Canvas: Good Practices for Setting Your Course Navigation for Students

course navigationThis article reviews considerations regarding the use of Course Navigation links in your Canvas course site:

The Course Navigation next to the Canvas global navigation bar creates a Menu for your students, creating links that allow them to move among the different parts of your course.

In most cases, headings in black text indicate links that are enabled for students. Headings in gray text indicate links that are disabled for students. Instructors, designers, and TAs can still access any of the gray links. You can control which course navigation links are enabled for students.

While we can't tell you exactly what options to expose to students in your Course Navigation, we can give you some recommendations that will lead to an optimal learner experience.

This guide explains the unique behaviors of each navigation option, including reasons for our recommendation to show or hide. Learn how to enable or disable the different course navigation options here.

Recommendations for Course Navigation Links

Choosing which links to enable for your students depends entirely how you organize your course content and how you use your course for learning. The overall question you will need to ask is whether or not your students need to have a direct link to materials within the Course Navigation or if there is a better way for them to access the content through other ways (e.g., having it linked on a page or delivered through a module).

In our user testing of Canvas, students preferred fewer links instead of more links to be made available in the Course Navigation. Mainstream web usability research also shows this idea, finding that users prefer fewer than 7 links in the Course Navigation.

Course Navigation Links to Consider Enabling

Announcements

When you use the Announcements feature in Canvas, you automatically enable this link in the Course Navigation for students. Announcements can also be set up to show up in your home page. If you leave it on in your course, students will also see notifications for new Announcements on the Canvas dashboard course tile. See more information on the Announcement Tool.

Google Drive

This Course Navigation link allows you access to your Google Drive right in the course interface. If you and/or your students frequently use Google Drive, you may want to leave this navigation link on. For more information, read information on How do I view my Google Drive files in Canvas as an instructor? And How do I view my Google Drive files in Canvas as a student?

Grades

Leave this link on so that students can access their course grades. Read more information on what students will see in the Grades area.

Home

We strongly recommend that you enable Home for students to optimize their experience within your course site. The Home link allows user to quickly reorient themselves to the landing page for the course. You can customize your Home page to create a customized workflow for your students. For more information, read How do I Use the Course Home Page as an Instructor?

Library Course Reserves

Libraries Course Reserves can create a page of course readings and resources and then makes that page available to your students. Enabling this link gives students quick access to a list of hyperlinks that lead directly to the Libraries resource. Contact the Library Course Reserve Staff for further information on how to integrate U of M Libraries resources into your Canvas course.

Modules

If you organize your course content using Modules, enable this link on the Course Navigation so that students can quickly scan all the content of any published Modules. If you do not use Modules to deliver your content, be sure to disable the link.

People

Students can use this link to obtain contact information for other students in the class. No private student data is shown to students when accessing this link. Giving students access to the People link also allows students the ability to form their own Groups and access Group spaces. Students can also access Groups through the global navigation bar's Groups button. Read for more information on how students can use the People link.

Syllabus

This link takes students to the Canvas Syllabus tool. We recommend that you use this tool and enable this link for students. For more information on the Syllabus tool, read how your students can use the Syllabus tool. If you do not use the Syllabus tool, be sure to disable it in the Course Navigation to avoid confusion.

Course Navigation Links Recommended to be Disabled

Assignments

Canvas allows you to alert students of upcoming assignments through many places in the course site other than the Assignments Course Navigation link (see Canvas student video on Assignments for more information).

By organizing all course content through either Modules or Pages, you are able to better control the time and context of when students get access to all graded assignments. However, there may be times when you want to leave the Assignments course navigation link on for students, such as when you want to:

  • Allow students to sort all class assignments by date or by type (type of assignment will be broken down by assignment groups/gradebook categories if those are set up).
  • Show any assignment, graded quiz, graded surveys, and graded discussion all in one place (for example, in place of using the Syllabus tool, which also will create this list).

Attendance

This link provides options to monitor and track student attendance. See more information about the use of the Roll Call Attendance link here.

Chat

This link allows instructors and students to communicate in real-time using text.  See more information about the Chat tool.

Collaborations

Enabling this link in your Course Navigation provides students the ability to form any collaboration area at any time with anyone in the class. If you do not want students to be in charge of creating their own groups and collaboration spaces, you can disable this link. Students will have access to any group collaborations that you create for them from the Groups button in the global navigation. Watch this short video for more information on how students can use the Collaboration button in a course site.

Conferences

This link needs to be disabled. This functionality is currently not available for us to use. Disable this link. We recommended conferencing tools such as Zoom and Google Hangouts Meet.

Discussions

We recommend that this link be disabled for a few reasons:

  • These links take students to a list of all the graded and ungraded discussions in the course.
  • They will be a duplicate listing of graded discussions that will already be listed under the Assignments link and anywhere else that a graded discussion with a due date will show up (To Do list, Syllabus, Calendar).

Files

We strongly recommend disabling Files in your Course Navigation for a few reasons:

  • Files allows students to access ALL of your Course Files --including answer keys and other sensitive documents you might store there
  • Files appear as a list with no context, e.g., content descriptions, headers or hyperlinks).
  • You have little flexibility in reorganizing and reordering files, and this content is not easily searchable.

Instead of giving students access to the Files link, use Modules or link to files within course pages and assignment instructions to lead students to the resources they need.

Pages

We recommend that you disable the Pages link for a few reasons:

  • That link will take students to a list of all published pages in alphabetical order instead of the order in which you want students to go through the pages.
  • The alphabetized list is not searchable.

Instead, link to pages via the home page, within modules, or within other pages in the order that students would need the information on the page.

Outcomes

Turn off this link unless you plan to use Outcomes. Read about Outcomes here to learn more about this navigational item.

Quizzes

We recommend that this link be disabled:

  • This link takes students to a list of all graded and ungraded quizzes/surveys in the course.
  • They will be a duplicate listing of graded quizzes and surveys that will already be listed under the Assignments link and anywhere else that a graded survey/quiz with a due date will show up (To Do list, Syllabus, Calendar).

Course Navigation Links That Do Not Appear for Students

Export Final Grades

You will use this link when you are ready to report final grades to PeopleSoft. See more instructions on the export process here. Even though this navigational link appears in black color in your course navigation, students do not see it.

Multi-Tool

The Multi-Tool opens up some additional functionality to change assessment due dates, build modules more quickly, and build templates. Read more information on this Design Tools here. Even though this navigational link appears in black color in your course navigation, students do not see it.

Settings

This link is for anyone with instructor or editing rights to the course. Even though this navigational link appears in black color in your course navigation, students do not see this link.

Course Navigation Links for Integrated Tools

There are more Course Navigation links available in your course site from integrated tools that have been added to our Canvas environment. Certain integrated tools only appear for certain colleges or departments, based on licensing agreements.

The list of integrated tools below are available to all University Canvas users and will be available as Course Navigation links. This list will change often as more tools are added. For more information on other navigational links that appear in your Settings > Navigation tab, see the current course integrations and requests document. You can also request that integration of a new tool be considered.

Cengage

Cengage MindTrap provides access to a publisher's platform, including digital text, interactive multimedia, assignments, and quizzes. Cengage - SAM is an interactive online learning environment that helps students master Microsoft Office and computer concepts essential to academic and career success. Students observe, practice and train, then apply their skills live in the application.

iClicker Registration

This student response system integration enables students to register a device and allows instructors to synchronize the student roster and gradebook in Canvas with class session data within iClicker software. Learn more information about this tool here.

LockDown Browser

Students use the Respondus browser for a secure testing environment within Canvas. Instructors manage Respondus LockDown settings from the LockDown Browser Dashboard in Course Navigation. Learn more information about the uses of this link here.

McGraw-Hill Connect

This link allows single sign-on access to McGraw Hill's interactive resources and textbooks.

Media Gallery and My Media

Records and hosts video content. Kaltura Media Gallery lists course-related videos. My Kaltura Media lists all video files owned by a specific user. Learn more about the uses of this link here.

MyLab and Mastering

This link allows single sign-on access to Pearson's interactive resources and textbooks.

SCORM

Use this to add SCORM packages to your course as graded or ungraded assignments. Delivers a variety of SCORM packages as graded or ungraded activities/assignments. Learn more about the uses of this link here.

Secure Exam Proctor

This enables the use of Proctorio, a fully automated, scalable remote proctoring system. Proctorio utilizes machine learning and facial recognition to monitor students during online exams. See Add Proctorio to a Quiz for more information.

Student Rating of Teaching

This link allows students to rate instructors and give feedback. Read more about the uses of this link here.