Part 10: Fall 2019 Labs

183 Managing your Canvas Course — 08.23.2019

The Active Teaching Lab on Friday, August 24, 2019, focused on tips and tricks instructors could use to make teaching in Canvas easier. That included minimizing email questions with Canvas Inbox and harnessing student-to-student support with Discussions.

Takeaways from the Lab:

  • Way-finding — Students exert much cognitive energy and resources trying to find course information, to learn where and how to submit assignments online, and how to engage with their peers through avenues such as Discussions. When designing your course site, simplify as much as possible! Turn off the features of the side-bar navigation that you are not using to keep students focused on the active elements of your course (e.g., if you do not want students to access your Pages, remove them from student access!).
  • Piazza can be an effective tool to manage students’ questions about the course (content, administration, organization, etc.) and create rich opportunities for peer-to-peer learning. Even better than Canvas Discussions,  Piazza supports anonymous (to students) questions, so they won’t withhold their questions out for fear of judgement or perception. See past Labs on Piazza (Brian Esselman, John Gillett, Joe Anistranski) and attend the Oct 23rd Piazza Lab!)
  • Design course interactions with an eye to what is mobile-friendly (tablets, smartphones, etc.) for students that are on-the-go, working part-time jobs, commuting, and for those down moments between classes during the day. Smaller pieces of material encourage students to spread out learning with time for reflection and synthesis (distributed learning) rather than cramming studying into marathon sessions (massed learning).
  • Encourage students to update their notification settings in Canvas so that they never miss an announcement, discussion forum post, or a message in their Canvas Inbox! For instructors, Canvas Inbox is a great way to cut-down on emails and to manage messaging to-and-from students in your course and offers the possibility to message distinct groups of students (e.g., those who have yet to turn in their homework!)

For more information visit the session’s activity sheet.


The Active Teaching Lab is a Faculty Engagement program with sessions held on Wednesdays from 1:00-2:00pm and Fridays from 8:30-9:45am, both labs meet in the Middleton Building (1305 Linden Dr.), room 120. Check out upcoming Labs or read the recaps from past Labs. We build interdisciplinary conversations that are more emergent than a presenter and more dynamic than a panel — a conversation with colleagues sharing challenges, solutions, and experiments on topics selected by a variety of stakeholders.

Sign up for regular Lab announcements by sending an email to


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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