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Canvas' New Look: 2016

On Wednesday, June 22, 2016, Canvas will be receiving a facelift. A new user interface will greet you when you log in to the system. The change primarily affects the home page. There are visual changes to the colors and fonts of the system, but all the tools you use to set up Pages, Assignments, Quizzes, and the like will remain the same.

Key Changes

  • The row of links at the top of the page will move to the left side of the screen.
  • The default home page will change to large "cards" representing each course, with shortcuts to key areas in the course (like Assignments, Discussions, etc).
  • Some of the colors and fonts will change.

What doesn't change?

  • The course navigation will still be on the left side of the screen, and will include all the same links as before.
  • The screens for Pages, Files, Quizzes, Assignments, and other tools in Canvas still have all the same controls, in the same places.
  • The 'Recent Activity' stream is still available on the dashboard, by clicking a switch.

See the Tour!

Episode 4 - Where are my favorite things?

Episode 3 - Resources for students

Episode 2 - Managing the Course page

Episode 1 - The Tour

Frequently Asked Questions


Getting Started

Why the change?

There are three reasons Canvas is making the change:

  1. The shape of most computer screens has changed. They used to be more square, now they are much wider than higher. Moving the menus to the left side makes for a longer readable page for the content.
  2. More students are using tablets and phones to access Canvas. This new design does a better job of adjusting when a tablet switches from a vertical screen to a horizontal screen.
  3. The tabs on the course cards provide faster access to course activities and content.

Why now?

Canvas released the new interface in August, 2015. It has been stable since late December, 2015. On July 9, 2016, they are turning off the current interface, and all schools will be using the new look. We're making the change during the break, so that summer quarter students and instructors will have a consistent view of Canvas for their classes.

Can I try it out?

You can see the new interface on our "Test" Canvas site at Log in with your usual Highline ID and password. Students won't be able to use this site, but you can try out the new interface and see what it's like. Note: Any work you do on this site will be overwritten on May 14, June 4, and June 25, 2016, as part of the Canvas Production Updates.

What about my students?

We've heard from other schools that students have had very little trouble transitioning to the new interface. We are taking a few steps to help.

  • The Student Orientation has already been revised for the new interface. You'll be able to include that in your courses. (See the Canvas Orientation for how).
  • The Canvas student guides, available when students click help, have also been (mostly) updated.
  • An announcement, with links to video guides, will be available to students during break and the first week of the quarter.

I use lots of screenshots in my classes!

Make sure you review the screenshots you're using, and compare them to the Test Canvas site (above). For many assignment or quiz images, you may not need to do anything.

For course/site level images, you will likely need to create new screenshots. You can log in to Highline's Test Canvas and take the shots there. If you need to capture something at the bottom of the screen, click on the pink bar to remove it.

Where can I get help?

Help is available through the usual channels:


What's with the constant changes?

This is the first really sweeping change to Canvas we've had in the two years we've been using it. While it definitely changes the look dramatically, there is little change to the underlying system, or the workflow within courses.

Instructure, the company that makes Canvas, publishes updates to the system every three weeks. Most of these are bug fixes or small changes. Those are announced in the release notes sent out to the Canvas-announce email list every three weeks. (Archives are here). From time to time they'll make larger changes; often we get to choose when to turn those on. Details are included in the release note emails.

What are you going to change next?

We're not expecting any significant changes for another year. There are a number of features that are scheduled for updates or enhancements over that year, though. You can learn more about them in the Canvas Studio.

One feature we expect to have available during Fall Quarter is a significant update to the Quiz tool. It will not replace the existing tool for some time, though. (And for what it's worth, we've seen the previews. If you use quizzes, you want this.)

Will the Orientation and Canvas Guides be updated?

Yes. The Canvas Guides have already been updated. A few still call out differences between the new and old interfaces.

An updated version of the Highline Canvas Orientation will released at the beginning of summer quarter, in time for newly hired fall quarter instructors to use it. It will include new materials that reflect the new interface. If you have completed orientation, you will not be required to take the new orientation. (It covers much of the same material).