The Q: Pages vs Module Course Organization

You're faced with your first choice - how do you want students to navigate your course?

Unlike Blackboard, in Canvas/Quercus, you don't have a customizable course menu. Instead, you can choose which standard Canvas elements are available to students in your class. What you choose to hide and reveal determines the method of navigation that will be available to students in your course. You can modify the course menu at any time, but it should be done with care.

For U of T, here's what the default course menu looks like, freshly created with absolutely no content:

Default U of T Course Menu in Quercus

Modules vs Pages

You'll notice on the menu above that there are both Modules and Pages. In Canvas/Quercus, a Module is a way to organize and display course content. They are buckets that hold any number of different types of elements - pages, assignments, files, links, etc. You can have as many modules as you'd like. Most commonly, they are sorted by time (Ex. Week 1, Week 2, Week 3) or by type (ex. Assignments, Readings, Lectures, etc.). There's no right or wrong way, you get to choose that based on how you run your course. Pages, on the other hand, are more like webpages. They have a WYSIWYG editor that allows you to add text, embed media, and link to other course elements. Often, they are used to provide descriptions and explanations - they are one of the pieces that can be stored in the buckets. 

Page Navigation: Example

A Page is completely customizable. You could add in images that act as buttons and link to different sections of your course. You could add a banner image to make your course distinct. This might be easier to visualize with an example. Highlights of Astronomy by Prof. Andrew Rivers is an example of a course that only uses Pages (no modules). The course's homepage is set to a Page. The instructor has selected to divide their content by weeks, so the homepage contains a link to each week's material. There's also a nice visual of the Mars Rover. Adding an image can help distinguish and personalize your course. Althought there are no modules used in this course, the Professor does make use of the Syllabus tool. 

Module Navigation: Example

The catch with the above course is that it's completely manual. If the professor wanted to release their content weekly, they'd have to edit the homepage and paste in the link to the new Page. This is completely doable, but it's another thing to add to your weekly to do list. Modules, on the other hand, allow you to time release and restrict access to them.

Both Page and Module Navigation: Example

Art Appreciation is a public Canvas Course that uses a Page as its homepage but still uses Modules to group the course content. This is a very attractive and intuitve way to combine the use of these two options. 

For more examples, visit the public Northwestern course to explore. Want even more examples? Visit the the University of Texas' public examples.

Faced with your fresh course, where do you start? You start by asking yourself a few questions. The answers to these questions will help you decide whether or not you should set your course navigation up by modules or pages.

  1. What type of course are you teaching? The type of course determines which content students should see first. If you are teaching an online course, you likely want students to visit an introductory module that explains how the course works. More likely in an online course is the requirement for time released or other content restrictions. If you are running a self-paced, competency based course, you might want to set certain content to release if other criteria are met. If you are teaching a traditional face-to-face lecture course, you might want students to see the Syllabus first.
  2. Is your course mobile friendly? Many students report that the most common way that they access their courses on a learning management system is through their phones. If a student was to use their Canvas App, what would they see when they login and does it provide enough guidance for them?
  3. Do you have a lot of moving parts? Many courses are simple in structure, but meaty in content. For example, if you are running a seminar course, perhaps the most important thing is to make it easy for students to find the readings they need. In this case, a page might make the most sense - you provide a list with links to the readings. But, if you have a course more online elements, you'd likely lean towards a module. This way, you can walk the student through the process and ensure they don't miss any steps.


What are Pages good for? What are Modules good for?
Well Designed, attractive Homepage Act as "buckets"
Descriptive, personalized Content Pages Provide navigation structure
Resource Pages (of links, media, etc.) Set the pace of the course
Teaching Team Contact Information Control Access to Content (by date, etc.)
Course Policies and Protocols Allow for Completion Criteria