September 2, 2022  |  Instructional Updates, News & Events, Timely Announcements


I am reaching out to remind you about best practices for preparing Canvas course sites. The best practices below, endorsed by the Academic Policy Committee and by the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, benefit students.

Best Practices for Preparing Canvas Sites

UWM instructors have diverse needs and approaches when it comes to using Canvas (our current Learning Management System). However, a reasonable level of consistency across all courses can have a significant, positive effect on student success. When used effectively, Canvas provides a quick and easy pathway for students to find all relevant course materials, such as readings, assignments, and instructor feedback. To this end, instructors teaching face-to-face, online, and blended/hybrid courses should incorporate the following strategies into their course sites. It is particularly important for instructors to consider how regular and substantive interaction is integrated in their online course(s) and to provide multiple ways for students to contact them.

Interact with Every Student at Least Weekly
Regular and substantive interaction between students and instructors is a hallmark of good teaching and a federal requirement for online courses. While welcoming students and building classroom community are important, interactions must contribute to students’ progress toward course learning objectives:

Provide Multiple Ways for Students to Contact You
Ensure that students have a way to contact you (e.g., video office hours, phone number) in addition to email and the Canvas inbox. Do what you can to facilitate communication and interaction between you and your students.

Use CETL’s Course Template
Instructors should consider using CETL’s Course Template.  The Canvas Course Template was designed to help instructors efficiently and effectively set up their courses and to promote a consistent student experience among courses in Canvas.  More information here:

Publish Course Site Prior to the Course Start Date
Instructors should publish the course site prior to the course start date so students can orient themselves to the course materials and course sites. Three days prior is recommended.

Organize Materials Chronologically
Course materials in the LMS should be organized chronologically so that students can quickly navigate to a given week or module to find what they need at that moment in the course.

Use Student-Friendly Naming Conventions
For all documents, assignments, and other course components, instructors should use consistent and concise naming conventions that help students easily identify the materials and resources they need to be successful.  Consider these examples:

  • Change “HONORS-250-Smith-Spring-22-Syllabus.docx” to “Course Syllabus” or “Syllabus.”
  • Instead of saying “Week 8 Video” provide the title of the video.
  • Include a description such as “Creating a Game in Tabletopia” rather than just listing the full URL (

Use Due Dates
For all assignments with specific deadlines, instructors should assign due dates directly in the LMS so that students can easily track upcoming assignments in the course.  When possible, deadlines should be consistent from week to week.

Use the Gradebook
Instructors should provide timely and accurate grades to students using the gradebook in the LMS so that students can determine where they stand at any point in the course.

For more information or assistance implementing these strategies, please contact the UWM Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL): you can email (, call (414-229-4319), or visit Englemann Hall B50.

Take care,


Scott Gronert
Interim Provost

NOTE: On 9/2/2022 this message was sent to all Fall 2022 online instructors