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CANVAS - Preparing Courses for the Start of the Semester

This document will walk through the steps that should be taken to prepare a course in Canvas before the start of the semester.

Below is a list of items to consider before the start of the semester.

Fully Online Courses

If a course is fully online, there are a couple of additional items to consider before the start of the semester.
  • Early Start Date: It is recommended that fully online courses are available to students one week before the semester officially starts. However, this doesn't mean that the students need to have access to everything in the course before the start of the semester. It is recommended that instructors of fully online courses publish their courses in Canvas a week early so that students have access to the course syllabus, textbook information, and online student resources in Canvas before the course officially starts. If an instructor does not want students to have access to the full course a week early, they can "unpublish" everything in the course except for the syllabus and other important information.
  • Online Student Resources: The Innovations in Learning team has created a module full of resources specifically for students taking fully online courses in Canvas. This module can be imported into courses upon request. A modified version of this module can also be imported into face-to-face courses to make sure students have Canvas specific resources available to them. To request this module get imported into a Canvas course, please email In addition to the module, instructors can link to the following individual resources:
    • Online Student Resources Course (Self-Enroll): This Student Resources Course is available to students to self-enroll into. There are tons of video walk-throughs and written documents on everything students need to know about Canvas. Copy the following link to add the Online Student Resources Course self-enrollment option to your course:
    • Canvas Interactive Walk-Through: The interactive Canvas walk-through is a self-paced tutorial on all of the Canvas basics including the dashboard, assignments, quizzes, discussions, and more. To share the Canvas interactive walk-through in your course, copy the following link:

Publishing Content

Before making a course available to students, it's important to verify which content should be / should not be visible to students. Content that is available to students is considered "published" and will have a green check-mark to the right of the item name. Content that is not available to students is considered "unpublished" and will have a gray, crossed out circle to the right of the item name. To change an item from published to unpublished, simply click on the green check-mark to toggle between published and unpublished. This system works on a hierarchy, so if a module is unpublished, everything within the module will be inaccessible to students, but if a module is published, you can unpublish individual items within the module. To test what students will have access to in your course, you can use Student View. Student View will allow you to see your course exactly as your students will see your course in Canvas.
**Note: You can also hide modules and content items by applying date restrictions or module prerequisites.

Course Settings & Dates

It's important to note that students will have access to a course the moment it's published unless you add a start date in the course settings. Courses automatically come into Canvas without start and end dates, so this means that the moment you publish a course, students will have access unless you set a start date beforehand. You can set start and dates dates by going into your course and clicking on the "Settings" tab on the course navigation. On the "Course Details" page of the settings, you should be able to input a start and end date as well as select settings that will restrict students from seeing the course before the start date.
You may want to look at “More Options” at the very bottom of the Course Details page. Here you will find some additional options that you may want to consider:
  • We recommend that instructors uncheck the following
    • Let students create discussion topics
    • Let students organize their own groups
  • You may wish to consider unchecking 
    • Let students attach files to discussions
    • Hide grade distributions graphs from students
  • Do not check "Hide totals in student grade summary" or students will not see grades

TA's & SI Leaders

Before adding any Teaching Assistants or Supplemental Instructors to a course, the TA or SI Leader should complete FERPA training. FERPA training will confirm that the TA or SI Leader can have rights to specific student data such as grades. To learn more about FERPA or to take the FERPA training, please click on the following link: FERPA Information & Training. Once the FERPA training has been completed, you can request that a TA or SI Leader be added to your course by emailing

Publishing a Course

After everything above has been taken into consideration, you should be set to make your courses available to students. To publish a course, go to your course homepage and click on the "Publish" button on the top right of the screen. You'll know that your course is published when the "Publish" button is green. Your course is unpublished when the "Unpublish" button is red. Remember that students will have access to your course the moment you click "Publish" unless you have a start date set along with the proper settings selected.

Instructor Resources

For additional resources and assistance, please view the following resources:
  • Canvas Tier 1 Support: Canvas offers 24/7 support via phone and online chat. This support is available to both students and instructors.
  • Canvas Guides: The Canvas Guides is a searchable knowledgebase provided by Canvas and is full of documents on every aspect of Canvas.
  • Instructional Technology Resources Course (Self-Enroll): The Innovations in Learning team has created a course specifically for faculty and staff who are working in Canvas. Faculty and staff members can self-enroll into the course and navigate to any part of the course they choose. It does not have to be completed in any particular order, this course is just a home to resources related to instructional technology.

KeywordsCanvas, semester, courses, prepare, publish, student, instructor, content, settings, end, start, date, online   Doc ID97596
OwnerHannah I.GroupUW Parkside
Created2020-02-04 10:31 CDTUpdated2023-08-08 11:59 CDT
SitesUW Parkside
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