- Use the Quick Help Guide to get up to speed quickly on the basics of your Canvas course.
- Use More Canvas Options to create a page, module, assignments, discussions and office hours. Learn more about student view and modifying your course navigation menu.
Need more help? The Canvas Resources page provides you with a list of helpful resources. Faculty and staff are always encouraged to reach out to the TLC group with any questions, or to schedule a one-on-one help session.
Quick help guide
Quick help guide
Step 1: Understand your dashboard
Go to canvas.harvard.edu. On your Canvas Dashboard, you’ll see a course card for each of your current courses .
Click on the name of the course to access the course home page .
If you do not see your courses, click the “Courses” icon  on the left navigation bar and click the “All courses” link. In the “All Courses” list, click on the star next to the course that you want to list on your dashboard. If you click no stars, all your current courses will be listed (up to 12).
Step 2: Add your syllabus to the Syllabus tab
- Click on the Syllabus tab on the course navigation menu , then click on the edit button on the top right of the page .
- Use the “Files” tab on the right side bar  to link to your syllabus document.
- If you have already uploaded your syllabus in the course Files area, it will show up when you click the arrow next to the “course files” folder .
- If you want to upload a new syllabus directly from your computer, click the Upload a new file link .
- You can also copy and paste the syllabus text directly into the edit window . Although it requires formatting, the copy and paste option works with screen readers for accessibility.
- Click the “Update Syllabus” blue button  to save your changes.
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Step 3: Understand your home page
Your home page is the first thing students see when they enter your course. We have designed the HLS home page to give students the important, up-to-date information that they value most. The course information section will be updated automatically from the Registrar’s feed. If you want to change anything in that section, please contact the Registrar directly. Although the information cannot be edited, deciding which content to display can be changed.
Step 4: Add Content to the Files Section
Files is one of the simplest ways to organize and display content to students in Canvas. It is similar to the folder structure in operating systems. See Canvas’ full documentation on Files.
Step 5: Publish your course
Students cannot access your course until it is published. When you are ready for students to view your course, click the Publish button on the right of the Home Page . This will remove the Course Setup Checklist box and the word “published” will turn green. This will allow students to access the course.
Publishing the Course will not automatically publish any content you have designated as “unpublished”. You will need to publish each of those items (assignments, discussions, etc.) separately for students to see them. We recommend that you use student view (see Check student view under “More Canvas Options”) to make sure that your course content is set up correctly before you publish the course.
Once published, your course will be visible to enrollees only. If you want to explore other options for making parts of your course open to Harvard viewers or the public, see our Course Visibility Options webpage.
Step 6: Communicate with your students
After student enrollments are added and your course is published, you can communicate with your students. There are three primary ways communicate in Canvas: Announcements, Course Emailer, and Inbox. We suggest using a combination of Announcements and the Course Emailer to communicate with your students.
More Canvas options
More Canvas options
Add content to your course Files
In addition to your syllabus, readings and other files you want to distribute to students can be uploaded to the course Files area.
- Read more on uploading files from your computer into your Canvas course.
- Read more on importing content from a prior Canvas course.
- Read more on copyright issues.
If you need help accessing past iSite content, contact TLC. We can provide a zip file of the content.
Create a course materials page or module
Add links to documents or webpages on a Page or Module in Canvas. Note that it’s best to link directly to the source of materials to avoid copyright issues.
- For instructions on creating pages, see our video
- Read more about creating pages.
- Read more about creating modules.
- Read more about options to provide content to students.
- Read more about copyright.
Create assignments, discussions, or office hours
Canvas has several other useful tools, such as assignments, discussions and appointment groups (for office hours).
- Read more about creating online assignments.
- Read more about creating reading (or other not online) assignments.
- See the Canvas guide on creating discussions.
- See the Canvas guide on creating office hour signups.
For help with any of these functions, please contact TLC.
Modify your course navigation menu
You and your students can access different parts of your Canvas course using the Course Navigation menu on the left side of the home page . For more information about what these tabs do, see our “Course Navigation Tools Explained” page.
As faculty and teaching staff, you can access all the tabs in your course. The tabs that are “greyed out” (disabled) will be invisible to students. To enable or disable course navigation tabs for students, select the Course “Settings” tab at the bottom of the Left Navigation bar . If you are using Modules or Discussions, you will need to enable the Modules or Discussions tab for students.
In the “Settings” screen, click on the “Navigation” tab at the top of the screen , and select the gear icon  to the right of the tab you want to enable or disable. You can also edit the arrangement of these tabs in the left navigation by selecting “Move” when you click on the gear icon, or by dragging the tab up (to the enabled section) or down (to the disabled section). Remember to click Save at the bottom of the page when done.
Check student view
Once you have added content to your course, edited your home page, and modified your course navigation, you can view your course as your students will see it. To access student view, click the Settings tab  in the course navigation menu, then click the Student view button in the upper right of the screen .
A pink bar across the bottom of the screen will notify you that you are in student view. Leave student view by clicking the “Leave student view” button in the lower right of the screen.
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View enrollments in the People tab
The Sections tool in Canvas can be used to sub-divide students within a course. Note that “Sections” is different from “Groups”. The main use of sections is the ability to send an e-mail to a sub-section of the class list.
To access sections click on the “Manage Course” tab on the left and then click the “Manage Sections” box.
See the documentation HUIT has made for creating and editing sections.
Get more help
Contact TLC to set up a Canvas tutorial, request custom site design help, or ask questions about Canvas or our other supported academic technology tools.
Help from TLC
- Contact the TLC team M-F 8:30 am – 5:30 pm:
- Got a question? Search for answers to your question on our FAQ Knowledge Base.
- TA/RA training. If you have hired a TA or RA, please have them sign up for training by contacting Lisa Brem at email@example.com
Help from Canvas
- Sign in to Canvas, and then click the “Help” button in the far upper right of the Canvas screen. Available options: