How to Use Canvas for Teaching If Your Class Can’t Meet In-Person

Here are some tips for using the Canvas Learning Management System (LMS) to continue teaching your course if you or your students can’t meet face-to-face. You can use Canvas to facilitate communication with students, post course materials, create assignments for students to submit online, provide feedback and grades and meet virtually with your students online through Zoom.

Getting Started with Canvas

The Canvas team automatically creates Canvas course sites for courses in Axess. If you’ve been added to Axess as an instructor then you can access your Canvas course by logging into with your Stanford SUNet ID and password. Officially enrolled students and TAs in Axess are automatically added to your Canvas course. 

If you’re new to Canvas, here are some tips for getting started

If you have any questions, or to set up a Canvas consultation, the Canvas team is always happy to help you. Please contact us at

Communicating with Students


Keep your students up to date by posting Announcements in Canvas. Students should check their Canvas notification preferences to make sure they are set to receive announcements via email


Create a Canvas Discussion as a forum to facilitate communication, encourage students to interact, ask questions and respond to discussion prompts.

Posting Course Materials


Upload your course content to Canvas using the Files tool.

You can upload multiple files at a time as well as set usage rights and publish files in bulk.


Add your Syllabus to the Canvas Syllabus tool.

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to the Syllabus tool in Canvas automatically publishes it to Stanford Syllabus (even if your Canvas course is currently unpublished.)

Creating Online Assignments

Online Assignments

Create an Online Assignment to allow students to submit files through Canvas.

Providing Feedback & Grading Online


Use SpeedGrader to provide feedback on student assignments. Any grades entered in SpeedGrader are automatically added to the Canvas Gradebook.

Canvas Gradebook

You can manually enter and edit grades in the Gradebook


Gradescope is also an option if you have paper-based exams.

Recording Your Lectures

You can record your lectures using Panopto (called Course Videos in Canvas).

Meeting with Your Students Online

Online Class Meetings Schedule class meetings to get together with students live over Zoom videoconferencing. Zoom also has a feature that allows you to record your online meetings. (The Zoom recording feature can be used to record your lectures as well.)

Online Office Hours

Use Zoom to set up virtual office hours to meet with students using your webcam, share your computer screen or collaborate using Zoom’s whiteboard feature.  

Additional Resources for Teaching Online

Visit the Stanford Teaching Commons website for additional resources for teaching online. The Teaching Commons site includes tips for getting started with online teaching, best practices, strategies for online course planning , ideas for a variety of class activities to build community and enhance engagement, suggestions for how to provide feedback and do assessments online, and how to get help when you need it.

Check out our “Teaching with Canvas” self-paced, tutorial course if you’d like to learn more about how Canvas can enhance online teaching and learning. You’ll find examples from Stanford Canvas courses to help inspire you and Canvas templates to get you up and running quickly with your own course. 

The Canvas Student Center is a self-paced, tutorial course for students to help them  get the information they need to use Canvas more effectively and efficiently.

This Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education resource also provides useful pedagogical recommendations for teaching online and important considerations to keep in mind when using online tools.