How To

How To Guide for Canvas LMS …

Some background information

What is online learning or e-learning?

E-learning is an inclusive term that describes educational technology that electronically or technologically supports teaching and learning.

Difference between books, e-books and online learning

Over millennia we have become used to having information conveyed through books. Books follow a sequential order of conveying information, referred to as linear learning. With modern technology, books can be produced in an electronic (digital form) and referred to as e-books. They usually represent a printed version of the same book, only in digital form. However, in digital form, the nature of the technology allows for the use of other digital tools found on the internet. So in essence a e-book can be ‘enhanced’ from a normal print versions. However, being a digital book, involves using a consumption tool to read the book. These can be computers, tablets, smart phones etc.

Online learning is the ultimate tool as the education content fully resides on the internet in digital form. As most of the online courses are developed directly on a learning platform, it naturally involves interaction with more online mediums such as video, audio etc.

Online learning is relatively new and can thus play a big role in supporting traditional learning methods, including classroom learning. The combination is referred to as blended learning.

Difference between linear and non-linear learning

Linear learning

Some aspects of our educational system reflect its machine-age origins. If you look closely you will see the ethos of the factory: The textbooks, the curricula, the classrooms, and the schedules we follow. These are products of a 19th century factory model.

This has not changed much over the centuries. To this day, the bell rings and we take our places for 45 mins of instruction in neat rows. Then we receive mass-produced content that was designed around standardized tests – tests that do not accommodate individual learning needs.

The delivery model is that of the conveyor-belt. If the system is to work as a whole, the content has to be delivered in a very particular way: It has to be delivered in a linear format.

Traditional books solve this requirement by being delivered in numbered page and content format. We thus learn from page 1 to the last page in linear format.

Non-linear learning

So, what is non-linear learning? On one level, non-linear learning is the way that we naturally learned for a couple of hundred thousand years. In nature, linear learning doesn’t exist. People didn’t learn to swim or hunt in a linear way – through a staggered, textbook process. We learned instead by doing, through direct experience, through dealing with things as they arose, and through discovering what it was that was important at the time. But most of all, we learned through making connections between things we already knew and the stuff we did not. This meant we actively constructed the knowledge as we needed it. It was all very subjective and individual and not linear.

In real life, children learn their mother tongue through random exposure. They make sense of the language by identifying patterns and they connect and store the patterns that work. Our brains are designed to work/learn this way, but it is a subjective process because each individual experiences distinct social and psychological phenomena. It is not an objective one size fit, but an experience that is entirely unique. Yet we all end up fluent in our native language.

Learning in the natural environment was not linear. There is a level on which it was actually quite random. It was situational.

How great would it be to have access to non-linear format information. Wikipedia and the internet are perfect examples of how we can jump around to different topics of interest.

However, despite the huge benefit of non-linear learning, when we learn, information must still be delivered in a structured format to grow our knowledge based on previous topics. So the best combination would be a non-linear access to content, presented also in a linear organised way. Our system EduCampus, does just that.

Canvas is a LCMS…what is a LCMS you ask?

What is an LMS?

A learning management system (LMS) is software used for delivering, tracking and managing training and education; for example, tracking attendance, time on task, and student progress. Educators can post announcements, grade assignments, check on course activity, and participate in class discussions. Students can submit their work, read and respond to discussion questions, and take quizzes.[51] An LMS may allow lecturers, administrators, students, and permitted additional parties (such as parents if appropriate) to track various metrics. LMSs range from systems for managing training/educational records to software for distributing courses over the internet and offering features for online collaboration.

The creation and maintenance of comprehensive learning content requires substantial initial and on-going investments of human labour. Effective translation into other languages and cultural contexts requires even more investment by knowledgeable personnel.

What is a CMS and a Wiki

A content management system (CMS) is a computer programme that allows publishing, editing and modifying content as well as maintenance from a central interface. Such systems of content management provide procedures to manage workflow in a collaborative environment.[4] These procedures can be manual steps or an automated cascade. CMSs have been available since the late 1990s.

CMSs are often used to run websites containing blogs, news, and shopping. Many corporate and marketing websites use CMSs. CMSs typically aim to avoid the need for hand coding but may support it for specific elements or entire pages.

A wiki is usually a web application which allows people to add, modify, or delete content in collaboration with others. Text is usually written using a simplified mark-up language or a rich-text editor. While a wiki is a type of content management system, it differs from a blog or most other such systems in that the content is created without any defined owner or leader, and wikis have little implicit structure, allowing structure to emerge according to the needs of the users.

The encyclopaedia project Wikipedia is the most popular wiki on the public web in terms of page views, but there are many sites running many different kinds of wiki software. Wikis can serve many different purposes both public and private, including knowledge management, note taking, community websites and intranets. Some permit control over different functions (levels of access). For example, editing rights may permit changing, adding or removing material. Others may permit access without enforcing access control. Other rules may also be imposed to organize content.

 What is a LCMS

A Learning Content Management system is usually a hybrid system between a LMC and a CMS. Combining functionality of both systems info one platform. Thus the system hold records in the CMS portion, as well as deliver the information in a LMS format.

 LMS and CMS compared

The inappropriate use of LMS in the literature is perhaps most commonly associated with computer applications which we would identify as Course Management Systems (CMS). These systems are used primarily for online or blended learning, supporting the placement of course materials online, associating students with courses, tracking student performance, storing student submissions, and mediating communication between the students as well as their instructor. Some of this same functionality can be seen within LMSs as well, so it is understandable why confusion might exist about the differences between the two types of systems. However, the systemic nature of an LMS does not limit its functionality to that of a CMS.[3]

LMS and LCMS compared

The focus of an LMS is to deliver online courses or training to learners, while managing students and keeping track of their progress and performance across all types of training activities. An LMS is not used to create course content.

By contrast, a learning content management system (LCMS) is a related software technology that provides a multi-user environment where developers, authors, instructional designers, and subject matter experts may create, store, reuse, manage, and deliver digital e-learning content from a central object repository. LCMS focuses on the development, management and publishing of the content that will typically be delivered via an LMS. Users can both create and re-use e-learning content and reduce duplicated development efforts.

What is Canvas?

Canvas is a LCMS. It is an online/cloud based learner management system (LMS), that is has included wiki-engine, and thus adds on content management system functionality (CMS). The combination of the LMS functionality on a CMS, makes it a LCMS and a perfect tool for online learning.

Canvas is currently used by many educational institutions and corporates in training. It also offers some customisation for its customers in the sense of custom login screens and some branding inside the actual course material.

Canvas can be accessed using any web browser, and as the system is online, you must have access to the internet in order to use is.

The best browsers for using Canvas is Google Chrome and Windows Internet Explorer

Canvas is a ‘by invitation’ platform and thus a lecturer will need to invite a student to participate in a course. This can be pre-loaded as part of corporate training or a student can register an account themselves.


Using Canvas LMS

How to log into Canvas or my company’s login screen

This will load the default login screen 

NOTE: you can access through any login point for the system to access your course.

 You will need to be registered on the system in order to login. You may be pre-loaded if you are part of a training corporate programme. Otherwise you can register by opening an account by simply clicking on the Need an Account button on the login screen.

Navigating through Canvas

Once you have logged in, you will see you Home screen. This home screen has various usable areas, and drop down boxes.

  • The courses you have been invited to and that are available to you will all be listed under the dropdown menu COURSES
  • The main screen will show you any update on discussion forums as well as system and course announcements.
  • Selecting and starting a course

You can now select a course to start with or continue an existing course by selecting the course from the dropdown box

 Navigating your course – GO TO MODULES

  • The main course is made up of wiki pages with lots of additional content
  • The main navigation is done through MODULES. Modules can quickly be accessed via the left menu bar, or the course developer might have placed access point throughout the course
  • Once you have moved of the course introduction home screen, you can see your complete course overview by clicking on MODULES

NOTE: some of the option might be grey-out or look slightly lighter in colour. This is due to the fact that the student must progress through the course by viewing the learning items in sequential order. Thus you can only start jumping around course content once you have moved through it in order and possibly completed some of the quizzes and assignments.

Navigating your course – STARTING AT THE TOP

  • By clicking on the START COURSE button on the home screen or simply selecting the first item in MODULES, you will jump into the course flow.
  • During the course flow, based on the module structure and items available, you will be guided through your learning material.
  • At the bottom of each content page, you will see large BACK and FORWARD buttons. These buttons will PAGE you through your course
  • These navigation buttons will also show the previous and next item before you click, making it very convenient to move up and down the course material

Depending on the lecturer that developed the course, we encouragethe use of further hyperlinks torelated topic. These can usually be seen at the bottom sections such as SEE ALSO and RELATED TOPICS

Assignments and Surveys

  • Quizzes are online questions that are used to test your knowledge and understanding of topics learnt
  • Assignments are larger tests and can be done online and uploaded or completed online, depending on how it was developed.
  • Both Quizzes and Assignments may be placed throughout the course flow as items to be completed. They may also be compulsory before you may move onto a next items
  • However, they can quickly be accessed also from the left menu options showing QUIZZES and ASSIGNMENTS 

NOTE: the left menu options may differ from course to course based on the lecturer developing the course

Discussion Forums

  • During the course, the lecturer may require a discussion forum to be completed or contributed to
  • These forums help build a learning community and offer access to other learners by open discussion
  • Discussion forums can either be accessed via the Modules based on where the lecturer placed them, or alternatively also on the left menu as a quick shortcut

Changing your personal information

  • On the top right hand of your window, you will see you own login name
  • This is your link to change your own profile and setup in Canvas

End to HOW TO Guide

This concludes our HOW TO GUIDE for using Canvas

For support, you are welcome to email the following contact:


We hope you enjoy your online learning experience


Contact Details

Ansie Barnard – (+27) 082 900 1080

Adéle Kotzé – (051) 401 7303

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