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Getting Started Guide

3 Steps to Getting Started

NOTE: This guide is for instructors.

  1. Login and set-up your Cougar Courses (CC) account
    Login to CC at

    Once in CC, select Account from the global navigation menu on the left and select each of the options to set up your account:
  2. Customize the course list on your Dashboard
    You might not see a particular course on your Dashboard, but don't worry, that doesn't mean it is gone! To see all your courses, select Courses from the left global navigation menu and then All Courses at the bottom.

    To customize the courses that display in your Dashboard, select the star next to each course name that you’d like to display. We recommend using Course Nicknames to identify your courses, e.g., COMM 100 TR 9am. Nicknames are only visible to you. FYI students can do this, too!

  3. Only if needed: create a development course
    If you do not have access to your upcoming courses yet (remember, be sure to check your All Courses page!) you can create development courses to begin adding content and designing your courses. You can create as many development courses as you would like. To create, on your Dashboard click on the "Start a New Course" button on the right hand side. Give your development course a name and click "Create." Then proceed with the steps below.

    Don't forget, once you have access to your official courses you can easily import the content from your development course into the official course.
Feeling overwhelmed?
Check out our Simple Quick Start Guide first.


10 Steps to Getting your Course Ready

  1. Make a decision about how you will build your course:
    • Design your course using one of the CSUSM templates:
      This option helps to facilitate building and designing modules and lessons quickly. This can be done in addition to reusing past content or building from scratch. Check out the help guide on the templates for more information about them and how to bring them into your course. Once done, return here.
    • Reuse content from a past course:
      This allows you to utilize content and activities you have already created. This can be done in addition to using one of the templates above. Courses from Fall 2019 to Summer 2023 should be available in CC for you to reuse. Once you have decided which course content to reuse, import the old content into your new course container.
    • Design your CC course from scratch:
      This provides the opportunity to reflect on your course materials and design modules with learning activities that meet outcomes and promote collaboration, discovery, discussion, reflection, and problem solving utilizing the built-in tools. Of course this option is the most time intensive.
  2. Upload your Syllabus
    We recommend that you add your syllabus by going to Syllabus on the course navigation menu. Click the Edit button in the upper right and paste the contents of your syllabus in the edit window. It’s also best practice to upload an accessible, printable version of your syllabus by adding the Word or PDF file to this resource.

  3. Add Assignments, Quizzes, and Discussions
    Click on Assignments on the course navigation to access the Assignments Index page where you can update, manage, and add Assignments and Assignment Groups (gradebook categories). Click on Quizzes on the course navigation to update, manage, and add classic quizzes, practice quizzes, surveys, and new quizzes. Click on Discussions on the course navigation to update, manage, and add discussions

  4. Add files
    Upload files to your course in order to link to them within Modules, Pages, Assignments, Quizzes, etc. Keep in mind there is a 1 GB maximum storage limit per course. Due to that, do not upload video files to your CC course. Instead upload them to Mediasite/Youtube/Stream and link to them. To keep your Files tidy you can create folders and organize your files into these folders.

  5. Organize content
    1. If you are using a template: If you have not already done so, update the template provided pages and module items (use the checklist in the first module in the template). Remove any module items you are not using. Then, organize your content into your modules. If the items are already on the Modules page, you can move them into the appropriate module. If they are not on the modules page yet, you can easily add them to the appropriate module.
    2. If you are not using a template: Content can be organized by using Modules or Pages, or a combination of both. Modules are recommended if you wish to structure (and/or control access) to your course materials by weeks, units, or topics in a guided learning experience. Pages allow you to use images and links to resources within one area. In most cases, we see an effective combination of both where Modules create structure and Pages provide rich content linked within Modules. More on Managing Canvas Modules Video. Don't forget about the activities created in Step 3 and content added in Step 4! You will either add them to the modules or add them as links to your pages, depending on how you have chosen to design your course.

  6. Create a Home Page
    1. If you are using a template: We have already created and set the front page for you! If you haven't yet done so, be sure to edit the front page to update with course-specific details.
    2. If you are not using a template: The default Home Page of your course displays the Recent Activity Dashboard. You can create a custom page; have the Syllabus be the Home Page; use Modules as the Home Page; or have the Assignments index be the Homepage. Whichever you choose, you must Set the Front Page.

  7. Hide unused course navigation items
    Evaluate your Course Navigation Menu items and remove/hide items that are not in use or are accessed in other areas. We highly recommend hiding Files and Pages from students. Not only will this help keep the students' course navigation streamlined, it will ensure students view files/pages in the proper context and desired order.

  8. If needed: Import content into your official course container
    If you were working in a development course, before moving on to step 9 you must manually import the content into your actual course container. If you were already working in your official course, you can skip this step.

  9. View course as a student
    When reviewing your course, be sure to publish (or unpublish) Modules and module items. Then, use Student View to experience your course as a student.

  10. Publish your course
    When you are ready for students to access the course, be sure to publish the course (keep in mind a course cannot be unpublished once students begin participating). It is also best practice to send out a welcome Announcement (and video!) inviting your students to the course. Keep in mind any announcements you post will not be sent out unless the course is published.

Explore Further

Get the Canvas App

For Instructors

Instructors - Canvas Teacher allows teachers to facilitate their courses on the go, both inside and outside the classroom. This app provides quick access to grading, communicating, and updating—three of the most frequent course facilitation tasks for teachers through Announcements, Assignments, Discussions, and Quizzes.

Canvas Teacher is available for both Android and iOS devices.

For Students

Students - Canvas Student allows students to access their courses and groups using a mobile device. Students can submit assignments, participate in discussions, view grades and course materials. The app also provides access to course calendars, To Do items, notifications, and Conversations messages.

Canvas Student is available for both Android and iOS devices.