IMPORTANT NOTE:  This page does not contain comprehensive instructions on how to use Canvas.  We've discovered that the number of educational institutions using Canvas is so vast that searching the internet for "Canvas (your topic)" or "How to (your topic) in Canvas" yields lots of helpful material, both written and in video!

Where is Canvas at Whitman?

Whitman’s Canvas is, with shortcuts from myWhitman,, and from its formal address . Note that it’s actually hosted by Instructure (the makers of Canvas), not Whitman, but if you have trouble accessing it, please let us know.

How do I set up my courses?

Go to myWhitman / Faculty tab / Faculty Tools, and click “Canvas Course Site Setup:

How do get Canvas help?  What about course design consultation, or my "what if?" questions? is the best place to get support, ask questions, inquire about training, and more.  Officially, we pledge to respond to messages within one business day.  Unofficially our response time is usually far faster than that-- within a couple hours or less!

Use Universal Design guidelines

Please strongly consider Universal Design for Learning (UDL)  as you work on your course design.  UDL is a helpful guide to making your courses more useful and accessible to all students. Want to learn more about UDL and apply it to your Canvas courses?

Blackboard Ally in Canvas

Also note that Whitman employs the Blackboard Ally plug-in, which helps you identify which parts of your courses can be improved to make them more accessible.  Just look for and click on the Speedometer icons that appear in your course:

Note that Ally does more that just evaluate and help you fix course material.  Learn more (from Stockton University).

Tips about Key Canvas Tools


Using Canvas Assignments, you can build and view all of your course assignments. As an instructor, you can create assignment groups, create a variety of assignment types, modify assignment settings, and so much more!

You might also find Transparency in Teaching and Learning useful when building assignments. Check out the Transparent Assignment Template by Mary-Ann Winkelmes.


The ‘Files’ tool consists of a hierarchical file location to store all manner of computer files that you would want access to in Canvas.  A folder structure like that of both Mac and PC (and Google Drive for that matter) can be built here, and populated with various files uploaded from your office (or any) computer, using the tools built into Files.

As with any item listed in Course Navigation (the items in the column in white, just to the right of the blue column) ‘files’ must be listed in the Navigation portion of Course Settings.

Files can be used directly by displaying the folder for students, or it can be more of a ‘loading dock’ for items that you would use elsewhere in Canvas.  For example, you could have a file full of PDF’s that are linked from either Modules, or Pages.

Once in Files, you will see a ‘map’ of the folders you’ve built on the left, and on the right, the files that are in the selected folder.

Tools for getting files where you want them to be are found on the upper right:  There are 3 items:

  • +Folder - to build a new folder in the selected location.
  • Upload - to upload files from your computer to Canvas.
  • The vertical ellipsis (I call it the kebab) that, once expanded, shows options for files.

In the main window (right side of the screen) is a list of the contents of the folder selected on the left.

Note that each file has a kebab (collapsed set of options, like rename, delete, and download) and also a column of either eyeballs with a slash (hidden) or  green check mark (published).

There is also an ‘accessibility’ column, that rates a given PDF for its ease of access by students.  More on this later.


Modules let you group together items of various types: Assignments, Quizzes, Files, links to external resources, etc., for easy access by students. Most instructors group them week-by-week, or topic by topic.

  • Items that appear in the Modules view are also reachable via their respective “index pages” (Assignments, Quizzes, etc.) in the Navigation menu, if those are enabled. In other words, Modules is just a different route to the course materials, not a pile of duplicated items.
  • Many instructors choose to make Modules the home page of their course, so students have each week’s materials ready to hand.

Please see the official documentation for answers to common questions.


Please see our Recommended Settings Guide.


  • How to see Pages, and who sees them when
    • Click on Courses, and select the course where you want the pages option to show.
    • Click on ‘settings’ (all the way to the bottom and to the left of the blue vertical bar) 
    • Click on the ‘Navigation’ tab at the top.
    • Note the topmost box, labeled:  ‘Drag and drop items to reorder them in the course navigation’
    • Note the box below, labeled:  ‘Drag items here to hide them from students.’  Alternatively, you can drag items OUT of this box and drop them into the box above, this will show the pages tool to the students.

Each page must be created, saved, and published to be seen *in* the pages tool.

  • Creating and saving a page
    • When logged into Canvas, as instructor you will always see the pages tool.  Click on it.
    • Click the ‘View All Pages’ button, on the top left.
    • Click on the PAGES+ button to the right
    • Create the page using the WYSIWYG editor 
    • Click on ‘Save’ at the bottom of the page, or ‘Save and Publish’ if you want the students to have immediate access.

  • Publishing and ‘Front Page’
    • When viewing ‘all pages’ you will see the vertical ellipse to the right of each page.  You can copy, edit, delete the page as you choose.
    • Just to the left of this button, is another toggle button that will publish/unpublish each page individually.
    • In the vertical ellipse menu, you also have the option to ‘use asfront page’.  To see this option, there must be more than one page created, and the page to make ‘front’ must be published.  This will become the first page students will see when they come to this course**
    • **EXCEPTIONS:  For the ‘pages’ ‘front page’ to be set as the ‘home page’ IE: The first thing students see, follow the following additional steps:
      • Course Activity Stream
      • Pages Front Page
      • Course Modules
      • Assignments List
      • Syllabus
      • Click on ‘home’ at the top of the wite bar just to the left of the blue column.
      • On the right side of this page, click on ‘Choose Home Page’ (note, ‘front page’ only applies to ‘pages’ This selection is more broad.  Here are the choices:
      • Choosing ‘Pages Front Page’ will make the ‘front page’ chosen earlier, the ‘Home Page’ for this course

  • Syllabus Tool:  The Syllabus Tool is a special page that (as you see above) can be chosen to be the Home Page as well.  The Syllabus page has the same page building tools that ‘pages’ has, with one addition:  Any assignments built (using the assignments tool) will be shown on the bottom portion of the Syllabus page as a bulleted list.  Building a Syllabus page does not automatically make it the Home Page, it must be selected from the ‘Choose Home Page’ menu.
  • Do note that if you add assignments using the Assignment tool over the course of the semester, they will be added to the Syllabus page at the same time.

Old School to New School: migration from CLEo to Canvas:  

CLEo is our old Learning Management System.  If you still have content in there, please read on...

Other questions?  Please contact us at "canvas_help (att,) whitman (dott,) edu"

(This email address is intentionally phrased, to help prevent spambots from picking up on it)