Start-of-Term Checklist For Students


The following are a few tips to help you get set up in Canvas and familiar with Penn’s digital materials and policies before the beginning of a new term.

Review Your Canvas Settings and Preferences

The start of a new term is a great time to review or update the following Canvas settings and preferences:

  • Dashboard View: Your Canvas dashboard will always show your active courses for the current term/academic year. Customize your courses list by changing which courses display on the dashboard and favoriting courses. You can also change your dashboard view to display course cards, recent activity, or a to-do list of upcoming course activities and assignments. 
  • Courses: To access all your Canvas courses, old and new, click the Courses icon.
  • Default Email: When you click on your Canvas Account > Settings, check that your default email address is correct and use “Edit Settings” to change your time zone, if needed. 
  • Canvas Profile: Click the Profile link to upload or take a headshot of yourself (no pets, please!) and include a short bio, if you like. 
  • Notification Preferences: While in your Canvas Account, click the Notifications link to confirm how frequently you receive email notifications for different course activities. The Notification settings apply to all your Canvas courses, but you can set course-specific notifications using the View Course Notifications button on each course homepage, too. It is important to make sure you get timely updates about due dates, grades and announcements and messages from your instructors. 
  • Sync Canvas Assignments to Personal Calendar: To help keep track of due dates for assignments and quizzes, you can import your Canvas calendar to your Outlook or Google Calendar. The calendar feed will contain events and assignments from all of your Canvas courses.
  • Name Pronunciation: Click the NameCoach Account Profile link to record the pronunciation of your name, add your pronouns, and share a phonetic spelling of your name. This information will be available to your instructors that enable this tool so they can learn to say your name correctly!
  • Preferred Name & Pronouns: To update your preferred first name, personal pronouns, and gender identity maintained with the University Registrar, visit the Personal Information page in Path@Penn.
  • Browser: For the best experience using Canvas, make sure you are using a recent version of a supported browser and that you clear your browser cache/history regularly. 

Canvas Student Mobile App

We suggest downloading the most recent version of the Canvas Student App for your mobile device and if you already have the app, quickly checking to make sure it is up to date.

The mobile application is a great way to stay up to date on your classes, but we strongly recommend signing in to Canvas via a desktop or laptop computer with a strong internet connection to submit assignments and for all quizzes and exams.

Download the Canvas Mobile App

The Canvas Community Mobile User Guide is a great resource for Canvas mobile app troubleshooting.

Please Note: Not all Canvas features are available through the mobile app. The Canvas mobile apps require Android 8.0 or later and iOS 14.0 or later. Canvas offers limited support for native mobile browsers on tablet devices. For additional details, please reference the limited-support mobile browser guidelines.

How to Log in from the Canvas Mobile App

  • Click Find my school and type in University of Pennsylvania
    • Do not select Wharton Online or University of Pennsylvania-Law unless you have specific instructions from those programs.
  • You will then be directed to the login page where you will login with your PennKey and PennKey Password

Accessing Textbook Content

After registering for classes, locate the required textbooks from the Penn Bookstore. Search for textbooks on the finder by entering the term, department, course number, and course section for each class. Some instructors may assign a print textbook containing online exercises or a digital textbook, both of which may integrate with Canvas.

Instructors using digital textbook content typically post directions on how to log into the content on their Canvas sites and provide links to resources. It is good practice to log into Canvas and see what content is posted in your courses about your textbook prior to the start of classes.

Within Canvas, you can access digital textbook content via the course’s navigation dashboard: 

  • For Pearson textbooks, click on “My Lab and Mastering”
  • For Cengage textbooks, click on “Cengage”
  • For McGraw Hill textbooks, click on “McGraw Hill Connect”

Your instructor may also incorporate links to your online textbook content within modules and pages on Canvas. Content from Elsevier, Norton, and VitalSource/CourseSmart textbooks is typically integrated via a module or link. Also, keep in mind that your instructor will likely import grades from your online textbook assignments into the Canvas Gradebook for grading purposes throughout the semester.

It is recommended to clear out your browser cache on your PC or on your Mac often to ensure that textbook content loads properly.

Copyrighted Material

Course Reserves

Learn how to access copyrighted materials made available for your course through the library’s course reserves program. 

Other Copyrighted Materials

As a student, you should be aware of how to correctly interact with copyright protected material made available to you through your courses or that you come across during your own research. 

Most information shared in your courses is meant for your own personal use and should not be distributed to others. 

Please familiarize yourself with the following resources and policies: 

Getting Help

Reach out to your school-based Canvas support services or Canvas Support in Penn Libraries if you need any further assistance.

Good luck in the coming semester!

Last Updated: 6 Jan 2023