Launching Your Canvas Courses Early

Launching Your Canvas Courses Early

As the spring semester approaches with its unusual remote start, we encourage all instructors to publish their Canvas course sites—or at least the syllabi—a minimum of a week in advance of the start of the spring semester. While we realize this may mean extra work for instructors, we want to make a case for the importance of early course publishing. Giving students access to your class in advance promotes:

Advanced Planning: Being able to plan workloads and understand time commitments and expectations in advance will help students who are trying to deal with challenges presented by the ongoing pandemic and the remote start to the semester. Many students reported challenges with time management this fall, and extra planning time can help them get a head start on that in spring.

Reduced Stress and Increased Retention: A recent Gallup poll indicated a third of student respondents considered stopping coursework this fall, with 42% of those individuals citing emotional stress as a reason. Allowing students extra time to prepare for the start of courses can help reduce that stress up front. And student retention is in our collective best interest right now, as we face possible enrollment declines caused by the pandemic.

Access to Textbooks: Students cannot easily visit a campus bookstore to purchase required textbooks and materials, and ordering them online will likely take longer, so early notice will help them have their books when the class begins. (This is also a reason to consider IU eTexts in future semesters).

Equity: Some students may need to make special arrangements to meet technology and scheduling needs for your class, especially as we start the semester remotely. Giving them more time to prepare gives them a chance to start the semester on equal footing with their peers.

So, what should you provide in advance, particularly if you don’t have your entire Canvas course ready to go?

  • Syllabus
  • Major assignments and deadlines
  • Technical requirements and meeting expectations
  • Books and other reading lists
  • Contact information that allows students to contact you with questions before the semester starts.

How can you publish just parts of your Canvas course?

If you aren’t ready to let students access your entire Canvas course yet, you can publish the course while leaving parts unpublished. The IU Course Template is based on Modules, so you can: 

  • Edit and publish the home page from the IU Course Template, while unpublishing any modules that aren’t yet ready for release. We recommend personalizing and publishing that “Getting Started” module, since it is ideal for helping students prepare.
  • Or upload your syllabus to the syllabus tab and use it as your home page. You may have to make the syllabus tab available to students by going to Settings > Navigation and enabling the syllabus.

You can also hide items in the navigation bar until you are ready for students to see them. To do this, go to Settings > Navigation and drag those items to be hidden to the bottom area.

Useful Links:


Need more help?

If you need assistance preparing your syllabi or launching your Canvas courses, contact the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning, or if you are from another IU campus, your own campus' teaching center.