Canvas Tutorial

Canvas Logo

What is Canvas?

Canvas is a Learning Management System (LMS) created by Instructure. If that meant nothing to you, congratulations; you’re not a nerd.

Canvas serves as the whiteboard, paper, textbook and messaging service for your class. In Canvas, you can assign, grade and comment on student work, disperse class reading, respond to student questions, and moderate discussions with your class. Everything you do in a normal classroom. In fact, think of it as a classroom within the classroom. Like Inception, only real and more useful. And with decidedly less Leonardo DiCaprio.

The instructions below will hopefully clarify how to get started in Canvas, and we’ll get more into rocking your classroom with it later.

What’s Already Done

The gurus at the district office have already done most of the setup for you. Whether or not you know it, you already have a Canvas account and classes full of students. Your students also have accounts. All that’s left is getting everyone into their accounts and your content onto the site.

Logging In

Visit to access your account. You’ll get a login screen like this:

Screen shot of the Canvas login

If you don’t want to have to remember, we’d suggest you bookmark it while you’re here.

Next, login with your school email ( and your default Novell/Groupwise password. If that doesn’t work, click the “Don’t know your password?” option below the login section:

don't know password

This will allow you to have a reset link sent to your email:

enter your email and we'll send you a link to change your password.

Follow the instructions in the email to reset your password.

Setting up a Course

Once you’re logged into Canvas, you’ll be able to view your courses (which should already exist) by going to the Courses & Groups option in the red bar across the top of your screen:

Logan schools canvas

Click on the course you’d like to begin working with. You can now create assignments, set up groups, etc. Students will be unable to access the course until you choose to publish it from the Next Steps menu that spreads across the bottom portion of the screen:

next steps

Don’t hit publish until you’re ready for students to get on and work. If nothing’s there when they do (because you haven’t set it up yet), they’ll just annoy you with questions about why nothing is there. Like “Why is nothing there?” So annoying. Don’t publish until you’re ready.

Home Page Layout

This next bit is totally optional, but makes a big difference in the long run. By default, the home page of your course is set to the Communication Stream:

Communications Stream

If you click the option to Change the Home Page Layout, you can change it to the Assignments with Syllabus:

Set home page layout

Which looks like this:

Unpublished course

Now when students visit the page, they’ll see a list of assignments for the class along with any instructions you decide to give them (e.g. welcome message, announcements, daily tasks, instructions for when you have a sub, etc.). To change these instructions, click Edit Syllabus Description in the menu on the right. Whatever you type in your syllabus description will then appear above the assignment list when students log in each day. Personally, we change this every few days to fit the activity.

What Now?

We’d like to say that’s all, but it isn’t. The truth is that Canvas is like an imaginary friend: It can be as much or as little as you decide it will be. Also, people sometimes give you strange looks when you try to explain how cool it is – but maybe that’s just us.

To be clear, this tutorial was meant to get you in and little else. We’ll be adding instructions for creating assignments, hosting discussions, grading and more as we get to it, but we wanted you to at least be able to get in and run around a bit. If there’s something pressing that you need addressed before we cover it, let us know.