How to Use Your Canvas Site and Why It Matters
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How to Use Your Canvas Site and Why It Matters

  • PDF

How To Use Your Canvas Site and Why It Matters

Your Harvard Extension School course has a Canvas site that goes hand-in-hand with your class sessions. Think of Canvas as the door to your classroom — it’s a unified space for you to share resources, communicate with your students, and assign grades. It’s a space for your students to submit their assignments and access readings. Above all, Canvas gives your students access to you, your teaching staff, and classmates. Here are some reasons using Canvas essential features helps make a course successful:


It’s A Centralized Place For Your Whole Class


  • It’s already set up for you: Your class already has a Canvas site set up for you and your enrolled students already have access to it. All you have to do is go to and log in with your HarvardKey. 
  • Your students expect everything to be in one place: Just like how students expect your syllabus to have all the information they need for the beginning of the semester, they also expect your Canvas site to have all the timely information they need to succeed in class. You can use your Canvas site to organize your course readings and send out announcements to your students. Having a consistent space to find all the class resources and information means your students will be able to use their time engaging deeply with coursework instead of spending time looking for basics like the readings for class. 
  • It streamlines teaching staff work: Using Canvas features also saves time for you and your teaching staff. Your students can submit their assignments over Canvas, giving you and your teaching assistants a shared space to read and grade their assignments. You can use Canvas Quizzes to auto-grade work or provide automatic feedback.


Things Change. Make Sure Your Students Know.


  • Communicating and staying flexible during a time of change: There is a lot happening right now. You might need to make significant changes in your course. The evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic requires you to be flexible and transparent as everyone, including you and your students, grapples with unprecedented changes.  Using Canvas Announcements means your students won’t get frustrated or anxious that they’re missing critical course information. 
  • Using Canvas features helps with busy lives: You can set due dates and deadlines in Canvas so you can clearly establish expectations to your students and track late or missing work. Consolidating your course into Canvas features makes it easy for your students to know where to go for everything class-related so they don’t feel overwhelmed.


It Protects You and Your Students


  • It’s FERPA Compliant: Your Canvas site access is limited to you, your students who are enrolled in your course, and your teaching staff. Using Canvas ensures student data is secure. It also ensures your Zoom class link and class recordings are only accessible by those in your class.
  • It’s Accessible: Canvas strives for WCAG 2.1 Level A/AA and Section 508 conformance. This means Canvas is a key to ensuring your class is accessible to all your students and their needs.


The Instructional Technology Group is always here to talk about Canvas’ essentials. You can find more information about Canvas essentials and sign up for a training or appointment here.


Department of Teaching and Learning | Division of Continuing Education
Harvard University