SAIS Canvas Basics

The Basics

Additional Information

Access Canvas

From the JHU Portal

  • Login to
  • Expand the Education Category
  • Click the Canvas Tile
    • Optionally click the heart icon on the tile to add it to My Favorites 

If you do not see Canvas in the JHU Portal:

The Dashboard is the first thing you will see when you log into Canvas. The Dashboard helps you see what is happening in all your current courses 

Access your Course(s)

Option 1: Select the course from the Dashboard by selecting the course card.

  • Scroll down the unpublished to view your courses.

Options 2: Select the course from Courses on the Global Navigation menu

Note: you may see two types of courses in Canvas (1) academic courses and (2) stage courses. Academic courses will begin with the prefix ‘SA’, stage courses will begin with the prefix ‘STAGE’.

Academic course is where your course syllabus, course zoom link, eReserves and other course materials will be located for students to access. The stage course is content that was migrated from Blackboard that you can reference or copy to your academic course. 

Update HelioCampus Syllabus

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: you will see two ‘syllabus’ links on the Canvas course menu, one called Course Syllabus and one called Syllabus. Course Syllabus is the HelioCampus (formerly AEFIS) syllabus, the other should be ignored and remain hidden from students. Follow these HelioCampus instructions to learn how to access HelioCampus in Canvas.

Create Zoom Course Link 

Reminder from Academic Affairs:

All faculty are required to post a backup Zoom link in their course Canvas site. These links will only be utilized for classroom instruction if future changes require the school to shift to virtual instruction. This is not a substitute for students who do not want to attend the in-person session. Faculty should not be using these links to teach virtually unless previously approved by Academic Affairs. Faculty can use Zoom for office hours and to invite guest speakers to their classes.

Follow these Zoom instructions to learn how to access Zoom from within Canvas.

eReserves (formerly Course Readings) 

The library’s eReserve system is integrated with Canvas. The system organizes readings by course and creates indexing that you can search or sort by author and title; upon request, Reserves staff will also organize your readings by assignment week, date, or topic. eReserves readings are available to faculty and enrolled students.

The process for requesting materials for your courses remains unchanged. Email [email protected]

Related JHU Canvas Guide: eReserves (i.e., ARES eReserves)

Update Course Home Page 

Your Canvas course includes a simple course home page that you are encouraged to edit to welcome students to your course site.

To edit the home page:

  1. Login to Canvas and open your course you want to update
  2. Click Home
  3. Click Edit
  4. Optionally add a personalized welcome to your course
  5. Add/delete the course description place holder
  6. When done editing, click Save, to save your changes

Related Canvas Guides

Publish your Course 

In order for students to access your course, you must publish it. You may also unpublish a course if you want to hide it from students. Once your course contains a graded submission, you cannot unpublish your course.

Students will be able to see published courses two week prior to the term start. If you publish your course prior to the term start, students will NOT be able to see the course.

Follow these steps to publish your course:

  1. Login to Canvas and open the course you want to publish
  2. If you are not on the Home page, click Home in the Course Navigation Menu
  3. Click Publish in the right sidebar
  4. A message may appear at the top of your screen confirming the publishing of your course

Note: On smaller screens, the sidebar may display beneath other page content.

Related Canvas Guide: How do I publish a course?


You can create an announcement to share important information with all users within your course and with users in sections of a course. In addition to receiving an email notification when an announcement is posted, the announcements feature allows students to directly access information on Canvas.

To create an announcement:

    1. Login to Canvas and open the course where you want to make an announcement
    2. Click Announcements in the Course Navigation menu
    3. Click +Announcement in the upper right 
    4. Enter a title [a] for the Announcement in the Topic field
    5. Add content in the Rich Content Editor [b]
    6. You can choose to select various options for your announcement.
      1. Delay the posting of your announcement, which allows you to schedule the announcement for a future date.
      2. Allow users to comment on the announcement
        1. Require students to reply to a post before seeing other replies
      3. Enable an announcement podcast feed
      4. allow students to like announcement replies
    7. Click the Save button to post and send the announcement.

Note: By default, your home page will show the most recent two announcements above the page content.

Notes: Your course must be published for students to receive announcement notifications. If you import an announcement from another Canvas course, new announcement notifications will not send to course users.

If an announcement is created before the course start date and the students can only participate in the course between these dates setting is enabled, students will not receive announcement notifications before the start date.

Related Canvas Guides:


Canvas Modules structure course content by day, week, unit, topic, or outcome. Modules help simplify student navigation through a course and ensure a sequential flow of content. With Modules, instructors can require interaction with content before completing assignments.  

Each Module can contain files, discussions, assignments, quizzes, and other learning materials.  Modules are a great way to start building your course because you can manage everything in one place.

  1. Login to Canvas and open the course where you want to create a module
  2. Click Modules in the Course Navigation menu
  3. Click +Module in the upper right
  4. Enter a name in the Module Name field [a]
  5. Optional restrict the module until a specific date, by locking the module [b]
  6. Optional require a prerequisite module [c]
  7. Click Add Module to create the module [d]
  8. Add items to the module by clicking the Add icon [a] or drag and drop files [b] to an empty module.
  9. Publish the module by clicking the unpublished icon. The icon will turn green to indicate the module is published and viewable to students
    1. Publishing a module will automatically publish any unpublished content items within the module.
    2. To unpublish a module, hover over the published icon. The hover text will confirm you want to unpublish the module. Click the icon to confirm.
    3. Publishing a module will publish all module items, you can manually unpublish individual module items later. Students cannot view unpublished module items as part of a published module.

You can add assignments, discussions, files, pages and quizzes to a module.

Related Canvas Guides:

Copy Course Content

After you have reviewed and updated the content in your stage course, you may choose to copy content from your stage course to your academic course by following the recommended copy method, use the advanced copy method or sign up for EDT Office Hours to meet with an EDT team member to help you copy your content.

Frequently Asked Questions

What about my Blackboard content? 

The University migrated many Blackboard course sites to “staging” sites in Canvas. Login to Canvas at to see which courses have been migrated from Blackboard. Your migrated course sites will be in a special staging site with the course names beginning with STAGE. To view what Blackboard course sites were migrated to Canvas:

  1. Login to Canvas:
  2. Click “Dashboard” on the left-hand Global Navigation Menu (This is also the default landing page after logging in).
  3. Scroll Down to “Unpublished Courses” to view which courses have been migrated. Migrated sites are tagged with pre-fix “STAGE”.

The University was not able to migrate all Blackboard courses. If you don’t see a migrated course you need, please email [email protected].

What is a Staging Course in Canvas?

Staging shells are used to hold content from Blackboard and prepare courses for launch later. Staging shells maybe copied into SIS generated shells once they are created. They can also be used as a “sandbox” for testing out Canvas features. These shells have no student enrollments.

Access to Blackboard ends on December 1, 2022

Blackboard will continue to be available until December 1, 2022. Select Blackboard course sites are being automatically migrated to Canvas (e.g., courses likely to be taught again). Faculty will have an opportunity to review these sites and to request manual migrations if the automatic migration missed a course. No matter what the migration method, no student data is being moved to the Canvas platform. Faculty should consider what student data they may need after 12/1/22 (for challenges or recommendations, etc.) and take steps to archive this data. We have outlined the steps in this document.

Visit JHU Canvas FAQ for Faculty for lots of great tips and tricks!