Start-of-Term Canvas Checklist


The following are a few tips to help you get started with your Canvas site before the beginning of a term.

Please note that this checklist has been specifically created for the University of Pennsylvania. You can explore Canvas’s Course Evaluation Checklist for a more comprehensive checklist.

If you need help with any of the steps below, contact your local Canvas support or submit an online help request to

1. Create a Course Site

If you haven’t requested your site yet, use the following instructions to request your Canvas site.

If you don’t see a course you are teaching in Canvas when you log into the Course Request Form, please use the information below to request your site(s):

2. Copy Content From Other Canvas Sites

If you did not choose to copy content from a pre-existing Canvas site when requesting your Canvas site or if you want to bring in materials from other Canvas sites at any point in the semester, you can use Canvas’s import tool.

Choose Select specific content instead of copying everything.

Once the content has been imported, review all copied material paying special attention to:

  • Any files that should not be visible to students, making sure that they are unpublished and/or that access is restricted.
  • Whether assignments, quizzes, discussions, or modules should be published or unpublished.
  • Revise any open, close, or due dates for assignments, quizzes, discussions and calendar events to ensure they reflect the new due/availability dates.
  • If you use group assignments, check to ensure that all copied group assignments are linked to existing group sets in People.
  • If you copy a Turnitin assignment, be sure to open the assignment, update the due dates, and re-enable any optional settings you customized.
  • Make sure any old announcements are updated or deleted. You can also set availability dates for announcements to automatically be posted later in the semester.
  • Check that all video content is visible to students
    • Panopto videos from a previous semester will not automatically be visible to students when a course copy is made or content is imported from a previous course.
      • You’ll want to check the Class Recordings tab and any pages that have embedded Panopto videos using the Student View button to make sure this content is available for students.
    • Panopto creates a folder for each new course, and only the videos in that folder are visible to students through Canvas. If you want to make videos from a previous course available to students in a new semester, you have two options:

3. Update Your Course Menu With Tools and Resources You Need

You can customize your course menu in your Canvas site to add tools that you need and remove tools that you do not need.

To update your course menu, click on the Settings area at the bottom of the course menu and click on the Navigation tab.

The Navigation tab can be found after Course Details and Sections.

You can drag and drop items to reorder the navigation links. You can also use the Move To option by clicking the Options (three dots) icon and selecting the Move link.

The course navigation settings include an area with links that will be visible to students and an area of links that will be hidden to students.

You can enable tools (such as Zoom, Class Recordings, and Ed Discussion) by moving tools from the hidden section at the bottom of this page up to the main navigation area. 

You can also move any tools that you will not be using to the hidden section to simplify your course menu for students. Any tools listed in this section will not be available to students, though you will still see them listed as the instructor. 

Make sure to Save your changes at the bottom of the page when you are done customizing your course menu.

4.  Request Library Content and Services

If you would like to have the Penn Libraries’ Course Reserves Service add content to your Canvas site, review the Course Reserves Information.

5.  Select Your Preferred Default Homepage

In new courses that do not contain copied content, the course site’s homepage defaults to the Modules layout, but you can choose your preferred homepage for your Canvas site, including a customized Front Page, the Syllabus, or the Assignments list.

If no modules exist when the course site is published, Canvas will prompt you to either publish a module or choose a different homepage layout.

6. Review Your Course Site

Before publishing your Canvas site, it is recommended that you perform the following checks to ensure your content is accessible and there are no broken links or content that is unintentionally hidden or visible to students:

  • Use the Validate Links tool to make sure all links are working property: Select Settings on the course menu and then select Validate Links in Content. Start Link Validation to review all course links. Any broken links or links to past Canvas sites will be flagged so you can fix them.
  • Test the site using Student View: On most pages, select the Student View button at the top right corner to view the site as a test student. Make sure the course menu is set up the way you want and that you cannot access any files, assignments, or pages that should be hidden to students. Student View also lets you practice submitting available assignments and quizzes as students would. It is a good idea to make sure any group assignments are working properly. Click Leave Student View at the bottom of the page to exit. 
  • Check accessibility: Anywhere you can access the Rich Content Editor (eg, Pages, Assignments, Announcements, Discussions, and Classic Quizzes), you can click the Accessibility icon to run an accessibility check of that page. Errors will be flagged with recommended fixes.
  • Check how your site looks on the Canvas Student mobile app if you expect students will be using your course site from their mobile devices.

Contact your local Canvas support or submit an online help request to if you need help fixing any issues with your Canvas site.

7. Publish Your Site

Students are added to Canvas course sites automatically, but they can’t access course content until the site is published. Click the Publish button when you are ready for students to begin accessing your course site.

8. Post a Course welcome announcement

The Announcements tab in Canvas course navigation only becomes visible to students (even if you’ve enabled it in your course) after the first announcement has been posted.

If you plan to use Announcements in your course, we recommend posting a course welcome message so the tab becomes visible to students.

8. Get Familiar with Your Classroom’s Technology

Check in with your Classroom Technology Support Contact or Local Support Provider to make sure your classroom is ready to support your teaching needs. Because classroom systems are regularly updated, it is helpful to do this before each semester and/or before you start using a new system or tool.

Here’s to a great term!

Last Updated: 21 Feb 2023