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Getting Started with Canvas and First Steps

Before You Begin

The Stanford CourseWork learning management system was retired on December 21, 2016. The VPTL Canvas team migrated all CourseWork courses from Fall 2014 through Fall 2016 to Canvas. Some earlier courses were also migrated by request.

The deadline for requesting migration from CourseWork has passed. Any additional CourseWork content migration will be self-serve. See below for details on accessing the CourseWork Archive.

CourseWork Archive
The CourseWork Archive site is now available at Access to the archive site is by request. Contact us to request access to the CourseWork archive.

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 or a migrated CourseWork course.

3. Add your Syllabus.

Note: Adding your syllabus to the Syllabus tool in Canvas automatically publishes it to Stanford Syllabus and (even if your Canvas course is currently unpublished.)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. Publish 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Note: All new Canvas courses are unpublished by default. Your unpublished course is not available to students and no course notifications (including announcements) get sent from an unpublished course. 

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 (on top, right side) 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.
  • 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.
  • Mute Assignments.
    • This will allow you to grade and provide feedback for all assignments and then send everything out at once to all students when you Unmute.
  • 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 and subscribe to the Stanford Canvas Quarterly Newsletter for Canvas updates.
  • Canvas courses are created automatically. (Instructors can not create their own courses.) See the Canvas Course Creation schedule for more information.

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