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  6.  — Canvas course types and templates

Canvas course types and templates

Learn about course templates and structure, course shells, cross-listed and manually created courses.

Course types

Credit-bearing courses

The University recommends that all credit-bearing courses are developed in Canvas. Course ‘shells’ are created for all timetabled courses each semester (or term) by the Learning and Teaching Team. Students are automatically enrolled into a course by information supplied by the Enrolment Office. Before the start of teaching you will need to either:

  • Import a previous course you have taught in Canvas into the new course shell for the upcoming semester.
  • Create content from scratch in this new course shell. If you are starting a course from scratch and don’t yet have access to the new course, you can create a new course draft, design the course and import that into the course shell.

Cross-listed courses

Cross-listed courses are created when courses have the same content but different course codes, or if a course is a full-year course that has two course codes in Student Services Online (SSO). Two or more courses can be managed through one primary course in Canvas.

  • Students enrolled in cross-listed courses appear as sections in the primary course.
  • Students in a cross-listed course will be able to see all the files, modules, readings and other content in the primary course regardless of what course they are officially enrolled in. So it is important to clearly label any content that is for a specific course/section.
  • Cross-listed courses are not created when there is a possibility that a student will enrol in two or more of the cross-listed courses. This is because Canvas will only have one line in the gradebook for that student (even though they are enrolled in two course sections), thus resulting in one overall mark/grade.
  • Announcements made in a cross-listed course will be seen by everyone who is enrolled in the primary course. Contacting a specific course or section can be done through Announcements or Canvas Inbox.
  • The course summary will show the analytics for the whole course. You will not see a separate summary for each course section.
  • Once you select Submit, the marks for all of the cross-listed courses will be taken through to examinations. You cannot submit marks for just one course section. All grades for cross-listed courses must be prepared and submitted at the same time.

If you would like to request a course to be cross-listed, please do so via the portal: .

View the guide on assigning assignments to course sections:

Manually created courses

A non-standard Canvas course can be requested. These courses typically:

  • Are managed by the course administrator of the course.
  • Are not bound to official University of Auckland course enrolments.
  • May exist outside of semester or quarter schedules.
  • Are non-credit bearing.
  • Are not provided for the purposes of solely communicating with groups of people.*
  • Are for the purposes of learning and teaching.**

* Existing technologies are available, such as Sympa for group/mass communications. See: Sympa guide (PDF).

** Due to our licensing agreement, use cases will be judged on their ‘value’ to University. These might include, e.g., process and procedure courses for medical interns; co-delivered courses by say, UoA and AUT; an Economics competition for high school students.

Manually created courses provide users the ability to:

  • Share information and files online.
  • Have discussions, quizzes, groups and activities.
  • Collaborate on pages and share documents.
  • Offer scheduled appointments for users.

These courses need to sit within your faculty’s Canvas sub-account so that the can add and remove students. If you have externals requiring access, refer to this FAQ.


How to apply for a manually created course

Please obtain an approval for your course from your faculty’s course management authoriser, listed below, then through the web portal. Make sure you attach proof of this approval. Non-faculty users should attach proof of approval from your manager.

Each course will be considered on a case by case basis.

  • Faculty of Arts
    Lindsay Diggelmann, Associate Dean – Learning and Teaching
  • Business School
    Susan Laurenson, Associate Dean – Learning and Teaching
  • Faculty of Creative Arts and Industries
    Paola Boarin, Associate Dean – Learning and Teaching
  • Faculty of Education and Social Work
    Lawrence May, Curriculum Development Manager
  • Faculty of Engineering
    Enrique del Rey Castillo, Associate Dean – Faculty of Engineering Administration
  • Faculty of Law
    Sarah-Jane Crewther, Group Services Administrator
  • Faculty of Medical Health Sciences
    John Egan, Associate Dean – Learning and Teaching
  • Faculty of Science
    Andrew Luxton-Reilly, Associate Dean – Learning and Teaching

Course structure

The University has a set of requirements for all standard Canvas courses. All standard courses at the University require a minimum amount of information to be made available to students. These basic requirements are:

  • Syllabus – includes the course outline and compulsory course information.
  • Assignments – showing students how and when they will be assessed.
  • Talis reading list – provides information about the relevant books and readings students will need during the course. Talis reading lists are compulsory for the university to comply with copyright regulations.

For guidelines on structuring your course, we have provided the Canvas baseline practices to support a consistent and accessible student learning experience.

Using course templates

Utilising existing templates is an efficient way to make your course attractive and consistent with others in the same programme.

Canvas Design Blocks

Canvas has a limited set of visual design options, however more layout options are achievable through the Canvas Design Blocks tool. This is a browser extension, which enables you to structure a page into columns and easily add buttons to a page.

Canvas Commons templates

The University has a basic course template hosted on Canvas Commons, titled “UoA Syllabus/Homepage and settings template”. Commons is accessible from the Canvas global navigation menu.

You can import commons resources into your Canvas course. If your department or faculty does not have its own Canvas course template, we recommend you use this template to automatically apply the University’s preferred settings, including the correct grading scheme.

You can upload and share resources with other Commons users.

Important: Import the template into Canvas before you add any content into your course.

See also

Frequently asked questions

See our FAQs about course types and templates.


Support options are available through the Staff Service Centre or the 24-hour hotline. Please visit the learning technology support page for details.

Page updated: 18/03/2024 (new CAI approver)

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