Effective Teaching Practices

Instructional Design Tips

Online Courses

  Navigation Design Elements
  • Navigation throughout the Canvas site should be logical, consistent and efficient
  • Use the same organizational strategy week to week
  • Change the front page to the primary way for your students to access the course information
  • The course design facilitates readability and minimizes distractions
  • Assignments and content are organized and easy to find
  • Use the Student View to see what a student sees
  • Do not use light colored text
  • Use only the essential course tools
  • Remove student access to course tools in the course navigation menu that are not being used
  • Try to keep course work and activities in Canvas, rather than sreading work across multiple platforms


Instructional Design Tips

There are a few essentials for good course design in Canvas and in any web environment:

Course Learning Goals

Course learning goals are broad, measurable and observable statements of what students will be able to do at the end of a course (from Johns Hopkins). They are different than learning objectives which are more specific, measurable statements of what students can do at the end of a unit of instruction. For your course, you should develop both course goals and more specific learning objectives.

Determine How You Will Assess Students

What evidence will you gather to determine what students are learning? Assessments can be formal (high-stakes) or informal (low-stakes) and can include a wide variety of assessments including writing assignments, lab work, homework, discussions, tests, quizzes, projects, presentations, eportfolios etc.

Identify Learning Activities 

Determine activities that would work well in an online (or out of the classroom) environment.Be sure to focus on ways to enhance social and teacher presence using synchronous and asynchronous tools.

Use the Online Course Development Form to Create your Course

Use the online course planning worksheet to chunk your course activities into modules to use in Canvas. Modules are typically organized by week or by topic. Each module should have a specific learning outcome written in the form of "At the end of this unit, a student will be able to . . ." plus action verb plus a description of the knowledge, ability, skill, behavior, etc. that the student will demonstrate.

Download the document here.

Design your Canvas Course

We have found that modules typically work best for designing your online Canvas course. You can create modules for each week (usually best) or by topic. An online course needs to be well organized to help students be successful.

Update your Syllabus

Your syllabus will need to be well organized and clear to help students be successful in your online course.