Developing online assessments can be an advantage for instructors because assignments and tests would then be submitted through Canvas. On the one hand, this means certain aspects of the assessments can be graded by Canvas and the instructor will not have to be responsible for carrying around a stack of essay papers--making life a little easier for instructors. On the other hand, online assessments also heightens the likelihood that students will plagiarize or cheat on some aspects of their work. However, if instructors use a variety of low and high stakes assessments, use proctoring applications, and embed benchmark deadlines throughout the course for larger projects, it will be more difficult for students to plagiarize.

Proctoring Applications

Writing assignments can be submitted via Turnitin. (see UTO Enabling Turnitin video). Canvas quizzes can be proctored using the Respondus Lockdown Browser and Monitor (see the UTO Getting Started with Respondus Lockdown Browser guide or the Enabling Respondus for Quizzes video). Note that these proctoring applications will only work if the instructor reviews the reports and penalizes suspicious behavior accordingly (see UTO Review Turnitin Report and the Review Respondus Monitor Results videos).

Learning Materials

If you organize your Canvas course by modules and include all of the learning materials, assignments, discussions, and quizzes as various sections within that module, it will be very clear to students what is expected of them each week.  If your course has a textbook with a companion website, create a homework page as a module section that includes links to the companion site with short instructions on which activities should be completed. If you have several textbook chapters, journal articles, or PDFs for students to read each week, consider adding those to Perusall, a technology application for collaborative annotations in which students highlight, comment, or annotate readings before they can move on to the next assignment. If you are interested in this tool, please contact the SILC Instructional Support team ( to support you in its use (go to for more information about the product or see the YouTube video Social Annotations using Perusall for a short overview).


Though there are other free external applications for quizzes, developing them in Canvas will allow those quizzes to be copied along with the course for future usage and will allow them to be partnered with a proctoring application. Also, Canvas quizzes can be set up to make cheating a bit more difficult, even if proctoring isn’t used. Understand the various Canvas Quiz settings in order to maximize security (see Canvas Quiz Settings guide)

Writing Assignments

Whether you plan to require short reflection pieces, journals, blogs, essay papers, or research papers there are several strategies that will help ensure that the students’ work is their own.  This includes peer review, annotation of sources, etc.  More information will be added to this section at a later date.  Reach out to SILC Instructional Support at for more information.

Discussion Forums 

Discussion forums can be really rich or really horrible all depending upon how the instructor designs them. Effective discussions usually include the following elements:

  • Prompts that are open-ended, do not have an obvious correct answer, or can be controversial in nature.

  • Clear and concise instructions with two deadlines, one for the initial post and one for responses to peers.

    • Note: Canvas only allows one deadline for a discussion, but if you put the main deadline on the initial post, and leave the assignment open until the second deadline for the peer responses you will have more students fully completing the assignment.

  • Smaller groups to build community.

  • Equitable procedures for receiving peer responses.

    • Consider requiring that students respond to the two students who posted directly after them (to ensure that all students receive feedback).

    • Alternatively, consider using the Canvas peer review feature to ensure that each student receives a specific number of peer responses. If you use this feature, you will only need one deadline for the initial post and then students will receive an email directing them how to do the peer review.

  • An example of a high quality initial post and a rigorous response.

  • A requirement for students to quote or paraphrase from the readings to include citations.

  • A requirement for students to positively and politely challenge the critical thinking of their peers by posing open-ended questions.

  • A rubric that demonstrates what is required to earn full credit.

Collaborative Projects

Just because students are in an online space does not mean that there shouldn’t be interaction.  One of the best ways to foster interaction is through collaborative projects. These projects can mimic the same types of projects that might be expected in an in-person learning environment.  The only difference is that instead of meeting in-person to brainstorm, plan, and produce, students will need a virtual meeting space.  The following technologies provide that space at various levels.

  • Canvas Collaborations. One of the Canvas links in the left-hand side navigation menu is “Collaborations.” If you leave this enabled for your students, you can set up group collaborations that link to Google documents directly from within Canvas.

  • Canvas Group Workspace. When Group Sets are created in Canvas, a Canvas Workspace is automatically created for that group. This can be a little complicated because the group workspace will actually look very similar to the main course space. So it’s important to clarify this point with students. Students can access their Canvas group workspace by clicking on the Groups icon in the far left-hand Canvas menu bar and clicking on the group for this course.

  • Zoom/Google Docs. If you find the Canvas Collaborations feature to be too complicated, you can simply choose to create a Canvas page with instructions. Suggest that students use their own Zoom accounts to meet and share a Google doc to track their progress. Students can submit a link to the Google doc or download the document and submit that through a Canvas assignment.

  • Slack. Slack is a highly engaging social communication platform that can be integrated into Canvas or simply linked to.  Instructors can create a workspace for their course and then allow student groups to create “channels” for their group collaborations. In these channels, students can leave short posts, attach links to websites, videos, or Google Docs, and even record and upload their own video.  Students usually seem to figure out how to use it all on their own, so it is very user friendly. Bonus is that there is a direct chat feature that allows students to contact each other whenever they want to without having to share cell phone numbers or contact information. If you are interested in using Slack in your course, please contact the SILC Instructional Support team ( so that we can help support you (see the UTO Adding Slack to Canvas video).


Learning Strategies: