment will look like.
The paper should include at least 10 secondary and 5 primary sources. It should be at least 10 pages long, double-spaced with 12 point font.

4. Tells point value in relation to other assignments.
The paper is worth 20 points out of the 100 points for all assignments in the class.

5. Describes how you will score the assignment (uses a rubric).
The rubric below elaborates this task description and will be used to score the assignment.”

Please also note that Canvas has a rubric tool that can be easily used for assignment grading.  Check with the instructional design team if you need help setting up your assignments or rubrics.

Calculating total grade

The Canvas grade calculation method is fairly robust compared to other systems. As students usually expect all their course-related information in the same place, you do not need to use Excel or any other tool for grade calculation if you have set things up properly in Canvas.

By default, Canvas calculate grades by adding up all column grades.  It does not use weighted grading method unless you tell it to.   With the total, non-weighted method, you will very like see a percentage rather than raw points for total grades.  For instance, for students earning 800 out of a total of 1000, Canvas will display 80%.

What if you prefer to use total points (800, for instance) instead?  Switching to total points is very simple:

1. Mouse over the heading for the column called “total” (usually towards the very end of the page), and you will see a downward arrow, click on it.


2. Click on “switch to points”.  Please note that this option is not available if you have chosen to use “weighted grading” method, because Canvas is following your logic to calculate your total grade based on the percentages you assign for each categories of assessments.

Switch to points

3. You will then see a warning to show that a change will happen.  Click on “continue”.  Also, take this as a reminder that you will need to tell students your grade display has changed from a percentage system to a total point system.  Students will appreciate that notice.




Additional tips:

  • Everything you grade in your course can have a column.   A column does not have to be something you collect online.  You can even have a column for oral presentation or attendance, for instance.
  • You can move the “total” column to the front (see the second screenshot above) to display final grade together with student names so that it is easier to see how much each student has earned.
  • You can click on any column’s heading to sort the scores from the lowest to the highest, or from the highest to the lowest.
  • Try to make your grade book display the kind of columns your syllabus has described.  Discrepancies between the two leads to anxiety and unnecessary work on your part.
  • If you use weighted grading, you can use assignments tool in Canvas to create and manage groups. With weighted grading method, you can drop some low grades in a group. Let us know if you would like to help doing that.
  • If you click on the name of a student in the grade book, you can see how each student’s grade is calculated.  I would also encourage you to look at one of the student’s individual grade book to get familiar with their view.  If you are not sure whose to look at, try students with the highest grade or the lowest grade, which will show the calculation more clearly.
  • You could also experiment with the test student view.  Every course has a test student. You can give the test student “fake” scores and see how that adds up in the “total” column as a way to validate your calculation method.
  • You can have Canvas generate a letter grade (A,B,C,D,F, etc.) for you using a pre-defined schema.

Please contact me or David Christianson if you need any assistance with any of the above. We’d love to discuss with you in greater detail.