How Canvas Design Tools are Transforming My Course Content — Ashlee Espinosa (2023)

Searching for a way to design your Canvas course quick and easy? I’m sharing how you can use canvas design tools to transform your course content without needing to know how to code or use fancy design programs saving you time and energy.

Canvas design tools are transforming my course content allowing me to focus on connecting with my student rather than being a designer for an online website. These Cidi Labs tools allow you to customize a Canvas course and create homepages that easily feel like you have spent hours designing. I want to share with you these homepage updates for canvas design tools and best practices for Canvas course design so you save time and can focus on the content rather than the design elements.

This Canvas tutorial walks through design tips, homepage options in Canvas and ways you can customize your course pages adding in your personal flair all while remaining in Instructure.

*please note: If you do not see the rocket or the combination of hitting option + shift + D for MAC or Alt + shift + do for PC does bring up the Design Tools element then your institution/college/university/school more than likely has not implemented or included this element in their Canvas accounts. If you have questions accessing Design Tools please reach to your IT or Canvas Admin contact.

Check out the playlist on Canvas LMS Tutorials here

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- If you're searching for a way to design your Canvas course, without needing to know code without going to another program to design other elements, and without feeling overwhelmed then this video is for you. If you haven't subscribed yet, go ahead, subscribe, hit that bell notification so you get notified every single time I have new video coming out every single week about online education.

Hi, I'm Ashlee Espinosa, I have an MFA Musical Theater, and I've been teaching online with Canvas for a little over seven years now. And I'm so excited to help you end your frustration with online education. And most importantly, to make you feel a little more comfortable using Canvas for your LMS. I wanna introduce you to design tools in Canvas.

Now, this is something that is, has been around for a little bit of time, but is really fairly new right now that has been accessible for a lot of colleges, especially those that are in the community college level. I haven't seen it quite often in the university level, a few universities that I teach at, they do not have access to this, so that's something to keep in mind. But many of you are gonna have access. Lemme show you how you can access it and what it is, and then what you can do with it to save time and energy to design your Canvas course.

So let's jump right into my computer here. Here is an example, course, this is an older course that I taught just to show you how it's done. I'm on the homepage right now, I'm gonna just click Edit, so we're in the edit mode of a page, whatever you have. Notice right here at the top, you saw a pop up. On the top right hand corner, you're gonna see this little rocket. Now, this is where you can launch the design tools. If you click on that little rocket and if you don't have it or you don't see it, hold on one sec, lemme show you another way. This is going to be the design tools that you have access to. Now, this has been around for a little bit of time, I have really just become aware of it recently because it's easily added into our Dashboard in our pages now on Canvas, in a few universities and colleges that I teach at, but I will tell you, there are a couple that I have not, they haven't given access to us yet. So you may or may not have this yet, I just wanna show you a couple of ways that you can find out if you do have it, and if you do, how to use it.

So, that's the first way you can do it, is by locating the rocket that pops up on the right hand side. Another way that you can access it is on your keyboard, if you're using a Mac, you can hit Option Shift and D at the same time, which is what I just did, and it pops up on the right hand side here. Now, if you're using a PC, you're gonna wanna hit Alt, Shift D, and that will again, pop it up and you can see it on the side there as well. Maybe you don't see that rocket, you wanna try that out and see if it pops up there. Now I'm gonna go through the basics and an overview of the design tools and really the most important ones that you can start out with, but I wanna show you something else here.

If you go down to Settings, let's click on the settings tab, depending on how you set your course up, it's gonna look obviously completely different than mine. But if you go to this settings tab, and then I wanna show you, introduce you to the multi-tool function. So if you going to the settings tab, which is always typically located in the bottom left-hand corner of your Dash of your course, then when you open the settings tab up, we're going navigate over to the second or third tab, depending on your institution, this says Navigation.

Once we click on that navigation tab, we're going see all of the tools that you have enabled, and we wanna look for Multi-tool. So mine's down here at the very bottom. Again, this may be something that your college or university or institution has not have access to just yet. I will tell you the more that I teach at different schools, the more that I coach other people in Canvas, I will tell you that every school is a little bit different. Okay so if you don't see it, you just won't have access to that. But let's click on Multi-tool and we're going enable it, it's gonna pop it up to the top, and then we're going click Save at the bottom don't forget to hit Save.

After we click Save, we're going to then see it over here on the left-hand side. Okay, so once you click on that, we're going to be able to access this Multi-tool and this other extension of the design tools. So it's just another kind of sub design. Now take a look at this, I'm gonna go through this as well, but I just wanted to show you where it is. Okay, so let's go back to the little rocket. I'm gonna go to a page and show you what you can do. So let's go back to the Homepage here. Okay, we are going to click Edit because we have to enter the edit mode to access this. Okay there's my rocket at the top right corner or you're going to do Alt, Shift plus D or you're going to hit Option, Shift D to access it. And here's these launch tools.

Now I have to tell you, I'm so excited to have them in some courses and in other colleges and universities that don't have it, I'm super, super, not excited because it's such a great tool. Let me show you a couple of examples here. So let's get started. A couple of examples that I want to show you, is you have this little puzzle piece here. If you click on that puzzle piece, it drops us down and the first one I wanna talk about is choosing a theme, because I think there's a lot of elements that you can get lost on just by looking at this. So again, don't get overwhelmed. I wanna show you just a couple of highlights and then you can play around with it.

Choose theme as the first one, I wanna note. So again, here's like an older course of mine that I just made myself with buttons, which I no longer do as well, but I've got a video coming up on button soon. And then I wanna just, let's pick one, we can scroll through them, we can hover over it and we can see a template design that I can lock into on this page. So there's all kinds of them here, ribbons. Let's just pick one for example, so let's do, I like the circle one. We're gonna tick on that one and automatically you can see that the page that I had, you can do this in an older course to practice, turns into a template that we have at the top here. All right, so it automatically adds in all of these extra tabs or what I would consider a button, just by using this template.

All right, so now we can scroll down here after we choose that template, and if we wanted to, we can click on Customize Banner Text on the right side, and we can edit the text name, whatever you wanna say, we can edit this number, we can fix this. If you wanna do like the course name or whatnot, okay? You can put that in there, and then you can edit this title. This was the title I already had, but you could edit this title write it here on the right side bar. And then you could do a subtitle, you could do the subscription, but it's another way to get a template in here without you having to create anything or doing any code. We can also scroll down and we can choose a banner image. Now there's all kinds of banner images that they've included in here. I could delete the one I have as well, and I could just pick anyone that they have that works for this course. Again, this is the homepage, so depending on what page you're doing, it might be a little bit different. And if I keep scrolling down here on the right, you can notice that any of the media, the photos that I have already in this course, they're going to pop up. So if I wanted to, I could pick a photo just from my course and have that be consistent with the content that I'm already including in it. So that's really amazing to kind of get started, we can also do other things like edit the navigation blocks that you see on the right side over here for what you need. Maybe you don't need to start here tab or section or page. Maybe you don't want the syllabus there, you can edit all of that right in here as well, which is fabulous. And then you also have these course content links, some other information down here, but really I just wanted to show you the theme. And then how you can edit that banner and whatnot.

And this is a great way just to start off the top template without having to use, what I have used here before, and I would actually go back in and I would delete this now. So already right there, it looks a lot better. I didn't have to do anything fancy, I don't have to design anything. All right, so the next thing I wanna show you is you're probably wondering after I do that design, where do they send them to? Okay, so let me click Save, and what it's gonna automatically do, is if you already have a page created, for example, also notice I love how it's animated, it pops up for this specific template that I've chose for this, it's just so amazing. Okay, so let's say the syllabus. If I already have a syllabus, when I click on this, it's going to automatically link to the syllabus in that course. So you don't have to do anything. Let me go back in here.

Now let's say it's a page that you don't have, for example, Start Here. I don't have a page called Start Here. When I click that, it's gonna then say, you need to create the page. So then I can say, oh, okay, great. A Start Here page, would be fabulous, maybe I explain the course and how to get started, and it's a beginning overview. So they start with that page first in the course. And now I can create that page, again I can go to the top right hand corner or do the Alt, Shift D or the Option, Shift D and I can design this page.

So now instead of a homepage, I can also design a page, with the same idea. So let's say you want, for example, this is actually a great one for your syllabus, but say, I'm gonna pick this one right here, okay? This is going to be for my, I can have objectives on here, you can see the template readings, you could see all of these other elements as well, which is great. You have your options up here. Copy course content, Add or arrange blocks. I think this is the one I wanted to show, yeah. So add, arrange or rearrange content blocks on the right hand side. If I wanna click, Add Blocks, I can pop over here, and let's say, I wanna add readings, and I wanna showcase to them what we're reading in this, maybe this is the first page of your module. I can click on Add Readings and it's going to immediately, you can see here, add this, lemme make this a little bigger for you. You're gonna see that it's gonna add this icon here and now I can go back in here, and I can say, one reading list, two reading list, three reading list. And just by doing that, now I'm gonna click Save.

I already have kind of a fancy little page and I could edit that as well, like I showed before. But now I have this fancy page that I can add all of these design elements to, without having to use code without having to go somewhere, and design the image and pop it in. And the best part is that it's all accessible because you're staying within the confinements and the formats within Canvas. Because it's a Canvas integrated tool.

Lemme know if you have access to this design tool in your course, lemme know down in the comments below, and if you do, and you're already this far into the video, how are you going to be able to use that? What are you gonna try it out with? Maybe it's just your homepage, maybe it's just the first page of your module. Lemme know down in the comments below.

So the next thing I wanna show you, is that's a little basic overview, just the templates, just a few other little elements to get you started on design tools. Again, we don't wanna overwhelm, there's so many different things with Canvas, we wanna keep it simple. Let's go back down to the multi-tool section that we talked about at the very beginning, I showed you how to access that. So I wanna just introduce you to this Multi-tool function, which is another type of design element that's built in. I just wanna give you an overview of it so you can kind of start to play around with it because there's a lot of information too, as well. The best thing about this, is it's going to, as it says up here at the top, help you quickly develop and update your course. Bulk update, this is a great way to dive into that, a great way to create a module, the basic version of it, of the blueprint quickly and easily. So, here's a couple of things that you can do, we have the template builder, we have a module builder, a due date modifier, a delayed and announcement modifier as well. And you can navigate those by going to the top over here, this would be a template builder. Now I've played with this a little bit. What it's allowing you to do is nothing different than you've done before in Canvas, it's just a faster way of doing it. And then if you go to the top over here, we're gonna hover over Module Builder. So here is where you see all of your modules in a different format, it's kind of an all in one. You can edit these, you can update these, you can add other elements to it here really quickly, you could delete them. It's just giving you an easier way to update your modules without having to go into the left sidebars like we have before. And then you can create, a new module pattern in here and duplicate all that.

The other thing is the little icon here, the due date modifier, let's click on that. Now this is going to kind of solve that problem we've been having with being able to do things in bulk and update multiple assignments at once. So, just try to like go through this when you have the time, because again, it's quite a lot of information. But this is gonna solve that idea of having to go through every single assignment and kind of bulk updating.

The next thing you have over here on the right is delayed announcement modifiers. So you can click on that and you can go through your announcements and kind of edit them quickly, delete them. You can go to that announcement here, you can edit it, you can delete it, you can reschedule all the days. So let's say, for example, you're designing your course and you want to bulk schedule all of your weekly announcements and check-ins, you can edit them right here, redo the dates, update anything that you want and have it all done quickly versus going through every single one like we have done before in Canvas. So this is just a great way to do things in bulk, a little bit quicker, and a little bit easier.

One thing I do wanna remind you about is the idea that we wanna keep everything simple and concise. And I know I say that quite often, but that's what I really like about these design tools. It's giving you a way to save time and create and design your course a little bit easier page by page. Give it some more, include some buttons, include headers and make it a little bit more designer friendly rather than you having to do all that back end work. But remember, keep it simple, keep it focused, keep it concise. And hopefully this will help you alleviate some of that design frustration in Canvas. I know we all see. And give you a lot more time to focus on your content and communicating with your students.

If you need more help with Canvas, don't forget to check out next, my Canvas playlist tutorials, I've got a ton of videos, it's a massive series, I'm always adding to, just like this video will be added to it. I'll put that link down in the description box below for you. Don't forget to subscribe, so you don't miss my videos every single week about online education., if this video is helpful for you, please consider giving it a thumbs up. and I can't wait to see you in the next video next week.

Happy teaching.

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