Here is a list and examples of terms used within the Canvas environment. Other guides and support staff will reference these terms when guiding people through navigating Canvas.
Table of contents
- Global navigation
- Three dots menu
- To do list
- Course navigation
- Published and unpublished
- Official vs Sandbox courses
The global navigation is the purple bar on the left-most side of the screen. This navigation bar appears on every page within Canvas with links to the following:
- Account - your user account information, including your profile, settings, and notification preferences
- Dashboard - a shortcut to the front page of Canvas
- Courses - a list of all courses you are enrolled in or teaching, including previous courses
- Groups - a list of any groups you are a member of within courses
- Calendar - a calendar view of any items within Canvas that have dates set
- Inbox - Canvas' built-in messaging system
- History - a list of recently viewed pages
- Studio - Your Canvas Studio library
- Help - a list of help documents and support contact information
- Minimize arrow - clicking on the arrow pointing left in the global navigation will collapse the bar, leaving only the icons without the text legends. This is useful to recover some horizontal space
Three dots menu
In places where there may be more options than can fit in a toolbar, Canvas presents the additional options in a menu hidden behind an icon of three vertically aligned dots. Each three dot menu presents options relevant to the closest item. Some examples are shown below.
Note: Canvas is a platform that is used around the globe by different institutions, many of whom have published documentation or video tutorials online. In some of these documents, the three dot menu may sometimes be referred to as the "kebab". SF State will use the more common term "three dots menu".
The dashboard is the Canvas home page. The main view of the dashboard are Course Cards, with one card representing each course you are currently enrolled in or are teaching. Instructors see two groupings of course cards with courses that are published listed first and unpublished courses listed underneath. Students only see published courses.
A course card on the dashboard will show the course's name, the course image (if one is set by the instructor), as well as quick links via icons at the bottom to various course activities if in use by the course. In the example image above the course has one active announcement (the megaphone icon) and one unread discussion (the two speech bubbles icon).
The full list of icons in a course card are:
- Announcements - represented by a megaphone icon
- Assignments - represented by a paper and pencil icon
- Discussions - represented by two speech bubbles
- Files - represented by a file folder icon
Icons will be visible depending on what items in the course navigation are visible to students and will vary from course to course.
Course cards can be customized by selecting the three dots menu in the upper right corner of each card.
Note: Course card customizations such as nickname and color are only visible to you. Changes made here will only show up on your dashboard and will not change for anyone else participating in the course.
To do list
Canvas compiles a to do list based on activities in courses that have due dates or completion criteria set. The to do list shows up both on the dashboard and on a course's home page. The list on the dashboard will show a comprehensive list across all courses you are enrolled in or teaching. The list on the course home page will only show items relevant to that specific course.
The course navigation menu is a list of quick links to the right of the global navigation bar when viewing a course page. Instructors will see a full list of available course items, while students will only see navigation items the instructors have made available to them.
Note: When viewing a course in a small window or in mobile view on a phone, the course navigation may be collapsed under a menu icon at the top of the page. It is also possible to collapse the course navigation menu using this icon if more screen area is desired.
The assignments page in Canvas shows a list of every item in the course that has a grade associated with it, for example Canvas Assignments, Quizzes, and graded discussions. This list is not manually sortable and is better suited as a birds-eye view of graded activity in a course.
The modules page allows for grouping and organization of items within a course based on date or topic. This page is one of the few that have a different view depending on whether you are a student or an instructor in a course.
In the instructor view of the modules page, items can be moved around with the Move handle, a grid of four vertically-aligned dots.
This icon is present on both individual items as well as overall modules. Click, holding and dragging the move handle allows instructors to move items on the modules page to a different location.
At the top of a course page are a list of links called the Breadcrumbs. This list of links shows your position within a course and updates as you click on items.
In the example shown above, a student is viewing a quiz page. The breadcrumbs start with the name of the course, followed by Quizzes (because this page is a quiz), and finally with the title of the quiz itself. An assignment would show the name of the course, followed by Assignments, then the title of the assignment.
Clicking on a link in the breadcrumbs will take you to that respective page.
Published and unpublished
Items within a course, course modules, and the overall course itself can be published or unpublished. Published means a student can see it. Unpublished means a student cannot see it.
On items and modules, a published item is denoted by a green circle with a checkmark. Unpublished items are denoted by a circle with a line through it.
If a course is unpublished, a toggle to publish the course appears in the upper right corner. Selecting Publish in this toggle makes the course available to students.
Note: All courses are unpublished by default. An instructor must publish a course before the student can see it.
Note: A course that has any graded submissions cannot be unpublished and hidden from students.
Official vs Sandbox courses
Official courses are ones that are created automatically by virtue of being on the official class schedule. These courses have official enrollments that happen automatically as students add and drop classes.
Sandbox courses are ones that are created by request by instructors that are designed to be used to prototype course designs, work on new concepts, or simply play around with to learn Canvas features. These courses do not have automatic student enrollments and should not be used for teaching.