Part 9: Spring 2019 Labs

181 Best of: Course Design Tips – 05.15.2019

At the May 15, 2019 Teaching Effectively in Canvas session, six disciplined participants opted out of the sunshine for an hour to engage in a problem-solving discussion. Attendees brought teaching successes and challenges and worked collaboratively to build solutions and new approaches to Canvas course design. Instructors in attendance left with things to try and how-to directions.


  • Use Universal Design for Learning as a framework to provide students with versatile representations of content so they may engage in and express their learning in multifaceted ways.
  • Center learning on the Wisconsin Experience. Construct activities, assignments, and interactions to foster empathy and humility, relentless curiosity, intellectual confidence, and purposeful action.
  • Build from templates for time-saving structure, flexibility to adapt to various course needs, and intentional design informed by experts in both pedagogy and academic technology.
  • Organize content strategically. Example A: If content is housed in a Module, students don’t necessarily have to access it sequentially. If material should be worked through in a certain order, provide access with links in a Page, not Modules. Example B: Use the Redirect Tool to personalize left-side navigation buttons to improve student wayfinding and the saliency of important resources.
  • Provide a designated resource for questions and course-related commentsLeave a pinned Discussion open for students to post questions or interesting/course-related finds. Make the Discussion the first line of inquiry in your course policies to reduce the number of clarification emails from students so that you (or better yet, other students!) answer questions once, not multiple times.
  • Ask your students! They’re each in several different courses and have a much better perspective of what other instructors are doing with their courses. They also may know what works for them, and perhaps what works for their generation. Offer points to reflect on each assignment and give you feedback on course design, then demonstrate that you’re listening! Some may offer great insight just to save the poor students who have to take the class in the future!

For more information on course design, visit the session’s activity sheet.


Teaching Effectively in Canvas is a Faculty Engagement program designed to highlight experiences of UW-Madison instructors in the Canvas learning environment and to dig into solutions to challenges faced. In these responsive sessions, participants put forth questions and needs they’d like to see addressed, hear practical ways that other instructors use Canvas, connect teaching practices to evidence-based learning research, and learn how to access and apply resources that can guide them beyond the session.


Active Teaching Lab eJournal Copyright © 2016 by DoIT Academic Technology and the UW-Madison Teaching Academy; Jennifer Hornbaker; John Martin; Julie Johnson; Karin Spader; Margaret Merrill; Margaret Murphy; and Jeffrey Thomas. All Rights Reserved.

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