Canvas Course Building: Starting with the End in Mind

Course objectives and learning outcomes: you know they are more than just ‘syllabus day’ fodder, but do your students?

A well designed course aligns all the activities, readings and assignments with the desired outcomes. Starting with the end in mind is a central tenant of the Quality Matters (QM) program, and in course design 101 here at ODEE.

Building in Carmen (Canvas) offers instructors an opportunity to design their course materials with the end in mind, and to make those connections more transparent to the students who need to demonstrate those outcomes.

Catherine P. Montalto was already hip to starting with the end in mind after obtaining QM certification for her Consumer Sciences 3940 course. When she delivered the same course in the Canvas pilot, she took advantage of the opportunities the LMS provided to increase the visibility of the course material’s connections to the learning objectives.

"When I had the opportunity to take the course and convert it into Canvas, it seemed almost second nature to bring that clarity to the course as I was building it."

"When I started putting my course into Canvas, it built from the back end of the process. Canvas prompts you early on to consider: How are you going to assess the students? How are you going to evaluate the learning or the skill development that has taken place in your course?"

"So there’s some value in embracing Canvas, and following the way the platform prompts you to create the course with the end results in mind. If you simply take a course that already exists and import it into the new learning management system, you might lose that opportunity to really think about how the course is designed and how your materials are organized."

Montalto said that with clearer course objectives, students have an opportunity to gauge whether they are ready to take on the material, to take a more active role in their learning, and to recognize the value of each assignment.

"Your content might not change a lot, but you can think about how you present the course content to the students, or how you guide the students through course materials with better clarity around what the connections are between assignments and outcomes."

See how she did it

Course objectives screenshot
Students can only access course content through the Modules. Each time they open a module they see the learning objectives assigned to the content they are about to explore.

Course Objectives in Canvas OSU
Montalto reminds her students how each assignment aligns with a learning objective.

While piloting Carmen (Canvas), Montalto was excited to see the SpeedGrader functionality and the robust feedback capabilities. 

"I like the ability SpeedGrader gives me to provide feedback to the students in voice recording. I use feedback in the formative stages of my students’ projects, and it’s a lot easier to give them constructive feedback in SpeedGrader and the feedback helps improve the final projects."

Montalto hasn’t put the Peer Review tool to the test yet, but she was pleased to see that there was such a tool dedicated to these types of activities.

"When students get feedback from a peer they hear it in a different way than when it comes from an instructor, and being providing feedback to another classmate is a good learning experience for the peer evaluator as well. It helps students see different ways goals can be accomplished, different ways to solve problems and explain relationships. I’m excited there’s actually a peer evaluation function in Canvas."

The production version of Carmen (Canvas) is now live. Get building (with the end in mind!) and refer to the Resource Center for tips and tutorials on building your course in the new engine behind Carmen.

Catherine P Montalto OSU Canvas instructor

Catherine P. Montalto

Canvas Pilot Instructor

Canvas Evaluation Committee Member

QM Certified Instructor