Published: Sept. 20, 2018 By

Computer with a chain and padlockOrganization. Be thoughtful and consistent in how you organize information in Canvas. This will help all of your students access the materials and participate in the course.

File names. Use a consistent format for naming files. It’s helpful to include the week or module number and content type in the file name, for example, “Module 2, Smith and Adams, pdf reading.” Ensure that the names of readings and assignments in your syllabus match the names of corresponding links and files in Canvas.

Canvas accessibility. Canvas is relatively accessible for people who use assistive technology such as screen magnification or text-to-speech software. When you set up a Canvas course, however, you do need to know a little about what is and is not accessible for people with disabilities who may be accessing your course. Review CU’s Canvas accessibility pages to learn how to create accessible exams, structure your content, and run the Canvas Accessibility Checker.

Accessible documents and media. Usability is optimized for all students when documents are in an accessible format (text is clear, searchable, and structured correctly), and digital media has closed captions, transcripts, and image descriptions. Learn how to create accessible content on CU’s Accessible Technology Resources page. If you have students with specific accommodation needs, work with Disability Services to ensure your content is in accessible format(s).

Get creative. Canvas supports multi-modal learning, including use of videos, audio, images, interactive discussions and quizzes, and more. Check out CU’s resources on Universal Design for Learning for ideas about how to enhance student engagement and success. Remember to always check for accessibility as you create multi-modal content.

Timing. Finalize your syllabus and publish your Canvas course as early as possible. Students with disabilities who need materials in alternative formats often have to wait several weeks for these materials to be processed, so it is important that reading lists are finalized and available at least a couple of weeks before classes begin. Students with a variety of learning and access needs may also find it valuable to familiarize themselves with the Canvas course before classes begin.

Orient students to Canvas. Students have varying levels of familiarity with Canvas, as well as diverse learning and access needs. At the beginning of a course, and as needed throughout the semester, alert students to the features that they may need or want to use within Canvas. Be sure to let students know what type of feedback you will give on assignments, and where to find this feedback in Canvas. Also familiarize students with their options for communicating with instructors and other students through Canvas.

Check in with students. Canvas is an extension of your classroom, and it is essential that all students are able to successfully access your Canvas content and utilize the tools that are relevant for your course. Ask students what is working well for them, and what isn’t. It is especially important to check in directly with students who have accommodation needs. If you or a student have questions or concerns about Canvas, visit CU’s Canvas Support Pages, or contact the IT Service center at 303-735-4357 (5-HELP) or

About the author: Anna Reid works in CU's Accessibility and Usability Lab. She is currently a student in the University of Denver's Graduate School of Social Work.

Image: Photoroyalty/