Canvas: Decide How to Organize Your Course Content

There are a few different ways you can organize your course content in Canvas. This article covers the benefits and limitations to organizing your course by Pages and by Modules. 

Using Modules to organize course content

The Module tool allows you to organize your course content (Pages, Assignments, Quizzes, etc.) for students to progress through a specific order. When using Modules, course content is usually organized based on a weekly course schedule or by the various units in a course.

Below is an example of a Modules page built out with course content based on a weekly schedule.

Modules view in Canvas course showing week 1 ad week 2 modules listing various activities

Benefits of using Modules

Here are the main benefits of organizing your course content into modules:

  • Creates a clear path through all of the course materials for students to go through. 
  • Tracks each student's progress through the modules via the View Progress button.
  • Can be set to open automatically at a certain date and time.
  • Allows instructors to set Prerequisites and Requirements for how students get access to course content (e.g. you can set up week 2 module to only be visible to students who complete every assignment in the week 1 module)

Watch Canvas: Understanding Modules (Video: 4:14) for more information.

Limitations to using Modules

There are some limitations to using modules:

  • The Modules view can get very long for students to scroll through.
    • Solution: Students can collapse (or expand) a module by clicking on the caret icon to the left of the module name as desired.
  • The Modules view lacks visual appeal compared with the formatting options available in a Page.
    • Solution: Have a student-friendly home page with graphics and links to welcome and orient students to your course and use Modules for navigating course content like an outline.

Using Pages to organize course content

Another way you can organize course content is to use Pages. You can create a landing page for each week or unit of a course and link to everything students need from that page. 

Benefits of using Pages

The main benefit to using pages is that you can style and organize the look of a page. 

  • You can apply text formatting and include text, images, and video to make a page more visually appealing.
  • You can link to virtually anything -- URLs, PDF files, and any area in Canvas.
  • You can allow students to edit a page.
  • You can add a page to the student To Do list by selecting the Add to student to-do checkbox. Then the page will appear in the student's To Do list, course calendar, and Syllabus Course Assignment list.

Below is an example of a course's weekly content organized on a page.
A page in Canvas showing an outline of what a students needs to do in week 4 of a course site

Limitations to using Pages

There are some limitations to using Pages:

  • You can't set a page to appear on a certain date and time the way you can in a module. A page is either published, and therefore viewable, or unpublished (hidden).
    • Solution: You can manually unpublish a page to hide it and then manually publish it when you need to.
  • There is no analytics for tracking how students have progressed through a lesson if the lesson is outlined on a page instead of through a Module. 
  • Links to pages within pages break when the title of a linked page changes.
    • Solution: If you plan to link pages between each other (eg. link a week 1 lesson page from the course home page), you must keep careful account of what is linked to what so any time a page name is changed, you know where to go to fix links.

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