Tips for Using Canvas for Students | Information Technology | University of Pittsburgh
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Tips for Using Canvas for Students

Students will start moving onto campus next week! Where did the summer go? You’ve been preparing to take classes and participate in college life in the midst of a pandemic. It will be a challenge, but your resilience makes Panther Nation proud—#H2P!

Technology is an important tool in the Flex @ Pitt hybrid environment. Pitt’s new Learning Management System (Canvas) provides an excellent platform for enhancing your classes, communicating with instructors and classmates, and keeping on top of your coursework. If you haven’t had the chance to use Canvas yet, here are a few tips for getting started.

1. Use Canvas “Help”

Normally, I don’t find in-app help all that helpful. It can be a list of endless suggestions from a bot that doesn’t directly address my issue, while using technical language that is difficult to understand.

But Canvas Help directs you to a real person—a Canvas expert trained specifically in assisting students—for live help via chat or phone. This is your easiest and fastest way to get immediate, 24/7 Canvas help. If you prefer, you can submit a help request or send an email to your instructor. Or there are dozens of videos, articles, and guides to look up the information you need.  

2. Get the Mobile App for Students

Want to send a note to your instructor or check an assignment’s due date? Need to get the Zoom link for a class you plan to attend virtually that day? Do all of that and more from any device, in any location, with the Canvas mobile app. Just make sure you download the right app—there’s one for instructors and one for students.

3. Install Pitt Mobile

The Pitt Mobile app underwent a major overhaul this summer, and it is now the perfect gateway into all things Pitt. It includes quick access to class schedules and course information from Canvas, all without having to leave the home screen. Zoom class meetings and due dates are pulled into the in-app calendar, which can also be synched with other calendars your device has access to (like Google or Outlook calendars), giving you an integrated at-a-glance schedule. Pitt Mobile also displays assignments, messages, and quiz dates. And if you need to see detailed info that you can only get from the Canvas app itself, Pitt Mobile will launch the Canvas app for you. Download Pitt Mobile from the Google Play or Apple Store today.

4. Set Your Notification Preferences

One of the best features of Canvas is how granular its notification settings are. Just click on Account > Notifications. There’s a whole list of activities, alerts, and settings on this screen, from due dates and grading, to files and scheduling. For each one, you can choose if you want to be sent a notification right away, in a daily summary, in a weekly summary, or not notified at all. That will really help you strike the right balance between frequency and urgency.

While you’re in the Account section, take a sec to review and update your profile and settings, and use NameCoach to record the pronunciation of your name and select your preferred gender pronouns.

5. Customize Your Dashboard

Canvas lets you customize the appearance of your dashboard in whatever way you find most useful. First, set the Dashboard to Card View, List View, or Recent Activity View. Card View has a block for each course, with icons for announcements, assignments, and discussions. List View displays an enhanced To Do list to help you manage tasks across all your courses. Recent Activity View displays recent discussions, assignments, grades, etc. for all your courses.

You can also customize how courses are displayed. From the Card View, click on the three dots icon in the top corner to apply a color to the course. For example, some students use one color for courses in their major, another for gen ed requirements, and a third for electives. You can also move cards up or down from this menu, or just drag and drop cards into whatever order you want.

Canvas displays current and completed courses by default. Many students prefer to see only courses they are currently taking this semester. To change which courses display, click on Courses > All Courses from the navigation menu. Click the star beside a course name to display it. Courses that are not favorited won’t display on the Dashboard or in the Courses menu. (If none are favorited, all will display.) You can view courses that are not displayed by just clicking on Courses > All Courses.

Good luck in all your courses this year, Panthers. You got this!

-- By Karen Beaudway, Pitt IT Blogger