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On December 15, 2015, NC State College moved to the new Canvas navigation interface which does many things but should make us as faculty think carefully about our Canvas course homepages.

A key feature of the new Canvas navigation interface is that it collapses the course menu for lower resolution screens. While students can easily restore the course menu via the expand widget:

expand course menuThis wrinkle, along with the general shift to mobile devices, points to the fact that we now need to do some deep thinking about our Canvas course homepage selection in terms of Supporting Time on Task (one of the 7 Best Practices of Undergrad Education).

If we as faculty are going to invest our precious time into setting up materials in Canvas, we need to make sure we are leveraging that time so that it will help learning and will benefit student learning. Likewise from a student standpoint, offering the most clear and direct path to most efficiently access the materials and complete the class tasks amid the  students’ time pressure squeeze. So  let’s look at the trade offs and options…

Canvas allows you 5 different options for your course homepage which you can switch between at any point (though you will want to give students plenty of warning and a re-orientation/ tutorial on the new setup if you change it on them after your initial orientation to your canvas site) from your course homepage and the “CHOOSE HOME PAGE” button in the right hand column:
choose homepageThis button gives you 5 different homepage options described below. You can also see the tutorial video (4 mins, 38 seconds).


COURSE ACTIVITY STREAM (DEFAULT)

activity streamWHAT IT IS:
Shows recent new material and activity with links.
UPSIDE:
Emphasizes latest/newest content
TRADE-OFFS:
If you are not consistently adding new content/material and or what you are adding is not the most key content you need students focused on at a specific time in the term.
BEST FIT:
Discussion forum focused courses, courses with intensive student contributions/ developed content or dynamic, frequently updated courses.

PAGES FRONT PAGE

pages
WHAT IT IS:

Custom built static Canvas Page that you designate to be the course homepage.
UPSIDE:
You can Create a Page  with embedded links to Canvas areas JUST the key/core material, course files etc. to focus student attention and effort.
(Note: can change this at any point to designate new pages each week or unit to focus students in a timely fashion)
See Also:
How to Set a Canvas Page as the Front Page
TRADE-OFFS:
Custom page will be a new/ unique way to navigate Canvas so will have to spend extra time to explain and orient students to your expectations on how they are to navigate/ use this page.
BEST FIT:
Faculty with a high comfort level with Canvas who want very granular control or not finding any of the other homepage options to be a fit for your course needs.

COURSE MODULES

modules
WHAT IT IS:

Makes the course homepage the Modules index page.
UPSIDE:
Offers a focus on the step by step orientation of Modules as well as the “all at once” layout, as well as completing pre-reqs , then the ability to track progress on pre-reqs and customized availability.
TRADE-OFFS:
Unless you are manually publishing/ unpublishing modules, the homepage with all the material can be overwhelming to some and the tracking/mandatory path benefits are offset by being perceived as ‘hoops’ to jump through by some students who then just click through required material to unlock needed assignments.
BEST FIT:
Course with contingent content or where extensive material needs an audit trail to verify students have reviewed mandatory materials. Also good fit for some Hybrid or Fully Online courses.

ASSIGNMENTS LIST

assign list
WHAT IT IS:

A basic listing of all assignments, ordered by due date with most current ones highlighted.
UPSIDE:
“No fuss, muss” just the assignments student friendly focus — can then ‘load up’ assignment pages to embed links to files, canvas courses areas, and or embed YouTube links,and or External site links etc. Also past assignments automatically dropped to bottom of list.
TRADE-OFFS:
Have to be careful in your assignment directions not getting lost in extra materials. No way to verify if students access/ visit other linked materials to prep for assignment. No way beyond Inbox to directly highlight announcements/ updates to class – unless you make separate no points assignment, which then clutters up you and students grades.
BEST FIT:
Face to face classes that only require student files to be submitted.

SYLLABUS LIST

syllabus
WHAT IT IS:

Basically the Assignments List but with an embedded page area you can completely edit/ customize.
UPSIDE:
Many of the upsides of the Assignments list with nice ‘just the facts’ assignments focus but with also space to offer general class reference info (contact info, policies etc.) as well as flexibility to add/edit the top page area for announcement/ updates. Also seamlessly embeds class calendar events and ‘greys out’ past assignments.
TRADE-OFFS:
Cannot edit/ shorten assignments & events list and no auto promoting of upcoming assignment to top.
BEST FIT:
Flexible and works well to offer the best of a number of the other homepages and great for in person, hybrid or online courses.

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