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Canvas for Language Learning

This document describes how to use various features on Canvas in a way that meets the pedagogical challenges posed by language learning.

Formatting Course Content

The Rich Text Editor in Canvas allows you to format your material in a way that makes it easy for students to work with. This is particularly important if you are putting a large amount of content on your course site, or creating links to language material drawn from the Internet.


Tables are useful for displaying grammar rules and vocabulary. You can either paste tables into the Canvas site from elsewhere (from Word, from other Internet sites, etc.) or create a new table by clicking on the table icon. Here is an example of a page that displays grammar rules in a table:


For more information, see How do I insert a table using the Rich Content Editor?

Links to Outside Content

You can provide links to outside language resources on the Internet. To create a link, highlight the text, click the Link Icon and paste in the URL of the site when prompted.

For more information, see How do I create a hyperlink in the Rich Content Editor?


There are two ways you can add images:

  1. Select Images from the menu to the right of the Rich Text Editor. This menu allows you to insert image files already uploaded to the course site, to upload new images, and to insert images found on Flickr.
    Canvas Image Uploader Menu
    Note: Particularly in the first and second years of second language learning, images are useful in getting students to produce language. The Canvas Discussion Board is a great way to provide your class with images for group discussion.
  2. You can also include images found anywhere on the Internet by clicking the image icon in the Rich Text Editor and entering the URL of the image.

Audio and Video Integration

Canvas streamlines recording and integrating audio or video files. Both instructors and students can record themselves on the course site and to post these recordings:

  1. Click the film icon on the Rich Text Editor toolbar:
    Film Icon on Rich Text Editor Toolbar
    Note: Audio and video material can be added wherever you have the option to enter content using the Rich Text Editor. This means you can include media files in Assignments, Pages, Quizzes, Discussions, and Announcements.
  2. If you are recording new media, click Camera or Microphone button:
    Camera and Microphone Buttons
  3. Allow access to your camera and microphone:
    audio video integration 3
  4. Follow the on-screen instructions to record, save, and upload the media file.

For more details, see How do I record audio using the Rich Content Editor? and How do I record a video using the Rich Content Editor?

Example Uses

Here are a number of ways you can take advantage of the streamlined audio and video integration that Canvas offers:

  • Assignment Instructions: instructors can post media clips directly into the assignment or page to explain the assignments or provide assignment questions the student should answer.
  • Quiz Instructions: instructors can integrate audio and video files into quizzes. In Quiz Instructions, post the media file(s) you want your students to listen to while they take the quiz. If you only have one question per audio file, you can post the audio file directly into the quiz question when you edit the question.
  • Pronunciation Guide: on pages with reading assignments attached, instructors can post an audio clip of the reading passage to provide students with a reference for pronunciation.
  • Discussion: students and instructors can post audio and video files to discussions. This allows students to post video responses to one another in the target language.
  • Media Assignments: instructors can create assignments that require students to submit audio or video files. When you create an assignment, select: Submission Type: Online > Online Entry Options > Media Recordings. The assignment will prompt students to record or upload media.
  • Feedback for Media Assignments: Instructors can provide audio or video feedback to student assignment submissions using Canvas’s Speedgrader. In Speedgrader, under Assignment Comments on the right, click the video icon to record your audio or video comments.
    Assessment Overview

Link to Content Within a Course

Language classes often present an organizational challenge for both instructors and students, due to the many small assignments and the variety of instructional material and assignment types. Canvas allows you to link sections of the course site to one another to make it easier for students to find required course material.

To add a link to another location on the course site:

  1. In the Rich Text Editor, select the text in which you want to add a link.
    Note: we recommend you put all course material in one place so that students know where to find it. Usually, the best place for course material is Modules. Within Modules, you can add items like pages or assignments that include links to other relevant material. The best strategy is to link course content together while still maintaining a central location as a jumping-off point for navigating the course.
  2. At Insert Content into the Page to the right of the Rich Text Editor, click Links. Select the course material to which you want to link.
    Link Editor in Course Content Menu
    Note: If the course covers a lot of grammar, you can make a page that summarizes all of the grammar topics covered in the class. You can then link this summary page to other pages in the course that explain the concepts.

Set the Language for Your Course Site

You can set the display language of your course site to a number of major languages. All of the build-in text on your course site, for example, navigation tabs or menu options, will display in the selected language.

Click Settings > Language and select your language from the list of options.

Advanced Features

As you gain confidence using Canvas, you may want to add some of these useful extra features to your content.


If you are comfortable working with HTML, you can use the HTML editor in Canvas to format vocabulary words so that a definition appears when a user hovers the mouse over a word. To do this, switch to the HTML editor by clicking Rich Text Editor. Insert the code snippet below and modify it for your content:

<a class="ui-tooltip" title="Your definition"><span style="cursor: help;">your word</span></a>
For example, to provide the definition for the word "Erleichterung", your code will look like:
<a class="ui-tooltip" title="relief"><span style="cursor: help;">Erleichterung</span></a>
Now, users will see a tooltip with a definition of "Erleichterung" when they hover over that word.
Tooltip Hyperlink

Tabbed Layout

  • You can create a menu of linked tabs that allows students easy access to multiple assignments:
    Canvas Assignment Menu
  • You can also include sections that can be controlled using toggles or accordions.

Further Information

Canvas also has online discussion forums in which instructors discuss their experience with various Canvas features. For example, these forums include a "Teaching Language in Canvas" message board from which some of the ideas here are borrowed.

Canvas Assistance

If you are interested in these features or any other features, set up and appointment with Academic and Scholarly Technology Services

Keywords:lms, learning_management_systems   Doc ID:71014
Owner:Cecilia L.Group:University of Chicago
Created:2017-02-24 11:38 CDTUpdated:2017-05-22 09:40 CDT
Sites:University of Chicago, University of Chicago - Sandbox
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