Pre-Semester Checklist

In preparation for a new semester the SDCCD Online Learning Pathways have provided a comprehensive checklist to assist our faculty as they prepare their online courses and ensure the best learning environments for our students. For any questions or assistance please reach out to the Online Learning Pathways Staff.

These 19 Steps will provide the best framework for success for your online courses:


Step 1: Pre-Semester Checklist Instructions

When will official Canvas Shells be built for next semester?


Go through the steps in this checklist each semester to prepare courses in Canvas.

Once the upcoming semester schedule has been finalized, official course shells along with enrollments will be generated automatically; when data from Campus Solutions is transferred to Canvas. 

The completion of the final schedule in Campus Solutions varies from semester to semester. Announcements will be sent as soon as the official course shells become available in Canvas. If you would like to start developing your course content now, we recommend that you request a Canvas Development Shell. Then you can copy what you have created over to your official course shell once it becomes available.

  1. Chat with Canvas support
  2. During the verification process state you are from the San Diego Community College District
  3. Provide your SDCCD 10-Digit Employee ID
  4. Request a "Canvas Development Shell"

Step 2: Request Cross-Listing (Merging Courses)

Cross-listing is used when an instructor teaches more than one section of the same course. For example, you are given two sections of ENG-120 to teach and you want to combine the enrollments for both sections into one Canvas course so you only have to change things and teach out of one Canvas course container. The merged courses should have the same assessments.

Cross-listing needs to be done BEFORE preparing your courses for the semester.

The course shells need to be empty and not published. If sections need to be "un-cross-listed" after students begin submitting assignments, student work will be lost.

Read the FERPA Compliance And Student Interaction In Merged Canvas Course Sections

To cross-list two or more of your Canvas course shells please follow the steps below:

  1. Prepare a list of the 5-digit course numbers you would like to cross-list
  2. Chat with Canvas support
  3. During the verification process state you are from the San Diego Community College District
  4. Provide your 10-Digit Employee ID
  5. Provide course numbers you would like to cross-list

Step 3: Verify Enrollment Roster Is Correct

Before modifying your courses in Canvas, please make sure that you are still teaching the course in mySDCCD portal. Also make sure that the enrollment roster is correct under the "People" section within Canvas. Unfortunately scheduling mistakes do happen. It's important to discover these mistakes as early as possible before the new semester begins. Here are the steps needed to verify your roster is correct from within your Canvas course shell.

  1.  Log into your Canvas account. Open up your official course shell and click on People.
    A screenshot of the Canvas People feature to view the roster

    The next step is to verify that the correct instructor of record has been enrolled into the course.

  2. While in the People Section, click on the "All Roles" drop-down menu and select "Teacher".
    A screenshot to view the Teacher Role in your Canvas Roster
  3. Review the list and verify that the instructor of record is correct.
    A screenshot showing how the Teacher Role appears in the Canvas Roster
    The final step is to verify that the correct section has been enrolled into your official Canvas course shell

  4. Refer to the "Section" column and verify that the five-digit course number matches the 5-digit course number of the course you are teaching. If these numbers do not match, this means that a different section has been enrolled into your course.
    A screenshot denoting how to verify your Canvas Section numbers

If you notice any mistakes in your roster, you will need to fill out a MySDCCD Help Desk support ticket for further assistance. These errors need to be resolved Campus Solutions before it can be resolved in Canvas.

The following Canvas Community guide will provide detailed instructions on how to copy content over from a Canvas Development Shell or a previous semester course into the upcoming semester course shell.

How do I copy content from another Canvas course using the Course Import tool?

Step 5: Set “Delay Delivery” Dates For Announcements

If you copied announcements from a previous course, Set “Delay Delivery” dates for announcements you do not want students to see as soon as you publish your course.

Step 6: Set A Course Home Page

There are five options for the first page students see when they enter your course, which is called "Home" on the course menu. Recommendations in order of preference:

  1. Pages Front Page - Use a content page that you design like the one you see when you go to the home page of this course. You can show announcements on a front page if you like. This is the best option.
    Want to see examples?  Here's a brief overview from @ONE:

  2. Course Modules - use modules as your home page only if you have set up modules such as Week 1, Week 2, etc., in your course.
  3. Syllabus - use this if you want students to see the syllabus when they enter your course.
  4. Assignments List - use this if you use Canvas primarily to record grades.
  5. Course Activity Stream - this is the least recommended homepage to use and we encourage you to use one of the other methods.

Step 7: Review And Update Syllabus

Feel free to skip this page if you have already added the correct syllabus to your official Canvas course shell. If this is your first time posting your syllabus, please review the following guide for instructions on how to setup the Syllabus section within Canvas.

Uploading a Syllabus

To begin you need to upload your Syllabus File to your Canvas course. We recommend uploading a PDF version of your syllabus to ensure accessibility across all devices. Please review the following Canvas Community Guide for instructions on how to upload a file to your course.

Setting Up the Syllabus Section


  1. Download the Syllabus Template and save it to your computer.
  2. Open up the Syllabus Template Copy Word Doc. Select all of the copy and copy the text to your clipboard.
  3. Log into your Canvas account, open up a Canvas course shell, click on Syllabus, and then click Edit.
    Screenshot of the Canvas Syllabus section
  4. Within the Rich Content Editor paste the Syllabus Template Copy that you added to your clipboard. Next, delete "List Email Address" and replace it with your own email address. Take note that you are not required to add your email address since students can contact you via the Conversations Inbox and those messages will be sent directly to the default email listed in your Canvas account. Either way make sure you delete "List Email Address".
    Screenshot of the template pointing to the email section that needs to be added
    Screenshot showing the highlighted text
  6. In the Rich Content Editor select the "Documents" Icon and select the option to "Upload Document". 
    Screenshot of the Rich Content Editor showing how to upload a document
  7. Proceed to drag and drop your document to the new window or search for the file to upload it to Canvas.
    Screenshot of the Document upload process for Canvas
  8. Next select the blue "Submit" Icon to finish uploading your Syllabus Document.
    Screenshot showcasing how to submit your uploaded document to Canvas
  9. Next your highlighted text will flash yellow and a new popup will appear over the text. Select the "Link Options" button.
    Screenshot pointing to the Link Options feature
  10. A new window will appear on the right-hand side of your screen. You will then select the options for "Preview inline" and the "Expand preview by default" to enable your syllabus to open automatically for your students.
    Screenshot of the Link Options feature and the settings needed to enable documents to preview automatically.
  11. Select the blue "Done" button to save your changes.
  12. Click on the the blue "Update Syllabus" button to save your changes.
  13. Here is a snapshot of what your page should look like. Your syllabus should open automatically on the page. You may have to reload to the page for your syllabus to appear.
    Screenshot of the Syllabus Document previewing automatically.

Step 8: Remove Unnecessary Links From Course Navigation Menu

Refer to the following Navigation Made Easy guide for a recommendation on how to organize the course menu within your official Canvas course shell.
Download the Navigation Made Easy Guide PDF

Step 9: Check Course Details Settings

There are many settings to choose from and some that are very important that you change. These are our recommendations. To access these settings, go to Settings on the course menu, then make sure the Course Details tab is selected.Screenshot showing how to view Canvas Course details.

  • Course Image: If you add an image here it shows on your course card on the Canvas Dashboard.  It's a subtle way to make your course stand out.  This is optional and not a requirement. 
  • Start and End Dates: Start and End dates are automatically added via the course schedule that is uploaded to Campus Solutions. Once the course concludes, students will have read-only access to your course for one year. You do have the option of limiting or extending access to the course if needed. 
  • Grading Scheme: tells Canvas how you want percentages turned into letter grades in your course. If you do not check this box, students will see a percentage rather than a letter grade when they view their grades. If you do check this box, be sure to select a different grade scheme than the first one that shows up because it might not match the grading scheme you have specified within your syllabus.
  • Show Announcements:  We recommend you show at least one to three announcements on your course home page. Check this box, then choose the number of announcements you want to display.
  • Attach Files: Usually, there is no harm in allowing students to attach files to discussions. However, your needs may vary.
  • Students Create Discussions: If you check this box, and we do not recommend this, you will allow students to create their own discussion forums. This can play havoc with your planned discussions in most courses. However, it can be useful if you do not plan discussions and want to allow students to talk about anything they want.
  • Edit Discussion Posts: If you check this box, students will be able to delete or edit their discussion posts. Sometimes this is a good thing. Sometimes not. It's your call.
  • Organize Groups: If you want to let students organize their own groups, check this box. However, be sure to monitor any groups they create. Student groups have been known to be used to cheat.
  • Disable Comments on Announcements: If you check this box students will not be able to leave comments on your announcements.  If you do not check this box student will be able to reply to your announcements which means you will have another place to manage communications with your students.  However, this another way you can humanize your course. 
  • Update Course Details: Make sure you click this button to save your chosen settings. 

Step 10: Verify Assignment Groups Are Correct For Weighted Totals

Assignment groups in the Assignments section are especially important if you are using weighted grades. Even for non-weighted grades, it's good to organize assignments.

Assignments Overview Video

How do I wieght the final course grade based on assignment groups?

Step 11: Validate Links

Canvas provides an easy way to check for broken links in your course.

How do I validate links in a course?

Step 12: Add Requirements To Module Items

Add requirements to modules to provide your students with a checklist to help students understand what they have completed and what still needs to be done.

How do I add requirements to a module?

Example Module with REquirements set:

Screenshot example of Canvas Module Requirements

Step 13: Publish/Unpublish Course Content

Check to see that all items you want students to be able to see, such as modules, assignments, quizzes, pages, etc. are published. Published items have a green check mark icon, unpublished items have a gray "no" sign icon.

It is easiest to do this by checking these in Modules and/or Assignments. Here is an example of the Modules page with published and unpublished content.

Screenshot showcasing differences between published and non-published Canvas content.

Step 14: Check Due Dates

Use the Calendar, Course Summary under the Syllabus section, or Assignments page to check if due dates are correct.

What is the difference between assignment due dates and availability dates?

Screenshot of Course Summary to differentiate between Due Dates for Canvas Assessments.

Step 15: Make Sure Course Content Is Accessible

The San Diego Community College District to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure that all of our students have access to the material and to comply with the law. 

To learn more about resources to assist you in making your courses accessible, we recommend you visit the California Community Colleges Accessibility Centerfor more information.  

Step 16: Check Student View

Use Student View frequently to make sure students are able to access or not access items in your course as you intend. Don't even think of publishing your course until you have checked it in student view.

It's also a great idea to look at your course from a phone since a lot of students use the Canvas Student App.

How do I view a course using student view?

Step 17: Publish Your Course

It is vital that you publish your course before the semester start date to ensure your students have access your course on the first day of class. Please review the following Canvas Community Guide for detailed instructions on How To Publish A Course In Canvas.

Step 18: Send An Announcement To Your Students

Announcements and Inbox conversations are NOT sent if the course is unpublished.

If you want to send an announcement to your students before publishing the course, you can send an email through the MySDCCD Portal.

Please provide instructions for your students on how to get started with Canvas. Many of your students may not have used Canvas before. To help them, send an announcement that includes a link to the SDCCD Online Learning Pathways Student Support page.

Step 19: End Of Pre-Semester Checklist


You have completed the pre-semester checklist!

If you need immediate assistance in setting up your Canvas course we recommend you contact the 24/7 Canvas Faculty Support line for assistance at 1-844-612-7422.

Otherwise, feel free to contact us the SDCCD Online Learning Pathways Department for additional assistance.  Make sure to include all of us on your email inquiry for the best response time.