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Canvas Best Practices

A guide for U-M librarians

Considerations Before You Begin

Before you start your Canvas journey, it is important to ask yourself a few questions. Most importantly, who will be using your course? Do you have a user group in mind? Have you discussed your module ideas with faculty and other stakeholders? How will you assess your impact? It’s important to have a plan in place before you invest your time and energy into creating a course. Please email the E-Learning Committee at for guidance. We are happy to consult with you or your team, and to help develop a strategy before beginning. 

Getting a Sandbox

When you’re ready to start creating content in Canvas, you’ll need to request a “Sandbox” course. This is a Canvas course where you are free to practice using the LMS and build modules and quizzes. You will be the only user and content creator inside your Sandbox. To request a Sandbox email the E-Learning Committee at

Getting a Course Page

Once you’ve created content (i.e. modules, quizzes, etc) that is ready to be used, you will need to decide where the content should permanently live.

Options include:

  • Keep the modules inside your Sandbox. If you are a Librarian inside an instructor’s course, you can import your modules from your Sandbox into their course. 
  • Create a new course page. You can request that a new course be created for you. This way, students will go straight to your Canvas page to complete the course. 

Sharing Modules in Instructor Courses:
When you import your modules into an instructor’s course, the instructor manages potential grading and assignments, and they can remove you or exclude you from their course. Students are typically more likely to interact with your modules if they can access them through the Canvas site attached to their usual course. If you are a Librarian in the course, you can view graded quizzes and keep an eye on the overall trajectory of the larger course. However, you will not have the same level of control as you would have when running your own Canvas course.
Example: DIY Toolkit 

Creating Your own Course Page: 
You may want to create a standalone course page under certain circumstances. A separate course page allows students to go straight to your Canvas site without need for a connection to a faculty member or instructor. In this case, you’ll have greater control over the course, you can update the course easily, and you can gather course data on your own time. However, students will need an incentive to visit your course, and the course should be shared or marketed to your usual constituents. Creating your own course page means you will need to give students a way to access your course. We encourage you to email the E-Learning Committee at for guidance on this approach. 
Examples: Psych Modules, UROP Modules, Ask a Librarian Training 

Librarian Role in Canvas

Instructors can appoint someone as a variety of roles in Canvas: Observer, Teacher, Designer, Student, or Librarian. 

The Librarian role will allow librarians to engage with course, add or delete modules, edit content, post announcements, etc. Due to the permissions, those in Librarian role must be careful not to edit or delete the course instructor’s work. Someone in Librarian role should be prepared for updates and emails from Canvas about the course. 

Currently, the Librarian Role is invisible to students but we are working on a fix as of 6/12/2020.

File Naming Protocol

Use good data maintenance practices. If you’re building modules for multiple courses that will have different images, the images need to be all titled with the name of the module you’re building.

Files should be kept inside of a folder. For example, if the folder is being used for images related to an ENGLISH124 module, then each image might be written as ENG124_googlescholar, ENG124_databaseexample. This helps other people who might import your course so they can better distinguish between image files from your modules and their own image files. 

a screenshot of the Files page in a Canvas course