Written by Brian C. Moon, UAB Center for Teaching and Learning

How To. With online courses, it is important that students always have a clear understanding of what is expected of them and how they should properly progress through the course. This is also important for any materials that are distributed via Canvas for traditional face-to-face courses, but for online students, a course lacking sufficient guidance and information can be particularly stressful and problematic for both the student and the instructor. In this "How-To" we'll be looking at Canvas modules, and some suggestions as to how you can best organize them for your courses.


What are Canvas Modules?

The Canvas guide entitled "What are Modules?" gives us a great overview of how modules should be used:

"Modules allow you to organize your content to help control the flow of your course. They are used to organize course content by weeks, units, or a different organizational structure that works for your course. With modules, you are essentially creating a one-directional linear flow of what you would like your students to do.

Each module can contain files, discussions, assignments, quizzes, and other learning materials that you would like to use. You can easily add items to your module that you have already created in the course or create new content shells within the modules. Course content can be added to multiple modules or iterated several times throughout an individual module. Modules can be easily organized using the drag and drop feature. Elements within the modules can also be reorganized by dragging and dropping."

You can use Modules to:

  • Create prerequisite activities that students must complete before moving on in the course
  • Track student progress through a sequence of learning activities
  • Organize course content by unit, day, week, topic or outcome 

What does a quality module look like?

Canvas modules should be used to deliver all content for online courses. Modules are most often divided into weeks for online courses (this helps students manage their time), but they can also be divided per unit, or project — whichever is most appropriate for your course content. Modules should include links to all materials, discussions, quizzes, and assignments covered in the learning unit. The first item in a module should be a module overview (created as a Canvas "page") which lists module dates as well as all learning objectives, assignments, and expectations. See below for examples of quality modules and a quality module overview.

For details on how to use modules, view this video related to Canvas Modules and this list of instructor guides related to modules.

If you need additional assistance with creating modules or pages in Canvas, 24/7/365 Canvas support is available to instructors via phone or chat as well as Canvas training, open lab opportunities, and one-on-one consultations from UAB's eLearning and Professional Studies group.

An example of a quality module:

A course introduction module is very helpful for online students. The first item in a module should be a module overview that lists module dates as well as module objectives, assignments, and expectations. Modules should also include links to all materials, pages, discussions, assignments, and quizes for this unit.


An example of a quality module overview

A quality module overview will list all objectives and assignments, as well as specific dates for the learning unit.
*Thank you to Laurel Hitchcock from the UAB Department of Social Work for the use of screenshots from her online course.