Part 9: Spring 2019 Labs

179 Redesigning Your Course – 05.08.2019

How can you use the past semester’s experience to increase student learning and teaching efficiency? At the May 8, 2019 Teaching Effectively in Canvas session, seven participants wrapped up finals week by exploring ideas for integrating research-informed practices in Canvas to improve teaching effectiveness.


Use a pedagogical framework to build your course; course redesign should center on:

  • Good LearningEmpower learners to explore good problems together that reveal systems.
  • OutcomesWhy are students learning what they’re learning?
  • Feedback — Do students know if they’re understanding, and why or why not?

With these guiding principles as your foundation, use technology to make the redesign process quick and easy:

  • Use templates to provide time-saving structure, flexibility to adapt to various course needs, and intentional design informed by experts in both pedagogy and academic technology.
  • Embed to save space. UW-Madison Canvas courses have a 1GB storage limit (KB document), so organizational tricks are important. Rather than uploading files to Canvas, embed them to streamline access, organization, and updating.
  • Keep students on the page by using iframes. Iframes enable embedding of all sorts of online content (Docs, Slides, Sheets, Forms, Folders, videos, animations, etc.). Be sure to check sharing permissions.
  • Eliminate distractions. Help students focus on course objectives by minimizing the cognitive effort of locating materials and instructions. Reduce visual clutter by hiding unused Navigation bar options. For each class, use a single page that includes learning objectives, activity instructions, embedded materials, and a summary.
  • Build content with mobility in mind. A 5-minute video not only reduces cognitive and attentional demand vs. a 20-minute video but also chunks the information into a package that can be easily accessed and digested on the go. 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).
  • 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 redesigning your course, 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.

Canvas topics are also regularly address throughout the semester in Active Teaching Labs. 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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