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About Canvas

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Following is information about Canvas, Penn State's Learning Management System (LMS). In Canvas, registered students may consult course calendars; communicate with instructors, teaching assistants, and fellow students; submit assignments; receive feedback from the instructor and teaching assistant; take online quizzes and surveys; and check assignment scores and course grades. A link to Canvas appears on every page.

Quick Guide for Students

If you are new to Canvas, it is strongly recommended that you complete the PSU: Canvas Student Orientation.

You may also want to review the Canvas Student Guide to acclimate yourself further, and watch the following video:

Video: Canvas Overview (4:21)

200 - Canvas Overview for Students from Canvas LMS on Vimeo.

Click for Transcript of Canvas Overview

In this video, you will learn how to navigate your dashboard, courses, and Global navigation menu in Canvas.

When you log in to Canvas, the first thing you see is the dashboard, which displays a high-level overview of your current courses. The dashboard can be displayed in three different viewing options. Card view displays a course card for each of your favorite courses. Each card can include clickable icons for assignment, announcement, discussions, and files.

List view displays an agenda view of graded items from your courses, as well as any non-graded items your instructors designated for a course to-do list. You can also add your own items to the agenda.

Recent activity view display the frame of recent notifications from all your courses including announcements, conversations, assignments, discussions, and peer reviews. You can also access the course grades page from the course card and recent activity views, by clicking the view grades button.

The grades page displays grades for all of your courses. To view grade details for a specific course, click the name of the course. To view a course, click the courses link in global navigation and click the name of the course you want to view. The course opens to the homepage set by your instructor.

You can use the course navigation links, breadcrumb navigation, or the sidebar to navigate to different areas of the course. The sidebar includes a to-do list that displays links to announcements and other items that require action in your courses such as assignments, quizzes, discussions, and pages.

If your course includes student groups, you can view a list of your groups in course groups. Click the group name to view the group homepage.

View recent assignment feedback in recent feedback. Click the assignment name to view feedback in the submission details page. Canvas displays a global navigation menu that gives you direct access to your courses and other areas of Canvas.

Click the account link to log out of Canvas, specify your notification preferences, upload and view personal files, modify your user settings, manage e-portfolios, obtain a QR code to log into the student app, view global announcements and enable a high contrast user interface. Click the dashboard link to return to the Canvas dashboard.

Click the courses link to quickly access your favorite courses and view a list of all your courses.

Click the groups link to access groups in which you are enrolled or view a list of all your groups.

Click the calendar link to view your personal calendar and course calendars.

Click the inbox link to view and send messages to your instructor and peer within Canvas.

Click the history link to view a list of course content and content areas you have viewed within the last 3 weeks.

Click the help menu to access help resources for your institution.

Thanks for watching this Canvas overview video. To learn more about Canvas, ask questions, or engage with other Canvas users, please visit community.canvaslms.com

Supported Browsers and Computer Configuration

The Canvas Help Center provides extensive, up-to-date documentation on making sure your computer is configured properly for Canvas. Failure to follow these recommendations may result in significant issues while viewing materials, taking assessments, and using drop boxes. Use of unsupported browsers is at your own risk.

Your Canvas Profile and Notification Preferences

Your Canvas Profile and User Settings let you control your personal information in Canvas. Take a few minutes to personalize your Canvas profile and set your Notification Preferences, by following the instructions below.

Setting Up Communications

Task Instructions
Personalize your Canvas Profile
  • Go to Canvas.
  • Click on the 'Account' link.
  • Click on the 'Profile' link.
  • Follow the instructions on the Canvas Profile and User Settings page to customize important aspects of your profile including, but not limited to your preferred e-mail address(es) and text (SMS) contact method for course notifications, your time zone, and your profile picture.
If you use PSU OneID

Students who are enrolled with OneID will not receive emails automatically from Canvas due to not having PSU email access. We advise that students set up a personal email address for notifications.

  • Log into Canvas
  • Click on the "Account" link
  • Click on the "Settings" link.
  • In account settings, add a personal email address on the right-hand side.
  • Go to Account>Notifications to set specific notification settings, as described in the next section.
Set your notification preferences

You have the option to select how, when, and for what information you would like to receive notifications. This can be very helpful when keeping track of items such as discussion posts, assignment due dates, and exams. Visit Canvas Notification Preference Support and follow the instructions for setting up your notification preferences. The video below this table provides additional information.

To ensure that your Canvas Inbox messages forward to your regular e-mail account immediately, check the "Notify me right away" option (the checkmark) for each item under "Conversations" in Notification Preferences.

Set your timezone
  • Go to Canvas.
  • Click on Settings in the Course navigation menu.
  • The Course Details page will open.
  • In the Time Zone drop-down menu, select a time zone for your course.
  • Scroll down and click Update Course Details.

Download the Canvas App For information on using the app by device, please see the following:

Video Tutorial: Canvas Notification Preferences (2:56)

Click for Transcript of Notification Preferences in Canvas

In this video, you will learn about notification settings for all courses and an individual course.

To get started, click the Account link in the global navigation menu. Then click the settings link.

To add an email, click the add email address link, enter your email address in the field, click the register email button.  After your email has been registered, you will receive a confirmation email. To complete registration, click the link provided in the email.

To manage notifications for all your courses, click the notifications link in the user navigation menu. You can also access your notifications from anywhere in Canvas by clicking the account link and clicking the notifications link. 

Notifications settings are divided into sections including course activities, discussions, conversations, scheduling, groups, conferences, and alerts. Each section includes notification categories.  You can view what triggers each notification by hovering your cursor over the category.

Contact methods link to your account and push notifications for the Canvas apps are listed in individual columns. To change how often you receive notifications for a specific category and contact method, click the corresponding notification icon. You can receive notifications immediately, receive a daily or weekly summary, or turn notifications off completely.

Instructors, students, and observers can also manage notification settings at the course level.  To open a course, click the courses link in the global navigation and click the name of the course. In the course homepage, click the view course notifications button.  You can choose to enable or disable notifications for your course using the enable notifications toggle button. If notifications have been enabled for your course, you can specify how often notifications are sent to a contact method for a specific category.

Course notifications sections and categories may differ from those available at the account level.  However, course level settings will override course notifications settings at the account level for that course.  To manage how often you receive notifications for specific category and contact method, click the corresponding notification icon, then click how often you receive the notification. 

Thanks for watching this notifications settings overview video!  To learn more about Canvas, ask questions, or engage with other Canvas users, please visit community.canvaslms.com!

Getting Help

Sometimes, questions arise as to whom to contact about a certain issue. Generally, the following are the best options.

Discussion Forums (in Canvas)

  • For discussing, collaborating, and asking questions about lessons and general course issues.
  • You may find teaching assistants popping into discussion forums from time to time, but you should expect first and foremost your fellow students, and also the instructor, to respond there.

Conversations (in Canvas)

  • First, Please make sure you use Canvas to email your instructor (go to the Inbox in Canvas).
  • Check the relevant discussion forum first to see if your question might have already been asked and answered!
  • Email Instructor with questions regarding a graded assignment, course content questions, or a specific issue unique to a student's situation.

Reporting Technical Problems

If you experience technology problems in Drupal (course content) please contact your Instructor.  If you are a World Campus student and experience technology problems in Canvas, please contact the World Campus Help Desk. If you are a University Park or Commonwealth Campus student, please contact the IT Service Desk.

It is in your own best interest to be as specific as you possibly can. Vague descriptions of a problem only delay assistance; try to include information such as:

  • the specific course page, quiz question, etc., you were on, what you attempted to do when that failed, and the exact language of any error message displayed on your screen;
  • the date and time when your problem occurred;
  • any other pertinent information (does the problem happen consistently and always in the same way, etc.).

A member of the Help Desk will be in contact with you to offer assistance.

Note:

All official administrative communications from the Penn State World Campus are sent to students' Penn State email accounts. Be sure to check your Penn State account regularly or forward your Penn State email to your preferred email account, so you don't miss any important information.