13 Things You Can do in Canvas to Make Your Life Easier

As an instructional technologist, one comment I often hear from faculty is “I never knew you could do this in Canvas, I wish I knew about this earlier.” Here’s our list of Canvas hidden gems that will make your life easier as an instructor. Tik Toks courtesy of Lauren Burlison aka @canvaslmsqueen!

1. You can hide students’ grades and release them only when you’re ready for them to be visible

Whether you want to hide grades because you might make adjustments later on or you want to make sure all students receive their grades at the same time, Canvas’ grade posting policies can help you take greater control over your grading. 

The default grade posting policy for your entire Gradebook (all assignments) is Automatic, meaning that once a grade is given to students, it’s released and visible to students right away. The other grade posting policy is Manual, which means assigned grades are hidden from students until you decide to release them. You can set your preferred posting policy either for your entire Gradebook or for just certain assignments

2. You can hide unneeded areas from your course navigation

The buttons that appear on the left side of your course are known as your course navigation (where you see Home, Announcements, Assignments, Pages, and so on). You can customize your course navigation by adding or removing areas from it. To do so, go to your course, click Settings in the course navigation and then go to the Navigation tab.


#canvasfam #canvaslms #teachersoftiktok #onlineschoolhacks #canvashacks #teachertechtips #tiktokteachertips #canvastips #techtips #ItWasntMe

♬ original sound – Lauren Burlison

3. You can (soon) create a comment library in SpeedGrader to quickly re-use common feedback comments

This is a new feature in Canvas that will be available starting next week! In the SpeedGrader, you’ll be able to create a library of commonly used feedback comments so that you don’t need to keep retyping the same comment over and over again. This can save you a lot of time while grading. See this upcoming feature in action in the screencast below:

4. You can put your most recent Announcements at the top of your course homepage

If you use Announcements in Canvas to send important messages to students, consider turning this feature on in your course settings. It can help ensure students don’t miss or forget about your messages.

Screenshot of recent announcements section at top of course homepage

5. You can easily message students who haven’t submitted to an assignment yet

With just a couple of clicks, you can send a private message between you and each student who has not yet submitted to an assignment. You can also do this with students who haven’t been graded yet, or students who scored more than or less than a certain grade. In Canvas, this feature is found in the gradebook and is known as the “Message Students Who” option

6. You can undo actions in the Rich Content Editor (RCE) by hitting Control-Z

We’ve all been there: you somehow accidentally deleted everything you had typed into Canvas’ Rich Content Editor, or you made some other change that you’re not sure how to undo. There’s an easy fix: just hit control-Z on your keyboard (command-Z for Macs). This keyboard shortcut will undo the last action you had done in the RCE. Control-Z/command-Z is pretty universal for undoing something, so try it out outside of Canvas as well!

7. You can restore deleted course content

Have you ever accidentally deleted something in Canvas, and realized later on that you actually still need it in your course? To restore items that had been deleted, simply go to your course’s homepage and add ‘/undelete’ to the end of the URL (the full URL will look something like https://canvas.emerson.edu/courses/xxxxxxx/undelete). Keep in mind that only certain items can be undeleted–discussion threads (but not posts), assignments, assignment groups, rubrics, pages, announcements, files, modules, quizzes, groups, and group sets can all be undeleted.

8. You can turn on notifications for late submissions

If you’ve edited or taken a look at your notification settings, you may have mistakenly believed that the “All Submissions” notification category is inclusive of late submissions. However, the category does not include notifications for late submissions (we know, it’s confusing). Thankfully there’s a different notifications category in your notifications settings for late submissions called “Late Grading”. Turn on notifications for that category to be notified of late submissions.


Late Submission Notifications – #canvaslms #teacherlife2020 #teachertips #techtips #googleclassroom #teachersoftiktok #onlineschool #distancelearning

♬ FEEL THE GROOVE – Queens Road, Fabian Graetz

9. You can use the autosave feature to restore content in the RCE that was lost after you navigated away

You know that heart-sinking feeling you get when you’ve been typing away into the Canvas RCE, but then suddenly you’ve navigated away from the page? Maybe you accidentally closed out of your browser or your laptop’s battery died. No need to fear! Canvas has autosave capabilities built into its RCE. Check out the screencast below to see how it works:

Remember that content will only be saved for up to one hour and that the functionality only displays in pages that only include one Rich Content Editor window, such as pages and assignments.

10. You can add different assignment dates for different students

Imagine that you have an assignment due for all students next week, but one or two students just requested an extension for the assignment. Or, maybe there’s a group assignment but each group has a different due date. When you’re creating or editing an assignment, you can easily add different assignment dates (due dates, available from/until dates) for different students or student groups.


Assigned Due Dates! #canvaslms #teacherlife2020 #teachersoftiktok #teachertechtips #teachertips #googleclassroom #distancelearning #onlineschool

♬ The Office – The Hyphenate

11. You can filter your gradebook so that you aren’t seeing everything at once

Do you get tired of scrolling so much in your gradebook because you have lots of assignments? If so, use the gradebook filters to only see certain assignments at a time! You can filter by assignment groups, modules that the assignment is placed in, or even by student sections or groups.


Organizing the Grade Book in #CanvasLMS #teacherlife2020 #teachersoftiktok #teachertips #fyp #onlineschool #distancelearning #googleclassroom

♬ Acoustic Guitar Stroll – Dow Brain

12. You can use the Course Links button in the RCE to link to your course content

When you link back to other course content, rather than copying and pasting links to course content such as assignments or pages, you should use the Course Links button in the RCE. Linking course content this way will ensure that when you import course content to a future semester’s course, the links will automatically be updated to be active in the new course. Otherwise, the links in your future course will point back to your old course, and your future students won’t be able to access them! 

13. You can use Student View to see what your course looks like from the perspective of a student

If a student reports that they can’t see or access something in your Canvas course, you may want to try out the Student View feature. With Student View you can see what your students see, which is helpful since as the instructor of the course, you can see everything regardless of publish status or other factors. Click the Student View button at the top of each page to activate Student View.


Happy New Year! #YouShouldKnow #teachertiktok #teachersoftiktok #canvaslms #distancelearning #teachersof2021 #teach #fyp

♬ original sound – Lauren Burlison

Online learning concept Illustration by Delesign Graphics.