At the University of St. Francis we use a learning management system called Canvas. Canvas is your electronic classroom. Everything that can take place in a traditional classroom can take place here. Lectures are given; readings are assigned; assignments are submitted; grades and feedback are provided; group activities can take place; office hours occur; and you even have access to the library and support services, just as any student at the campus would. There is one key difference between this and a traditional face-to-face course: Here, it is you who takes the first and next steps toward learning. The instructor sets the table, but it’s a buffet line. Come to the table and eat!
The Environment of an Online Course
Let’s take a look at Canvas in more detail. The Canvas interface is made up of five key components. These include:
- Global Navigation
- Course Navigation
- Content Area
- Help Corner
The following image is interactive. Move your mouse over the numbers to get information. Also observe that the image can be expanded to fit the entire screen.
The Global Navigation (#1) area allows you to view all the courses associated with your account.
If you are enrolled in multiple courses, you can switch to another course by clicking “Courses”, or by selecting “Dashboard”. This area also includes the Calendar where you can see all the due dates for you courses, Grades which shows an overview of how you are doing across all courses you are enrolled in and even access university Resources such as the Library and the Academic Resource Center. The Inbox is the means by which you can communicate privately with a faculty member or with another student in your course. It is very much like an email system but is specifically aligned to your courses. Click on your avatar (or image) and you will have access to your settings such as your profile image, time zone preferences, and control notifications that automatically notify you about activity in your courses.
Course Navigation (#2) is located on the left side of the interface when you are in an online course. These are the primary navigation tools within the course itself. Here you can see announcements from your faculty, access your syllabus, view detailed course grades, and see a roster of all the people enrolled in your class. Please note that there may be additional options available here depending on the course.
The Content Area (#3) and Sidebar (#4) change as you navigate to the various components of interface. On the homepage of the course, you might see the modules in the content area and upcoming assignments in the sidebar area. Provided in the content area for each assignment are instructions, a rubric, and the submission information (on the sidebar) for the assignment. This content can be accessed by clicking assignments from the modules on the homepage.
The Help Corner (#2) is extremely important to your success in online courses at USF. In this area you can access Canvas related help, which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Someone is always available to assist you with any issues you may have within the learning platform.