Active Teaching Lab Recap: The First 60 Seconds in Canvas

Wed November 11, 2020

At the November 11, 2020 Active Teaching Lab we examined different ways to have a welcoming Canvas site that helps students know what to do first, and navigate through your content.

What and Why — Takeaways

It is worth your time to make good course design decisions because it will save you and your students more time in the long run.

  1. Be Consistent: A huge benefit of Canvas is that it doesn’t allow a great deal of customization. This means that once students learn to navigate it in one course, they generally don’t have to learn to navigate it in other courses.
  2. Use Clear & Concise Language: Time is valuable — both for you and your students. Simple and clear navigation language (where and when to find course content) increases their efficiency in getting through the how to the do of the course — and decreases time you spend answering emails and questions.
  3. Be Timely & Relevant: As with navigation apps, when we start a trip we need to see an overview. We care most about specific directions when we need them (e.g. turn left in half a mile), so leave Unit and Assignment details off the home page.
  4. Use Graphics: The mind processes icons more quickly than words, recognizes patterns in images more deeply than in text, and can often more readily understand concepts that are difficult or impossible to convey via text. (note: make accessible!)
  5. Be Human: Like you, students thrive most when they feel valued, respected, and meaningfully engaged. They need to see how and why course content is important in their lives, and look to your passion for the subject until they develop their own.

To learn more and discover new resources, visit the session’s activity sheet.


Grounded in inclusive learning, infused with research, and connecting to the Wisconsin Experience, Active Teaching Labs help you learn more about teaching tools and equitable practices, and hear how UW-Madison instructors motivate, engage, and more effectively teach the diverse range of students we encounter.

Find out more about Active Teaching Labs here.