Canvas: WWU Instructor Quick Start Guide

WWU has its own Canvas instance at; you can find the Canvas icon once you have logged into myWestern.
This guide includes the following categories:
Transitions | Course Creation and Life Cycle | Setting Up Profile and Notification Preferences | Accessing Your Course | Setting Up Your Course | Communicating with Students | Evaluating Students | Work-Arounds | Overview Videos

Transitions - Wrapping Up and Looking Ahead

Course Creation and Life Cycle

  • What is the life cycle of a Canvas Course at WWU?
    Courses are created automatically for each academic term, moving to a published state when instructor publishes course before quarter begins, and then ending automatically with a read-only archive when quarter is complete.

  • How do I cross-list courses? (Request Form, Help Document, or Video)
    With Canvas, you are in charge of how your courses get cross listed. Cross listed courses are when you combine two sections of a course into one Canvas course site. Note that this process is something you can do yourself; however, we recommend that you use the Request Form to have us take care of it.

  • How are students enrolled in a course?
    Students are automatically enrolled in your course as soon as it has been created and/or students are registered.

  • How do I publish my course?
    Your course is delivered to you in a non-published state so that students cannot access it until you have completed preparing your course.

  • How can I request a Non-CRN Course? (see Request Form, login required)
    You can request a Manual Enrollment/Non-CRN course site to use as a departmental site, team site, sandbox (to experiment with ideas) or just about anything else.

Setting Up Profile and Notification Preferences

  • How do I edit my profile?
    You can edit your profile in Canvas to include a picture of yourself, choose a display name and add email addresses.

Accessing Your Course

  • How to I find the login to Canvas? (MyWestern or direct:
    From WWU home page, follow link to MyWestern, login, and find red icon link to Canvas at top of the page.

  • How do I customize my “Courses” drop-down menu?
    The Canvas courses menu displays all of the courses you have on the Canvas system and is the link you will use to access each of your courses. Fall courses start with “FA,” winter courses start with “WI,” etc. You can customize the menu to fit your needs.

  • How can I access completed courses?
    Once your course has been set to complete, which will happen two weeks after each quarter ends, you and your students will have "read only" access to the course. All completed courses are available in this way for as long as you and your students have access to Canvas.

Setting Up Your Course

NOTE: See the Library's Course Readings & Reserves page for help integrating online course readings with Canvas.

  • How do I change my Home Page?
    You have complete control over the home page in your course. It can be one of the navigational areas, or it can be a page that you design yourself by adding text and media.

  • How do I add my syllabus?
    The Syllabus in Canvas provides a space for the syllabus as well as a due date list. As you enter assignments into your course, Canvas automatically builds a list at the bottom of the syllabus page in due date order. In some cases, this may replace or replicate a section of your syllabus.

  • What are files?
    The files area of your course is a place to upload and store files that will be distributed in your course. NOTE: Students will have access to the files are unless you hide the “Files” link in your course menu or lock individual files.

  • What are Pages?
    Pages are in-course web pages for placing content and educational resources that are part of your course. This is a place where you can include text, video, and links to your files or to other “pages” in your course. Pages are essentially wikis with a more usable interface. Canvas keeps the entire history of the page so you can see how it changes over time.

  • What are discussion boards?
    Discussion boards can be used in your course to increase interactivity between students. Discussion boards can be set up as either graded or ungraded.

Communicating with Students

  • How do I use the inbox?
    You can communicate with your students in Canvas by using the Inbox. The Inbox makes it easy to send messages to your students, teaching assistants and co-instructors.

  • What is an announcement?
    Announcements are delivered to students in their inbox just like other messages, but remember that students control how often they receive these messages.

Evaluating Students

  • What are assignments?
    Assignments can be set up for your students to turn in submissions online or in class. Assignments will appear in the grade book for your course where you can enter scores. Assignments include Quizzes, graded Discussions, and online submissions (i.e. files, images, text, URLs, etc.).

  • What is a Rubric? (See also CIIA's Rubrics page)
    Rubrics are a way to set up custom or outcome-based assessment criteria for scoring. Rubrics can be used with assignments, discussion boards and quizzes.

  • How do I use the grade book?
    The Grades area provides a way to easily input and distribute grades for students. It can calculate weighted grades, and assignments can be organized into groups.


  • How can I set up a Journal assignment?
    Even though Canvas currently does not support journal assignments as Blackboard did, there is a work-around that might work in some cases. Journals are usually private between students and instructor(s). If this exchange does not need to be private (other students in the class can see), the discussion board can be another option.

Overview Videos


Canvas Login
(direct link)
(Canvas via myWestern)


Learning Management System Leads: