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Design Tools: Getting started

CiDi Labs Design Tools provides a powerful tool set for creating eye-catching, accessible, and informative course content in Canvas that displays well across a variety of devices. To get started with using Design Tools, we recommend you begin with pre-formed page templates. These templates can be used anywhere that you use the Rich Content Editor in your course, and require less setup and less Design Tools "know how" than creating a brand new page template from scratch.

1. Import templates into your course from Canvas Commons

To make course design and setup as easy as possible, ODL has created a master course shell housed in Canvas Commons that you can import into your course. A course shell is a pre-made framework of a Canvas course with space for you to add your own content. The ODL Master Shell contains templates for:

  • Assignments
  • Discussions
  • Quizzes
  • Module overviews
  • Course home page
  • A "start here" page to help your students orient themselves with your course.

Many departments and programs create their own course shells and house them in Canvas Commons as well. Using pre-built templates from your program or department can help you conform to departmental guidelines without needing to go through the entire process of constructing your own templates within Design Tools. We recommend that you check with your department, or use the search function in Canvas Commons, to find any course shells that your department prefers for you to use.

If your department does not have a recommended or required shell for you to use, we recommend importing the ODL Master Shell into your site.

Tips for editing imported Design Tools templates

These tips and best practices will help you to have a smoother experience using Design Tools.

  • Always launch the Design Tools menu when you edit an item that uses a Design Tools template.
    After clicking edit on the content page, assignment, discussion item, or quiz make sure to then click the garnet rocket ship icon in the upper right of the screen. This will then show you how Design Tools is grouping your content and will help to avoid formatting issues.
  • Use Design Tools' built-in accessibility checker
    This will help to ensure that content you have added will be accessible to all students regardless of any assistive technology they may be using.

2. Use FSU's institutional templates

In addition to importing page templates from Canvas Commons, you can also use FSU's institutional templates that are accessed from within the Design Tools editor itself.

As of April 2019, FSU's institutional templates include templates for instructions for gradable items in Canvas, templates for course content, templates to assist with course structure, and templates for use with Canvas's HTML Syllabus page (but fear not - no HTML knowledge is needed!).

Templates for instructions for graded items in Canvas

These are very simple templates to use - you would simply add your gradable item title, add your instructions, and you're done!

  • Assignment instructions
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    The assignment instructions template includes a specifically designated area for describing the content or expectations of a particular assignment within Canvas. This template can be used with assignments that are intended for online submission, one that necessitates a physical submission or deliverable, as well as assignments with no definitive submission like expectations for graded class participation.
     
  • Discussion instructions
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    The discussion instructions template is intended to be used in conjunction with a Discussion Board page within your course site. The template provides a space for both general discussion instructions as well as any specific questions or prompts that you would like students to consider while participating in the Discussion Board.
     
  • Quiz instructions
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    The quiz instructions template, like the assignment instructions one, is intended to provide a straightforward set of instructions for a Quiz that is being conducted in Canvas. The template provides a space for you to insert written instructions, as well as information regarding scoring or other relevant details to your Canvas-facilitated test or quiz.

Templates for course content

The course content templates are intended to be used when building out your instructional content in Canvas Pages and already include best practices within the template so that you will be automatically reminded to include things that are easily overlooked, such as a brief overview, citation, or transcript. If you do not wish to include an item, such as an overview, you can easily remove it from the template while creating your content.

  • Document
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    The document template is intended for textual content that you would like to create directly within Canvas. This template includes an area for you to enter in a brief document description or overview, an area to enter in the "meat and potatoes" of your textual content which includes the option of breaking up content with subtitles, and an area to include a citation showing where you obtained the information.

    Though you can upload Microsoft Word documents and PDFs to your course site, a Canvas page that utilizes this document template has the benefit of being accessible on any device without any additional software needed.
     
  • Video lecture
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    The video lecture template includes an area for you to enter a description of your video lecture, a place to embed your video, and an area to place the transcript of your video and any presentation files that you would like your students to access along with your lecture video. If you reference any websites that you would like your students to visit, those can be easily included under the "video transcripts & presentation files" area as well.

Templates to assist with course structure

The course structure templates are intended to assist with communicating course policies and expectations, course progression order, and resources that will help your students succeed in your course. 

  • Syllabus
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    The HTML syllabus template is included in most course shells, but if you are not using a course shell you can also access it when you open the Design Tools menu on the Syllabus page of your course site. This HTML syllabus provides a complete framework for communicating your course requirements and expectations in Canvas, and no HTML knowledge is required to use it. It contains areas to describe your course's administrative information, description, a bio for yourself and your teaching assistants, course learning objectives, required materials, student responsibilities, your grading policy and scheme, policies regarding exam proctoring, any technology requirements, basic information about Canvas support services, and any other course policies you'd like to include.

    As an added advantage, this HTML syllabus template also contains vital information automatically so you don't have to start from scratch! This includes:
    1. University-wide policies that belong on your syllabus.
      Attendance policy, honor policy, compliance guidelines for the Americans with Disabilities Act, FSU's syllabus change policy, and information about tutoring services.
    2. Different template versions available depending on your location.
      The syllabus template is available in Tallahassee and Panama City versions with location-specific information for each.
    This information is maintained and kept up-to-date by FSU ODL Technical Support, so that you can build your syllabus without worrying about administrative information.
     
  • Start Here
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    The Start Here template is intended to form part of your course's introductory content, almost like an extension of your syllabus. The template includes space for an instructor bio at the top and then outlines a standardized 5-step guide for getting started in the course: links to syllabus and course schedule, purchasing course materials, ensuring Canvas settings are adjusted correctly, making the student aware of library and other support services, and beginning the first part of the course content.

    Using this template ensures that your students know how to get started in your course, and helps to connect them with resources they will need for successful course performance.
     
  • Module Overview
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    The Module Overview template is designed to be placed at the start of each of your course modules to serve as a general outline of the expectations and content for each course topic.

    This template includes space for a general overview, module-specific learning objectives, required and optional materials, due dates for assignments, and an area to embed video lectures associated with that module's content. This template is easily customized to fit your instructional needs - if you do not want to use a particular portion of the module overview, you can use the Design Tools editor to remove it.

How to access FSU's institutional templates

You can access any of the institutional templates by navigating to a Canvas Page within your development or course site and clicking into the editing interface. Follow these directions to access the Syllabus template and follow these directions for all other (non-syllabus) Design Tools institutional templates.

Tips for editing institutional Design Tools templates

These tips and best practices will help you to have a smoother experience using Design Tools.

  • Always launch the Design Tools menu when you edit an item that uses a Design Tools template.
    After clicking edit on the content page, assignment, discussion item, or quiz make sure to then click the garnet rocket ship icon in the upper right of the screen. This will then show you how Design Tools is grouping your content and will help to avoid formatting issues.
  • Use Design Tools' built-in accessibility checker
    This will help to ensure that content you have added will be accessible to all students regardless of any assistive technology they may be using.

Attending Additional Training for Design Tools

The Office of Distance Learning offers both group training sessions and one-on-one Canvas technical support consultations by appointment. Group training sessions are offered in-person and online via webinars. Individual technical support consultations are also offered both in-person and online.

These sessions can be a great opportunity to learn about using templates, course shells, and other elements of Design Tools within your Canvas course sites. Our technical support team and instructional development faculty are a helpful resource if you have questions regarding how to use certain aspects of the Canvas interface, and can assist you in facilitating your course design in Canvas. Take a look at our Canvas Workshops and Appointments page to learn more about these opportunities and register for a consultation or training session today!

Utilizing the Canvas Multi-Tool to Build Shells

The Canvas Multi-Tool is an advanced editor that allows users to build their own course shells for use within their current course as well as future ones. This allows you to develop a standardized course structure within a Canvas development site for your program or department, as well as for the broader FSU community. Shells and templates you develop for both specific pages as well an an entire course site can be easily shared through Canvas Commons, and are very useful resources for new instructors and those taking on new teaching assignments. Please note, we do not recommend using the Multi-Tool unless you are already feeling comfortable and confident with Design Tools overall.

CidiLabs, the company that produces and supports both Design Tools and Multi-Tool, has a few basic articles that can assist you in using the Multi-Tool in your course:

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