Canvas Minimum Usage

Date of Initial Publication: 12/16/2020 
Created by: Sarah Dampier, Abram Hedtke, Alisa Macksey, and Susan Cosby Ronnenberg 
Last Updated: 05/4/2021
Approved by: Saint Mary’s University Academic Council (UAC)
Date of Approval: 05/5/2021

This document outlines the preparations faculty should complete for their Canvas courses prior to each term. The intention of these preparation lists is to provide a minimum level of consistency across course information on the Canvas learning management system (LMS) for students. They are staggered through learning pathways to ensure that faculty have adequate time to adapt to the new LMS and take advantage of its features to provide students the best overall learning experience. The transition throughout this document aligns with initiative six (6) and eight (8) of Saint Mary’s Strategic Initiatives by optimizing our academic operations and ensuring innovation of student services. In order to manage the implementation of minimum Canvas usage, a phased rollout will guide faculty through the various components outlined in the document culminating in the achievement of the minimum Canvas usage by summer semester 2022.

  • Phase I: Fall Semester 2021
  • Phase II: Spring Semester 2022
  • Phase III: Summer Semester 2022 

As noted in each phase, consistent use of the LMS enables a better and more consistent student experience. This ensures that each student has access to learning  materials in a manner that is consistent from course to course throughout their time at Saint Mary’s. These expectations are supported by the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching and the Department of Instructional Technology through refined training sessions, ensuring that faculty receive consistent support and access to training materials and ongoing professional development. These expectations are necessary for providing a minimum level of consistency in LMS course information; proper training and support for faculty will be provided along the way. Refer to the Canvas Training Resources and Support document for assistance and to the CELT website for a schedule of available training.


PHASE I: Canvas usage expectations for Fall Semester 2021 

Prior to the start of each course, all instructors are expected to complete the following, at minimum:

In addition, throughout the course instructors are required to:


PHASE II: Canvas usage expectations for Spring Semester 2022 

All elements named in the previous phase, plus:

  • Publish the course based on course modality:
    • For graduate and/or online courses; two-weeks prior to the first day of the term.
    • For undergraduate and/or in-person courses; one-week prior to the first day of the course.
  • Maintain a minimum accessibility rating of 90% in the Canvas Accessibility Report
  • Post summative assignments, midterm, and final grades in the course gradebook.
  • Follow the best practices in course organization, including but not limited to:
    • Organization of content
    • Integration of instructional technology tools to further enhance accessibility and engagement with course content.

PHASE III: Canvas usage expectations for Summer Semester 2022 and beyond

All elements named in the previous two (2) phases, plus:

  • Publish the course two-weeks prior to the first day of the term.
  • Maintain a minimum accessibility rating of 95% in the Canvas Accessibility Report.
  • Maintain and ensure all course content is provided in Canvas.
  • Post all assignments, midterm and final grades in the course gradebook.
  • Maintain the appropriate amount of engagement in the LMS, as defined by the identified learning modality (listed below) for the course, allowing each student to connect with peers, instructor, and course content

Course Definitions 

Additional Notes

  • FERPA Compliance: Canvas secures all correspondence between students and teachers, whether it’s one-on-one or group interactions. In addition, Canvas maintains the privacy of each student’s grades. 
  • Accessibility: Accessible digital experiences and materials provide equal access for everyone without extra work. As noted in the various phases there is a minimum accessibility rating that each course must maintain. This refers to the Ally tool that scans and supports all content within each course. The ratings given by the report maintain efforts to ensure each student has easy access to all course content. Click this link to find information on using Ally.
  • Accommodations: Accommodations are modifications or adjustments made for an individual with a disability on an as-needed basis, which, at times may require extra work. While this document outlines the minimum usage of Canvas, please remember that all documented accommodations for students must be met. Saint Mary’s is committed to maintaining an inclusive and accessible environment across all learning platforms. Access Services can assist in providing effective academic accommodations that address individual learning needs.
  • Course Integrity and Continuity: With the establishment of main course shells, course content can easily be updated term to term. Main course shells are the courses in Canvas that contain the primary content for a course. Four (4) weeks prior to the start of an academic term content from the main course shells will be placed into the term section. After a term ends, requests to update the main course shell will be made available via the helpdesk. As programs and departments continue to make updates within the main shell, this ensures courses consistently have the necessary content. This also allows instructors to share course materials quickly,  maintain course consistency, and simplify preparation. As courses are concluded they can remain archived for recordkeeping, so that old assignments and communications with students can be retrieved if needed, regardless of instructor availability.
  • Eco-friendliness: Keeping your documents and assignments within Canvas saves paper and ink, saving money and resources for you, your students, and the university. The Saint Mary’s community continually strives to be effective stewards of resources.
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