Canvas - Overview [UW-Madison]

This document outlines resources for instructors on how to get started with Canvas at UW-Madison.

Select this link to list all Canvas documents from the Learn@UW-Madison Knowledgebase at the bottom of this page.

Canvas Logo

What is Canvas?

Canvas is UW-Madison’s centrally supported learning management system. It serves as a powerful and flexible tool for instructors and students in our digital educational space. Most other teaching and learning technologies integrate with Canvas making it the central technology in the digital teaching and learning ecosystem.

See Canvas - UW–Madison Information Technology for more information.

Tool Functionality Details

Basic Functionality

Canvas functionality is very modular. Instructors can pick and choose whether to engage several available functions. Most Canvas content is created using the Rich Content Editor. You can create Canvas content using the following Canvas functions.

  • Share files (of any type) with students.
  • Trac grades in the gradebook.
  • Assign course work.
  • Create quizzes to be taken online.
  • Make announcements.
  • Add custom content, and materials that supplement textbooks.
  • Provide students a central location that contains all course activity: readings, quizzes, assignments, exercises, exams, etc.

Learn@UW-Madison actively supports the integration of third-party applications and publisher Digital Learning Tools (DLT) with Canvas. See Canvas - Enabled Application Configurations (UW-Madison) to learn more.

Advanced Functionality

Advanced functions include the following. Relevant support materials are available as Canvas Guides, housed within the online Canvas Community.

Use Cases

  • Canvas is a powerful and flexible tool. You can use it to simply manage course activities, or for much more involved and complex course functions. Instructors can quickly learn how to use Canvas, but may take longer to learn more advanced functions.
  • Use Canvas Modules to organize content in chronological or topical order
  • Use Canvas to provide links or resources to supplement an in person course, such as embedding video content through Kaltura Mediaspace
  • Use Canvas to organize content and meetings for remote synchronous learning.
  • Using Canvas Discussions to supplement in-class conversations.(CTLM Link)
  • Use Canvas quiz (survey) to gather mid-semester feedback (Anonymous Survey)
  • Use Canvas quizzes for formative and summative learning assessments.

Noncredit courses in Canvas

In addition to traditional credit-based courses, Canvas can be used to deliver noncredit courses. This includes the following:

  • Continuing Studies/lifelong learning "L3" (enrichment or ongoing education) courses for external audiences
  • Compliance or institutional training courses primarily for UW-Madison employees and/or students

Canvas course shells for these purposes – noncredit, compliance, LifeLong Learning, etc – can be requested by completing the online Noncredit Canvas Course Request Form.

If you'd like to set up a new L3 program, see How to Add a New Academic Unit to the L3* Process

Note: If your form does not load properly, try opening it in a Private Browser Window. If that does not solve the issue, contact the DoIT Help Desk.

Five types of noncredit courses are available:

  • Sandbox: Course to experiment with Canvas and/or develop content outside an official course.
  • Continuing Studies/Lifelong Learning (L3): Used for Continuing Studies or Lifelong Learning (L3) audiences.
  • Compliance/Institutional Training: For courses used to deliver online training material; to UW-Madison faculty, Staff, and/or students.
  • Supplemental: These courses run alongside a Course Guide (timetable) course or for-credit program, and house tangential course materials.
  • Blueprint: Template for sharing course components across multiple courses.

Getting Started

To get started with Canvas, see Canvas - Getting Started [UW-Madison]

Additional Resources


Learn@UW-Madison offers a Canvas training course for students, and one for instructors & staff that covers all Learn@UW tools.

For more information on available Canvas training, please see Canvas - Training Resources (UW-Madison). For the latest updates about Canvas, please see the UW-Madison Canvas Information website.

Canvas Tech Modules

These modules, developed by DoIT Academic Technology's Learn@UW-Madison team, are designed to help instructors introduce centrally supported learning technologies to their students. For more information, see Canvas - Student Tech Modules in Canvas Commons


The Learn@UW-Madison KnowledgeBase provides documentation from UW-Madison's Canvas administrative team. Select this link to list Canvas documents at the bottom of this page.

Canvas Community

Canvas Community is a forum hosted by Instructure (Canvas's parent company), for educators around the world. Here, you can find documents about questions other educators have asked, and ask questions for peers to answer.

Note: This forum is not monitored by Learn@UW Support. To contact Learn@UW Support, please see the Technical Support section above.

Continuing Studies/Lifelong Learning "L3"

For general questions about delivering a Continuing Studies/lifelong learning "L3" course for external audiences to Canvas, please contact:

Alan Ng (, Director of Outreach Technology, DCS

Compliance/Institutional Training

For questions about using Canvas to deliver employee/staff and training courses, large-scale training and compliance courses for employees, and compliance courses for students, please contact the DoIT Help Desk.Canvas - FAQs for Noncredit Courses [UW-Madison]

Canvas release schedule

Instructure releases updates to Canvas monthly. Please see "Canvas Release Notes" for information on new releases. New releases also generally contain a short video summarizing changes in a release. Check the release notes often to stay informed on bug fixes or new features coming to Canvas.

Canvas system requirements and supported browsers

Please see Instructure's guide: What are the basic computer specifications for Canvas?

Note: Based on feedback from UW-Madison users, Canvas functions best when used with Chrome or Firefox. Safari is not recommended.

KeywordsInstructure, Canvas, help, intro introduction 101 support, UW-Madison, sandbox, playground, timetable, play ground, Non Credit, noncredit, noncredit, test course,community, testing, environment, experimental, temporary, transitional, make, course, request, institutional, training, form, create, instructors, supported, browser, browsers, supported, recommended, recommend, retention, purge, delete, remove, old overview get getting started   Doc ID62630
OwnerLearn@UW MadisonGroupLearn@UW-Madison
Created2016-04-11 08:05:37Updated2023-09-22 10:53:24
SitesDoIT Help Desk, Learn@UW-Madison
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