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Canvas Baseline Practices

A long-standing tension identified through feedback is that students want consistency within their courses.

Building on the 2016 ‘Canvas Minimum Presence’ document, the University has created the Canvas Baseline Practices to enable a user-friendly, equitable and inclusive online experience. The drivers for this work include:

  • UoA student feedback, international research, and good practices from peer institutions.1
  • Aligning the use of Canvas for learning, teaching and assessment with the strategic goals of Taumata Teitei, and the Curriculum Framework Transformation project.
  • Ensuring we meet the accessibility requirements identified in the Disability Action Plan.

Alan Shaker, 2023 President of the Auckland University Student Association introduces the Canvas Baseline Practices.

What are the Canvas Baseline Practices?

The Baselines are intended to lift standards in course design and are underpinned by the principles of Universal Design for Learning2 and accessibility standards, and are informed by the student ‘voice’.

They also support flexibility for those who wish to extend them to achieve consistency – through reaching consensus – within a programme, major, or specialisation. The intention is not to stifle creativity but to provide a foundation on which teachers can build.

“The Canvas pages are sometimes hard to navigate because many courses have their materials located in different places, so maybe if this was more coordinated it would be easier.”
Feedback from the 2022 student survey

Adopting Canvas Baseline Practices

Adopting the Baseline Practices establishes a foundation for quality and consistency across courses. Exploring the Baseline Plus suggestions can further enhance interactivity, relationships, and personalised assessments.

Review the key elements of each and consider how to implement them in your Canvas courses.

Canvas Baseline

The Canvas Baselines provide the minimum recommended standards for course design. These practices aim to deliver a consistent, accessible, and easy to navigate course structure for students.

Explore the five Baseline recommendations for Canvas course design:

Canvas Baseline Plus

The Baseline Plus practices provide suggestions for enhancing courses with more engaging, interactive learning experiences. Aligning with the University’s Signature Pedagogies.

Explore the four focus areas of Baseline Plus aligned with our signature pedagogical practices:

  • Programme consistency
  • Technology Enhanced Learning
  • Relational Learning
  • Assessment for Learning

View a printable version of the Canvas Baseline Practices.

CBP Faculty design templates files

Get a head start on implementing the Canvas Baseline practices by leveraging shared baseline templates . Ranga Auaha Aka has published Baseline course templates across various disciplines that exemplify the core standards and accessibility guidelines.

These templates allow you to easily copy the fundamental course structure, content pages, syllabus, assessments, and navigation. You can then customise and build on this foundation for your specific needs.

Find the right template for your faculty, school or major below.

1. Download the CBP template

2. Import the template into Canvas

Importing CBP template file into your course

  1. Download the (zip) template file for your faculty/school/department above.
  2. In your Canvas course Home page, click Import Existing Content button on the right.
  3. Click the dropdown next to Content type and select Common Cartridge 1.x Package.
  4. Now, click Choose file and locate the template file downloaded in step 1.
  5. If your course has existing content, choosing Select specific content allows you to decide what parts of the template to import. If it is a new course, selecting All content will imports the entire template including course settings.
  6. The Options section should all be left unchecked.
  7. Click Import.
  8. If Select specific content was selected in step 5, a dialog box will appear. Selecting Course Settings is recommended to ensure consistency across courses. After making your selections, click the Select content button to complete the import process.

Need help?

For help with assessment design, digital learning, course design, relational learning, writing learning outcomes, accessibility, or Canvas Baseline Practices, contact the Ranga Auaha Ako, Learning and Teaching Design Team.

See also

About the project

The project is part of the Curriculum Transformation Programme. See the Staff Intranet for more.

Page updated 06/03/2024

  1. Jong, Ton. (2010). Cognitive load theory, educational research, and instructional design: Some food for thought. Instructional Science. 38. 105-134. 10.1007/s11251-009-9110-0.
  2. CAST. (2018). The UDL Guidelines.
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