Canvas First Steps & Tips

Before You Begin

Canvas Course Creation
Canvas courses are created automatically each quarter. Instructors can not create their own courses, but they will be added to their Canvas courses automatically as long as they are added as instructors in Axess. If you are an instructor and don’t see a course you are teaching, verify you have been added in Axess, then contact the Canvas team for help. See the Canvas Course Creation schedule to find out when to expect courses to appear for the upcoming quarter.

Canvas First Steps

  1. Add new content to your Canvas course using the “Files” tool.

You can upload multiple files at a time (in bulk) and can set usage rights and publish files in bulk as well as restrict or schedule student access to files.

2. Click “Add existing content” if you’re using Modules as your home page

or select Settings-Import Content to copy content from an existing Canvas course.

3. Add your Syllabus.

Note: Adding your syllabus to the Syllabus tool in Canvas automatically publishes it to Stanford Syllabus (even if your Canvas course is currently unpublished.)

4. Create a “File Uploads” type of  Assignment if you’d like to receive files from students.

Note: “Assignments” is the dropbox tool in Canvas.

5. Set your Course Home Page to the style that makes most sense for your content:

– Organizing course content with Modules? Set Course Modules as the Home Page
– Posting a lot of Announcements? Course Activity Stream might work best
– Uploading a Syllabus and making robust use of Due Dates? Syllabus would be best
– Creating a custom a web page? Use Pages – Front Page

6. Hide items in the Course Menu that you don’t intend to use (e.g., Chat).

7. Select the Publish setting for all content you will want students to access: Files, Modules, Assignments, Quizzes, Pages.

Note: All new Canvas courses are unpublished by default. Your unpublished course is not available to students and no course notifications (including announcements) get sent from an unpublished course. Students do not have access to your Canvas course until you click Publish Course.

8. Use “Student View” to see how everything will look for students before publishing your course.

If everything looks good, you’re now ready to publish your course.

9. Go to your Home page and click Publish Course to make your course available to students.

10. Contact the Stanford Canvas Team if you have questions or need help:

– Go to for help resources

(e.g., Stanford Canvas Help Center and Stanford Canvas QuickStart Guide)

– Click the Help button in Canvas and send us a Help ticket

– Or email us at


  • Use the Chrome web browser.
  • Check out the Course Setup Checklist.
  • Do as much course set up (uploading materials, creating assignments, adding due dates, creating recurring Zoom meetings, etc.) as you can while your course is unpublished to prevent Canvas from sending notifications to students as you add content and make changes to your course.
  • Add People.
    • Note: Students and TA’s will automatically show up in your Canvas course if they’re listed in Axess.
  • Use “Pages” or “Modules” for URLs.
    • URLs can’t be placed in “Files” for student access.
  • Set your Notifications and remind students to do so.
  • Set due dates for Assignments.
    • Without due dates, the Canvas Calendar, Notifications and To-Do lists will not be as useful for students.
  • Delay posting Announcements if you’d like work on a draft version.
    • NOTE: Clicking Save actually posts/sends announcements.
  • Download the Canvas Teacher Mobile App:
    • Canvas Teacher App for iPhone and iPad
    • Canvas Teacher App for Android
  • Check out the Stanford Go Canvas blog for Canvas updates.

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