Survey Says: Consistency, Please!


Family Feud game board with Consistency as the category and Modules as the item revealed.

In the fourth installment of our consistency series, we address the topic of modules. Students reported that a course structured with predictable modules was preferable to one that did not utilize a module format.

Modules were very helpful for class organization and finding materials, but not all professors organized their classes this way and that made it difficult to find things at times.

Canvas modules were very helpful to keep all lectures and deadlines organized in chronological order.

I really prefer when professors take the time to organize their course into modules. It makes it much easier to find assignments, videos, materials, etc. However, some of my professors just uploaded every thing to files section as more of a dumping ground which made materials very hard to navigate.

Whether the modules were content, topic, or time-centered, students at Wake and beyond report that their organization plays a role in their success. Course modules allow for the grouping of reading material, assignments, discussion posts, reflections, and assessments. With a predictable module structure, concepts can build on each other and you can scaffold learning effectively.

Research also demonstrates that modules with a sequential flow of content are beneficial in helping decrease students’ cognitive load. Following the IPD strucutre (Intake, Process, Demonstrate) or “I do, We do, You do” activities, gives students a rhythm for their learning. In addition, having assignments and assessments due at the same point in each module (ex. every Sunday at midnight) contributes to a student success.

“By incorporating the same types of components in each course module, students quickly pick up on the course’s rhythms and patterns and have a better idea of what to expect than if the course were designed using a varying structure.”

(Kelly, 2009)

The Modules tool in Canvas makes this process easy to design and update. After you create each module you can then add pages, files, assignments, assessments, etc. Specific modules can be highlighted by controlling when you publish them. Modules can open at a certain time or only after pre-requisite activities are completed. You can pin a module to the top of the page to bring it to the forefront of students’ attention. Canvas also provides students with the ability to collapse modules that are not in use at the time and free up room on the page.

Building and editing in Modules is faster and easier for instructors, too. You can create modules and build assessment items all from the Modules tool – eliminating the need to work on each component separately.

“Focusing on the components that go into a single module at a time simplifies the process, enabling instructors to more thoughtfully design each learning component.”

(Kelly, 2009)

Good Example

The module below is a good attempt at using the tool. It includes every item the students will need to successfully complete it: pages, links, files, assignments, discussions, and quizzes. It’s just missing a bit of organization to make it easier for students to read.

Screenshot of a Module with all to-do items listed underneath the title without indentation or text headers

Better Examples

The modules below are better examples of how to use the tool. They’ve both made use of Text Headers to break up the content into parts, either by day or by type. They’ve also increased indentation between headers and items to help students distinguish between them.

Screenshot of a module using text headers to break up days of the week under a topic, with to-do items indented under those text headers.
Screenshot of a module using text headers to break up types of to-do items under a topic, with the to-do items indented under those text headers.

The Bottom Line: Students repeatedly share that they appreciate structured modules as part of their Canvas courses. Relying on the Modules tool cuts down on maintenance and creation time for instructors as well.


Kelly, R. (2009, September 15) A Modular Course Design Benefits Online Instructor and Students. Faculty Focus.

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