It’s that time of year again when one year’s teaching has finished, exam boards are ongoing or just completed and it’s time for a break. Or is it? Realistically, it’s time to start planning teaching for the next academic year: 2021!

Whether your delivery is online or face-to-face, it’s time to start preparing your teaching materials and these should be available on Canvas regardless of how your module is delivered and it can be fair to say it is difficult to recreate the classroom experience online.

Part of this is due to the time involved, the separation of students, and sometimes instructions can be misunderstood. Not all students may be happy or comfortable with online study, whilst other students may have more to contribute in the online format.

To help you, we break prepping your Canvas materials into 4 areas:

  • Preparation
  • Building your course
  • Copyright & Accessibility
  • Import & publish

How do I start planning my teaching? There is a plan of what would be taught and how, activities (group work, etc.), assessment, learning objectives to be delivered and assessed. Teaching materials are or need to be created and set out in a logical sequence to cover the learning objectives and to teach the students on a daily/weekly basis. There is a timetable, teaching/tutorials, formative and summative assessment, feedback sessions, etc.

Along the way, students need to complete activities, i.e., group work, presentations, research, reading, tutorials, practicals, etc.

Map it all out!

Credit: Gerd Altmann
Credit: Gerd Altmann

Get different coloured post-it notes and colour code (1) the teaching sessions and topics, (2) activity types and (3) assessment(s). Break it all down. Stick the post-it note content on to a wall for each week of the course being delivered. Identify any gaps. What else might you need to add in? Reading, listening to podcasts or watching videos? Student discussion? Collecting evidence for portfolio?

Once the course has been mapped from beginning to end (including lesson plans, assessment and feedback sessions), it’s time to think about how it will be delivered: face-to-face or online. What content needs to be synchronous (live teaching) and what can be asynchronous (pre-recorded)?

This mapping can then be transferred to your Canvas module. You have a plan!

In Canvas, this is where you then need to:

Building your course

Over the last number of weeks, we have provided many blog posts on the different aspects of Canvas and building up course content. When it comes to actually creating digital materials, please do view the following:

Synchronous v asynchronous

Remember, live teaching (synchronous) needs to fit in to a timetable and the teacher and students need to be online (or in a teaching space) at the same time in the same space for that to happen.

These timetabled teaching sessions need to be created and shared with students prior to teaching. Instructions also need to shared with students, i.e., read x or ensure y is completed/updated before the teaching session.

Credit: Chris Montgomery
Credit: Chris Montgomery

Other instructions need to be given to students about what is expected in teaching sessions, i.e., if online, do students need to be seen on camera all the time, and/or do microphones need muted on entry to the session? Create a code of etiquette for online sessions, i.e., what students are expected to do and how sessions are delivered.

The teaching sessions are where you and your students engage with teaching content and interact with each other (in group work, discussion/chat, etc.). Teachers may need some tasks available for group breakouts or have a question(s) ready for discussion or poll (as per lesson plans).

Credit: Allie Smith
Credit: Allie Smith Mobile conference

Recorded content (asynchronous) needs to be viewed before a particular time, e.g., before the tutorial next Tuesday but in the students’ own time. This provides a level of flexibility to fit in to students lives, and as it’s asynchronous, it can be viewed and reviewed as required. Do tell students where to find the content on Canvas. Why not send them an announcement with a direct link to the content?

It may be that you (the academic) records some material, i.e., a tutorial or screen cast of using a particular software (R, Python, etc.) to demonstrate to students how something works in a particular scenario. These recorded items can be used again yearly or until they need updated, i.e., when those software packages update. It’s important to future-proof these items and keep them generic.

Other materials to consider may be online articles/video/materials to which students are signposted via Canvas. It’s not necessarily material you record. Don’t re-create the wheel if it’s available already, although do search the internet for appropriate content. When using these materials, link them via a web address to your teaching module to avoid copyright infringement.

Recording do’s and don’ts:


  • Highlight what is important via narration
  • Rehearse narration and slow it down
  • Limit words on slides and avoid over-formatting text
  • Be generic in terms of date and time (content can be reused)
  • Record in a quiet space (to improve quality)
  • Keep recordings consistent in terms of narration and layout
  • Keep recordings short (no longer than 15-20 minutes)
  • Keep it simple!


  • Say “good morning/afternoon” as students can view content at any time of day or night
  • Add witticisms or funny anecdotes as these can be misconstrued
  • Have too much text on screen (narrate the content)
  • Use animation within slides (its distracting)
  • Use slide transitions (it can disorientate)
  • Use Clipart
Copyright & Accessibility

These are both HOT topics. They’re legislation and must be adhered to. For information on Copyright, please read:

For information on Accessibility, do check out the resources below.

For more information on putting a set of slides together, please read MS PowerPoint: Design and Best Practice. This gives guidance on optimum size of text, line spacing, text colour and accessibility guidelines to be followed to widen audience engagement. This post on MS PowerPoint: Adding Media Content is helpful regards inserting images/video and resizing items without distorting the content.

Once materials have been collated, finalised and structured within your Canvas DEVELOP module, you are ready to publish all the content.

Import & publish

Currently, all your teaching content should be in the DEVELOP module and this needs rolled over to the current live shell (that’s this academic years Canvas module AY2021/22). To do this, essentially it’s a copy/paste procedure within Canvas.

Importing content (rolling over content)

Access Canvas how you normally do. Click on the new module you want to bring the existing content into. Whilst on the Home tab, click on Import Existing Content (as shown below):

Canvas - Rolling over content through Importing Existing Content
Canvas – Rolling over content through Importing Existing Content

On the next page, click the dropdown and choose Copy a Canvas Course:

Canvas - Copy a Canvas Course
Canvas – Copy a Canvas Course

Then type in the module code the content is to be copied from. Please ensure it’s the right module you intend to copy from as there are Autumn (AUT), Summer (SUM) and Full Year (FYR) modules available for each academic year (AY). The current academic year is AY2020/21 and from September, you should be looking for AY2021/22 codes.

Canvas - search for a module
Canvas – search for a module

Once you have the correct course identified, Canvas then allows you to decide if it’s all content or specific content to be copied and whether dates need amended (as per below).

Canvas - copy content options
Canvas – copy content options

Once you have selected the appropriate options, click Import. Once the status bar has progressed from left to right, your new module will be a duplicate of the course you copied from. This allows you to amend the module, dates, content, etc., before you publish the module and give students access.

An important step before you publish is to check your course against the Go Live Checklist. The Checklist outlines 10 steps that are recommended in preparation for publishing your course before the start of each term. Note that there are a few additional items covered in the Checklist, (such as Assignment Groups & Weighting and Setting your Gradebook/Course Policies). You can follow the steps in the checklist which link to more detailed guidance should you need it.

Canvas can also check your course for broken links using the Canvas Link Checker. Any embedded resources must be checked manually. It is important to validate the links in your course are working as expected before you publish you course.

Central QUB Canvas Team
Publishing content
YouTube – Import and Publish your Canvas module

This brings us both to the end of July 2021 and to the end of our Canvas blog-a-thon, it’s back to weekly blog posts on a Monday! We hope you have found the content useful and timely whilst your update teaching materials over the summer break.

Next time

On Monday, we look to MS Stream for useful hints, tips and best practices that could be applied to your MS Stream recordings.

Please do join us then to learn more and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter: @MDBSelearn.


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