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Applying UDL in Canvas

Canvas is the Learning Management System (LMS) used at Ontario Tech University. Considering the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) when building your Canvas course can help you remove educational barriers.
  • Course Navigation

    The Course Navigation menu allows learners to access course links like Announcements, Grades, Modules, etc. Customize this menu so that only relevant links are displayed. This helps minimize confusion as students navigate through the course.

    • Learn how to manage your Course Navigation links, so you can hide irrelevant tools. For example, if Google Drive will not be used in the course, hide the tab to avoid confusion.
    • Make the course easy to navigate! For example, if pages are organized within structured modules, hide the Pages tab to avoid redundancy.
  • Communication

    Effective communication is critical in fostering a safe and engaging classroom environment. It is important to clarify expectations early on and provide alternatives for communication, so that learners feel comfortable and empowered to engage and participate. 

    • Clearly communicate how learners can get in touch with course instructors and teaching assistants. For example, share relevant contact information in the home page and syllabus, and notify learners of other communication tools you may use (like Canvas announcements). 
    • Provide at least two options for communication with learners. For example, Canvas inbox and weekly office hours.
    • Set expectations as to when learners can expect to receive a response from you. For example, “I check my email between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. I will typically respond to emails within 48 hours, excluding weekends and holidays”.
    • Set up an effective home page.
  • Pages

    Store content and educational materials in Pages using text, images, videos, links, and more. 

    • Use the accessibility checker to identify potential issues and fix them before publishing the page. 
    • Activate previous knowledge in content pages. For example, include a brief recap of the previous lesson.
    • Incorporate checks for understanding when delivering content. For example, provide an opportunity for students to stop and think about a question throughout the page or include a self-assessment question at the end. 
    • Present content in multiple formats. For example, provide graphics, videos, pictures, audio, etc. as an alternative for textual information. Also, provide subtitles or transcripts for audio-based material as well as descriptive audio or alternative text for visual-based material.
    • Where appropriate, clarify mathematical notation and symbols, and offer a list of key terms. 
    • Test pages on different displays and with common accessibility tools to ensure proper display and functionality.
  • Modules

    Learn how to create modules in order to organize content, so that it is easily accessible to learners. 

    • Decide whether the modules will represent topics, units, lessons, weeks, etc. and keep it consistent throughout the course. 
    • Include a module with links to relevant resources and support services in each course. For example, Student Accessibility Services (SAS), academic integrity, Library resources, etc.
    • Use headers to organize content, and indentations to demonstrate clusters of related content. For example, you may add headers for required readings, lecture notes, and assessments under the Unit 1 Module.
    • Constrict items listed in a module to 10 or less to make it easier for learners to engage with the content. 
    • Consider unpublishing modules that have not yet begun or for which students are not ready yet. 
  • Assessments

    Leverage tools within Canvas to design meaningful assessments that allow the learner to demonstrate their knowledge and execute tasks in unique and innovative ways. The purpose of an assessment is to determine whether progress has been made toward an objective or whether the objective has been met. 


    • Incorporate alternative assessments that reflect real-world skills and scenarios. For example, consider assigning a case study as opposed to a multiple choice exam. 
    • Utilize skills and concepts taught earlier in the course as part of an assignment developed later in the course. 
    • Ensure that graded assessments align with the learning outcomes. Review the TLC’s Backward Design resources for more information on aligning outcomes and assessments.


    • Provide clear and concise directions. For example, emphasize key words describing what learners should do (i.e., action verbs) using the rich content editor (RCE).
    • Provide choices between and/or within assessments, whenever possible. For example, allow learners to choose the topic for an essay, or choose between submitting a media file and a written response.