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.

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.

Changing Start and End Dates for a Canvas Course

Each Canvas course is created with the default beginning and end date for a semester. Sometimes, however, faculty will want to allow students to access and interact in the course before or after the official start and end times of the semester. In order to do this, an instructor should enter the course, then select Settings in Course Navigation.

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 10.40.21 AM

Under the Course Details tab, you can change the Start and End Dates by using the calendar tools. Be sure that “Users can only participate in the course between these dates” is checked.

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 10.43.34 AM

Once you have set the dates the way you want them, click on “Update Course Details” at the bottom of the page.

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 10.48.15 AM

Canvas Implementation Plan

Abilene Christian University starts campus-wide implementation of Canvas in Fall of 2015.  Some courses have already been offered in Spring 2015, and some in summer 2015 as well.

Here are a few resources you can use to become familiar with Canvas.


  • Adams Center offers regular training sessions about Canvas, including introductory sessions and various uses of Canvas, for instance, how to use Canvas grades, assignments and apps.  Consider signing up for these sessions to learn more about Canvas even if you are not using it this semester. Check here for sessions about Canvas. If your department wants to schedule some sessions in a small group setting, let us know and we can arrange that.

Other resources:

  • You can also learn to use Canvas by watching video on Canvas.  We highly recommend you complete this course before teaching in Canvas.  ACU has a site license for  Check this page for instructions if you have issues logging into
  • Canvas also provides a great variety of tutorials on various topics related to the uses of Canvas here.   If you need help with specific tasks in Canvas, we would recommend you search the guides.
  • Adams Center also develops a Canvas Orientation Course, including some ACU-specific content.  Check here to see the course.  Contact Berlin Fang if you want to be enrolled and participate in course activities as a student. If you participated in one of our training sessions, we might have you enrolled in the course already.

Course design support:

  • The Adams Center instructional design team (Berlin Fang and David Christianson) will work with you to design or redesign your course, or explore options for migration from another system.

Migration implementation support:

  • Please contact Dr. Marisa Beard (extension 2855) if you have any questions related to the implementation timeline and arrangements.


Posting Syllabus in Canvas

Canvas has a specific menu item called “syllabus” for you to add your syllabus items.  You can use this tool to share your syllabus, and create a visual display of all time-sensitive items in your course.

To create your syllabus, click on the “syllabus” link on your course menu, and then click on the icon like this on the right side of the page:

Icon for editing syllabus

You will then be shown a rich text editor in which you can either add a syllabus attachment, link to specific pages, or compose your syllabus directly in Canvas.

Some of our professors are taking advantage of the syllabus tool.  I am going to share three examples.  If you want to learn how to do what they did, please contact the instructional designers (Berlin Fang or David Christianson) for help.

As your syllabus may be a very long document, Dr. Karen Maxwell creates multiple pages for each section in the syllabus, and use the “Syllabus” tool to post links to these specific pages:

Karen Maxwell's syllabus

Dr. Anita Broxon uses a similar approach, by having multiple pages which she calls “shortcuts” to specific parts of her syllabus, while also including a “printable” copy (in Word or PDF format) which students can download and print if they want to.

Anita Broxon's syllabus

Dr. Kim Pamplin creates his syllabus within the “syllabus” using the rich text editor.    It may take a while to edit the page, but once created, students can see the syllabus directly when entering the syllabus page.   Dr. Pamplin’s page looks very good, because he made his page concise in content and consistent in format.  If your syllabus is too long to show on one page, you could use multiple pages and include them as links as Dr. Maxwell and Dr. Broxon did.

Kim Pamplin's Syllabus


Additional tips:

  1. If the only thing you change in a syllabus (I mean the Word or PDF document) is the calendar, you could tell students in the syllabus that you will share your calendar items in Canvas syllabus (I mean the “syllabus” tool in Canvas) ;
  2. Once you upload your syllabus in Word or PDF format, it will also go into “files” of your course.  If further changes are made, simply go to “files”, upload the new version with the same file name.  When asked whether to overwrite it, choose to overwrite it and the new syllabus will show wherever you link to it.

Getting your courses started in Canvas

For professors participating in the Spring 2015 Canvas pilot, this post is meant to help you get started.

For every course you start in Canvas, you will see  a checklist like this at the bottom of your course page:

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 3.04.03 PM

All of them are links.  Click on any one of them, and Canvas will take you where you need to be to make these changes.  Or you will be given some instructions.

Let me go over them and add some additional instructions or advice.  I am going to make this a living document to add more content as new situations/questions arise.

  1. Accessing Canvas: 
    During the pilot stage in Spring 2015, Canvas will not show in MyACU.   You and your students will access it from this URL:
  2. Import content:
    If you have courses in Blackboard/Coursesites/Moodle before, you can export them into Canvas directly.  If you want to migrate your content over from some other platforms, you may need to do so manually.  Talk to me (Berlin Fang) or David Christianson  for advice.
  3. Add course assignments:
    You can either add them all at once or add them as the semester goes.   If these assignments have due dates, they will also show in your Calendar and Syllabus automatically.
  4. Add students to the course:
    You do NOT need to do this.  Students have already been imported for you, thanks to Marisa Beard and Lyndell Lee.  However, you can divide students into groups or sections if necessary.  You can also crosslist courses.   We can show you how to do that if you let us know of your needs.
  5. Select navigation links:
    Hide things you do not need to show students.   Once you have done that these items on the menu will be grayed out, but you can still use them as teachers.
  6. Choose a course home page:
    I strongly recommend you create a simple welcome message to tell students that they are in the right place.  You can add some simple text, photo, or even a video.
  7. Add course calendar events
    Like assignments, you do not have to add them all at once. You can add them as you go.
  8. Add TAs to the course
    You can add a TA yourself by going to “people” to invite someone to be a Teaching Assistant.
  9. Post your syllabus:
    You can just upload your printable syllabus to “Syllabus” in Canvas, or you can re-create a syllabus page, or you can create multiple pages corresponding to various parts of your syllabus to provide some shortcuts to students.  Upload your printable syllabus (in Word or PDF format, for instance) to “files” first, and link it in the “Syllabus” area of Canvas.  This way, you can replace the syllabus in “files” after some changes have been made, without having to worry about changing the same file in various places if you link it elsewhere in the course.  The same is true with other files.
  10. Publish your course
    Everything in Canvas (content items, modules, the entire course) starts as being unpublished, you will need to select which ones to publish.  But eventually you will need to “publish” the course for students to see it in their course list.
  11. Send students a welcome message:
    Send students  a welcome message telling them that you use Canvas for your course this semester, and give them this URL:

    Tell students that they should be able to log in with their ACU user name and password.   Also provide this link to the Canvas student guides for them to become familiar with Canvas:
    You might want to include this link in your course as well in case students need help.

If you have any questions or issues, please feel free to let us know.