How do I choose which courses display on my Canvas dashboard?

Quick Links: | Understanding the Canvas Dashboard | Available Dashboard Views | Reduce Dashboard Clutter |

This comprehensive guide will break down the intricacies of the Canvas interface, providing you with actionable tips to navigate and efficiently organize your Canvas dashboard. We'll walk you through the primary areas of the Canvas interface and provide tips for efficiently organizing your Canvas experience.

Understanding the Canvas Dashboard

The Canvas dashboard is the central hub for people navigating Canvas. It provides a personalized landing page where you can access and manage your courses, assignments, and communications. Designed for ease of use, the dashboard offers a visual representation of active courses, integrates with the course calendar, and features a sidebar for tracking upcoming tasks and assignments. Its primary purpose is to streamline the educational experience by consolidating vital information and tools in one accessible location.

Available Dashboard Views

Card View Dashboard: Your default dashboard view is the Card View. It presents course cards for all your active favorite courses, providing a visual summary of each course. With the Card View, you can customize your courses by adding a nickname or changing the color — which also alters the color displayed in the course calendar. Additionally, the dashboard sidebar showcases items from your to-do list, aiding in tracking assignments and submitted student tasks.

Card view dashboard

List View Dashboard: The List View Dashboard provides a streamlined overview of all upcoming tasks, assignments, and events. Instead of visual course cards, students see a chronological list of due dates, helping to prioritize tasks and manage time effectively. Each item in the list comes with a status indicator, ensuring that users can quickly ascertain what needs immediate attention.

List view dashboard

Recent Activity Dashboard: The Recent Activity View dashboard focuses on the most recent interactions and updates within your courses. It presents notifications such as assignment submissions, course announcements, discussion posts, and feedback. The Recent Activity View ensures that users stay informed of the latest happenings and can quickly jump into ongoing conversations or address new tasks.

Recent activity dashboard
Recent activity dashboard

How to Choose a Dashboard View in Canvas

If you want to choose a different dashboard view, follow these steps:

  1. Access your Canvas Dashboard: After logging in to Canvas, you will be taken to your main dashboard.

  2. Locate the Dashboard Options Menu: On the top right corner of the screen, you'll find a three-dot icon (often referred to as the "More Options" or "Ellipsis" icon). Click on this icon.

  3. Select Dashboard View: A dropdown menu will appear, displaying various dashboard views:

    • Card View: This is the default view, showing each course as a card.
    • List View: Displays a chronological list of assignments, tasks, and events.
    • Recent Activity: Focuses on the latest interactions and updates within your courses.
  4. Choose Your Preferred View: Click on the dashboard view you wish to use. A checkmark will appear next to your selected option, indicating it's now active.

  5. (Optional) Enable Color Overlay: If you'd like to apply a color overlay to your dashboard for better visual differentiation, ensure the "Color Overlay" option is checked.

  6. Confirm and Explore: Your Canvas dashboard will now reflect the view you've selected. Navigate through it to ensure you're comfortable with your choice, and adjust if necessary by repeating the steps.

Remember, you can always switch between these views based on your preference and workflow needs.

Differentiating Between Published and Unpublished Courses (Instructors only)

On the card view dashboard, Canvas differentiates between published and unpublished courses. Only published courses are accessible to students. Remember, courses aren't automatically available at the start of the term, unlike in Blackboard. To make content visible to students, you must publish your course. However, publishing a course doesn't make all content within it available. You can decide which content items to publish. Before communicating with students, ensure the course is published, as they can't view any messages or announcements until then.

Reduce Clutter on the Dashboard

Managing your Canvas dashboard by favoriting courses is a simple yet effective way to declutter and prioritize your workspace. This how-to guide will walk you through the process of selecting specific courses to appear on your Canvas dashboard, making it easier to focus on the courses you're currently teaching or frequently accessing. By the end of this guide, you will have a streamlined dashboard that highlights only your most relevant courses, while still allowing easy access to your complete course list.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Access Your Canvas Courses

    • Navigate to the Canvas global navigation menu on the left side of the screen.
    • Select Courses to view a list of your current courses.

    Courses on global nav
  2. From the Courses menu, select All Courses to see every course you have access to.
    all courses

  3. Favoriting Courses for Quick Access

    • Look for the star icon next to each course name in the list.
    • Select the star to "favorite" a course. A filled star indicates the course is now favorited and will appear on your dashboard.
    • Tip: It's helpful to favorite courses for the current or upcoming term, such as those associated with Fall 2023 and Spring 2024. For faculty who have migrated courses from Blackboard, consider favoriting courses labeled with "Migrated_" for easy access.
    starred course
  4. Verifying Your Changes

    • Return to the Global Navigation menu and select Dashboard.
    • Verify that your favorited courses are now prominently displayed on the dashboard for quick access.


  • If you cannot see your favorited courses on the dashboard, ensure you have selected the star icon until it's filled. If you leave the page too quickly, sometimes Canvas doesn't save changes.
  • Remember, only favorited courses will appear on the dashboard. If you've unfavorited all courses, the dashboard will revert to showing courses based on the system's default settings.


You're now equipped with a solid understanding of the Canvas dashboard's navigation and organization. Harnessing the power of the Canvas dashboard's navigation and organization tools can greatly enhance your teaching and learning experience. As you delve deeper and explore its features, you'll discover even more ways to optimize your course management and interactions. If you ever get stuck or have more questions, the Technology and Learning Program is here to help.

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Article ID: 113411
Wed 11/16/22 4:52 PM
Wed 2/21/24 12:03 PM