Getting Started with the Semester

Streamlining your site navigation

Whether you have imported a previous course or are starting from scratch, one of the first things you’ll want to do whenever you have a new Canvas site is to customize the left-side navigation.

Canvas Course Card

While you’re cleaning up your course navigation, it’s also a good time to add or change the picture on your Canvas course card in your course settings. The course card is the colored square you see on your canvas dashboard with your course name and semester on it. See Changing your Canvas course card in this book for instructions and templates.

You can add, remove, and hide items from the course navigation menu in the Navigation tab in Settings. Some tools can be completely removed while others can only be hidden from student view. Hidden tools will have the visibility icon ( an eye with a line across it ) next to them on the navigation menu. You, as the instructor, always have access to all tools even if they are hidden from student view.

Even though some tools start with the visibility icon to the right, this does not automatically mean the tool will remain hidden from students. Tools that are empty start out as hidden, until you add content. For example, until you post an announcement, the Announcement tool will have the visibility icon next to it.

See the Canvas Guide “Add and remove items from the course navigation menu in course settings” for instructions.

What to disable

It’s generally a good idea to hide all the tools that you are not actively using as part of your course. Unused tools clutter up your navigation and lead to student questions about their use or purpose. Take a look at your site in Student View to see what your students would see. There are some tools that only you see, such as the Engagement Roster (faculty), that you may not want to disable.

If you are using Modules

If you are teaching an online or hybrid course, it is very helpful to organize your course materials, activities, and assignments in the Modules tool so that students can easily find everything in one place and in chronological order. For more on the Modules tool, see Using Modules for organization in this book.

When using Modules, to avoid duplication and streamline course navigation we recommend disabling:

  • Assignments
  • Discussions
  • Quizzes

Since all assignments, discussions, pages, and quizzes are integrated and organized in Modules, there is no need to have the links in the navigation. Providing an obvious “back door” for students to go directly to assignments and discussions can lead to students ignoring other parts of the module such as instructional materials, information on upcoming projects, and non-graded activities. As you get deeper into the semester and students are scrolling down to find the current module, some faculty like to move previous modules to the bottom of the module list. If you keep your home page as a Canvas Page as opposed to changing to your Modules list, providing direct links to the current module and the next module there is helpful.

If you are not using Modules

If you are teaching in person and not using the Modules tool, you still may want to disable the Quizzes tool. Graded quizzes and tests that students complete in Canvas also automatically appear in the Assignments tool. Having these graded items visible through both tools can cause confusion about which one is the “real” quiz or test. The only reason to keep Quizzes on the navigation is if you are using ungraded practice quizzes or ungraded surveys.

What to keep


  • Home: You can choose what you would like to appear on the course home page, including your most recent announcements.
  • Announcements: Without this tool, students will not be able to review older announcements that have moved off the home page.
  • Syllabus: Placing the syllabus (either in text, or as a linked file) in the syllabus tool makes it easy for students to find.
  • Grades: Students need to have access to their grades throughout the semester. If you don’t want them to see the calculated final grade, see the Canvas Guide “How do I hide totals in my students’ grade summaries?
  • People
  • Name Coach
  • Settings

If you are using Modules

  • Modules: Organizing your course using Modules can make course structure clearer and improve ease of navigation for yourself and your students.

If you are not using Modules

  • Assignments: If you have the Assignments tool visible to students, please take a moment to remove any unused assignment groups (like “imported assignments”) and make sure all your assignments have Due Dates showing underneath the assignment name in the assignment list.
  • Files: If you are providing a large number of files to students and are not using Modules, you may want to enable the Files tool. If you do, please create a folder structure so that files are grouped by topic or week so students can find them. If any of the files have non-descriptive file names, rename them so they can be easily identified by students.

Other tools

If you’re using other tools, such as an IU eText, publisher tools not through eText, Kaltura MyMedia or Media Gallery, Quick Check, etc., you’ll want those on your navigation as well. You can add those in your course Settings on the Navigation tab. See the Canvas Guide “Add and remove items from the course navigation menu in course settings” for instructions.

You can also add links to important websites using the Redirect tool. The Redirect tool is available in course Settings on the Apps tab. The button for it features a large blue arrow.

The tool will allow you to add a URL, give it a name, and add it to the Course Navigation.


Questions? Talk to your campus teaching and learning center!

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A Canvas Semester Checklist Copyright © by Trustees of Indiana University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.