Co-written by Toni Marchione and Ryan Banow, GMCTL
Your course homepage is the first thing that students see when they log in to your Canvas course. It is their first impression of your course. As a landing page, it should be inviting, informative and easy to navigate.
Canvas allows instructors to customize their homepage and choose between five different layout options: Course Activity Stream, Pages Front Page, Course Modules, Assignment List or Syllabus. It is simple to change How do I change the Course Home Page?. Course Modules is the most common option that instructors choose.
If you would like to customize your homepage you must first create a page and then set it as the Front Page – How do I set a Front Page in a course? Whichever homepage layout you select you also have the option of displaying recent course announcements at the top. If you use Announcements, adding them to your homepage can ensure that students are keeping up to date with what is happening in your course.
We have heard from students that they appreciate clarity in course structure, so they know what they need to do, and where to find things. This also aligns with the USask Learning Technology Ecosystem Principle of making things efficient and easy to use. One way you can do this in your course is to use the USask Canvas template designed by Distance Education Unit (DEU). This template is available to everyone at the University of Saskatchewan through Canvas Commons. See this guide for how to find and apply the template to your course. Once you have applied the template it is easy to customize. If desired, your college or department could even customize their own template. Some groups on campus have already done so (contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more).
Customized Course Homepages
Ryan Banow applied the USask template to his ECUR 164 course and then made some minor customizations (see: ECUR 164 Canvas Homepage image at the top of this post). The customizations included replacing the banner image with one that better fit the topics of the course, updating the About paragraph, removing some text, and customizing the navigation tips and quick access icons to only include the ones most pertinent for students in this course (e.g., Modules). He also turned on the feature of displaying the two most recent announcements at the top of Home. Updating the banner image took some playing around with dimensions, but he settled on 800px by 304px, as it seemed to work well on a variety of browser windows. The result was a visually appealing page that invited students into the course and helped them figure out where to go to complete common course tasks.
Our next example, also began with the USask template, but added many customizations. Dr. Martin Gaal customized this homepage for POLS261 with the assistance of JR Dingwall from DEU. Martin says that since this course combines traditional learning material with experiential learning, he wanted to go with something different. He says that the bespoke character of the page draws students into the class right away and gives them everything they need in one place: the podcast, learning material, readings, extra credit challenge, and some key points on getting set up with the simulation. They can clearly see what they need to do. Martin updates the page every Sunday with:
- New podcast
- The module they are working on
- The readings for the week
- The extra credit challenge plus shout outs to outstanding contributions from the previous week
Martin says that he really likes this layout but will be reaching out to students to get feedback from them.
GMCTL Canvas HomepageOur third example is a homepages that Toni Marchione designed for the Gwenna Moss Centre. Toni’s intention was to create a landing page where people could easily find what they were looking for. She included an image and made the navigation buttons in PowerPoint. From here, she linked the navigation buttons to other websites, the Educatus Blog and to modules within the course. She had to learn some html coding to insert the black lines and banners but for someone who does not consider herself tech savvy, it was not too difficult, all it took was determination and some of trial and error.
Our fourth example is from Daniel MacDonald. He designed this homepage for ENG 112. He used vivid images as links into each course module. These motivate, excite, and intrigue students to dive into each module.
As evidenced by these four examples, there are many approaches to designing Canvas homepages. All of these approaches help to welcome students to the course, assist students in navigating, and add some visual flair. Do you have a particularly effective or unique homepage? Send us a note at email@example.com!