Beginning-of-Term Course Checklist

The Beginning-of-Term Course Checklist is a starting point to ensure your Canvas course and teaching technologies are ready to go for student access at the start of a new term.

Verify Classes & Plan Ahead

  • Help & Consultation: Whether you are new or well-seasoned to teaching at Western, we welcome consultation appointments.
  • Professional Development: We offer self-paced courses, recordings, presentations, webinars, and live help sessions.
  • Teaching Online? WesternOnline has you covered! Make an appointment with one of our experts in online course design, delivery, and best practices.

If you are teaching in ATUS University Classrooms, the computers at the teaching podiums are automatically kept updated. 

  • Update Zoom - This tool requires frequent updates to maintain the best security protocols. Some updates are required and will run when you launch the program, and some are optional and can be updated manually (Profile menu, Check for Updates).
  • Pronoun Customization on Online Services - customizations available in Office, Zoom, Banner, etc.

Develop a Course


Cross-listing allows you to move student enrollments from two or more sections of the same course and combine them into one Canvas course environment. CanvasHelp offers this process as a service, within two working days, by using the Cross-list your CRN Courses in Canvas form. This is ideally completed prior to adding content, but if course content is already in place, be sure to indicate which course is the “main” course on the request form.

To bring content (not student data) from a past course into the new one, you can use the course import tool in Course Settings to import either all content or select content.

If another instructor says you can copy content from their class, have them email to give permission for us to add you as a teacher to their archived class. This will give you the ability to import content.

  • Select Options: It can be advisable to eliminate announcements from the import and customize the dates yourself after the import.
  • Review: Check course settings, review and organize content, and remove unneeded content before publishing your course.

If creating a new course, look for ideas in Canvas Commons (left blue bar; importable examples), the Teaching Handbook, WesternOnline Teaching Hub, and the Teaching & Learning Cooperative (TLCo-op). If you would like a "sandbox" course to play in and develop content--not linked to a CRN course, use the Manual Enrollment Canvas Course Request.

Review the Syllabus, Files, Modules, Pages, Quizzes, Assignments, Announcements, and Discussions pages. Removing items from a module does not delete the items from your course. If you need to delete an item, go to the index page for that kind of content.


Add the current syllabus to your course using the Course Syllabus tool, which gives you the option of displaying all gradebook item due dates and calendar event dates at the bottom. Alternatively, your syllabus can be added as a File or a Course Page, and then added as an item in Modules. 

Files and Pages

You can import or upload files, such as worksheets, readings, or lecture slides, or you can enter content onto course pages, which can be more easily read on multiple devices. Work toward making files accessible for all students and try using Sensus Access to convert files into more accessible formats.

  • You can drag and drop files from your computer’s desktop to the files area.
  • You can drag and drop files from your Canvas personal files into course files.
  • Folders can be used to organize files in your course, group, or personal files.
  • You can edit permissions for files, including setting the state of the file (published or unpublished), restrict file access to students who have the link, and schedule availability dates for the files.

Assignments and Quizzes (if using)

Your gradebook will consist of any assignments, quizzes, or graded discussions that you create. If you have graded activities that are not online, create “no submission” assignments in order to generate a gradebook column.

  • Update Dates & Availability: Assignment due dates and availability can be edited all at once via the Edit Assignment Dates option.
  • Set Up Grades: Verify the Gradebook is arranged according to your grading policy and your syllabus.
  • Select More Options: Under Settings>Course Details, scroll down to the “Description” field to find a subtle link called more options. This menu allows you to customize useful settings for Announcements, Discussions, and Grades.
  • Set Up Assignment Groups (If Applicable): If you use weighted grading categories for your final grade calculations, you will want to add Assignment Groups to the Assignments page and assign weights to each Group. For example, you can assign weights when you have Homework as 25%, Quizzes as 50%, and Engagement as 25%. Each category can contain multiple graded elements, but the final "Total" column in the gradebook will calculate the grade based on these weights.
  • Verify Grades: Complete your assignments as a student from Student View then enter the gradebook as a teacher to tally the “Test Student” grades. This is a great way to ensure any extra credit options are functioning correctly.

Third-Party Add-ons in Canvas

Instructors and other institutional representative can request third-party add-ons (a.k.a., LTIs, textbook publisher connections, etc.) by completing the Canvas LTI Request Form. Once a product is approved by our purchasing, contracts, information security, and accessibility representatives, they can schedule a consultation with to go over technical considerations.

    Having clear communication strategies for your students sets everyone up for success. Let students know the best way and time to contact you, your preferences for providing assistance, and what kind of communications and response time they can expect from you. 


    To ensure you receive communications from Canvas, manage your notification preferences and contact methods in your Canvas account. You can also manage notifications for a single course to selectively override the account settings. Students can do this as well.


    Create a new Welcome announcement that will get sent as soon as you publish the course. You can also schedule future announcements to be released on certain dates. Imported (used in past courses) announcements will be viewable by students, but they will not receive a notification.

    Office Hours

    When adding office hours, consider that online office hours can be very effective even with in-person courses.

    Choose Home Page

    The Home Page, associated with the Home link in Course Navigation, is the first impression of a course and can be customized to best fit your needs. 

    • Recent Activity (default)
    • Course Modules
    • Assignments 
    • Syllabus
    • Page (Front Page): Before you can select this option, first create a custom Page with a welcome message, links, images, etc. and then set the page as a Front Page.

    Communicate Identity

    • Course Identity: You can upload an image (or a gif) in your course to provide a visual look for your course that will display for students. Note that no Alt Text is available, as these should only be functioning as a visual decoration for the course.
    • Profile Picture: Consider setting a profile picture that represents you; students can see this image in areas such as announcements and discussion posts.

    If you incorporate your own videos in Canvas, our Panopto Video Management System provides automatically-captioned videos that allow for light editing and the ability to manage viewing permissions. 

    Prepare to Publish Course


    Make sure your content is equitably accessible to all of your students.



    Course Design

    To streamline the navigation viewable to students, you can show/hide course navigation items.

    Dates are visible for students in several areas:

    Review your course content from Student View to experience your course from a student perspective. Using Student View adds a test student to Grades only viewable to you. While in Student View, you can submit work as a student would and then enter your Gradebook as a teacher to view any Test Student entries and test scoring.

    You may want to select Validate Links in your Course Settings to ensure there are no broken links. Sometimes broken links are files or images that refer to a previous course, viewable to you but not to students.

    Once everything looks good in Student View, including any assignments or modules you want them to see, be sure to publish your course.

    • Announcements that are made prior to publishing or that were imported from another class will appear in Canvas but students will not receive separate notifications for those announcements. The best practice is to create new announcements after the course is published.
    • Attendance/Roll Call - If you have enabled Attendance (Settings > Navigation), a new Roll Call assignment will automatically appear in Assignments once you publish the class, placed in the first Assignment Group. Be sure to set it up properly and promptly so avoid student confusion.
      • Not graded? Check the Roll Call options to omit it from the gradebook or final score. Do not set value to 0.
      • Pick a group: If you use more than one Assignment Group, you may want to move Roll Call into an aptly named group. 
      • Set a value: If you use weighted assignment groups, place the Roll Call assignment (leave it at 100 points) into a weighted assignment group worth the value noted on your syllabus, such as 10%.