Eating (some of the) Canvas breadcrumbs

Even in these early days, I can see how the breadcrumbs in Canvas can cause real problems. They not only don’t get you out of the woods – they can lead you the wrong way into them.

Let’s say you have created your own navigation in Canvas, by creating an interactive syllabus on a Page or Google Doc, and hidden many of the standard navigation items so students won’t use them.

It turns out this will work for important pages like Quizzes. When you disable the navigation item called Quizzes, you can still create and deploy a quiz via the Modules or the link to a module. Then a student taking a quiz will see the Quizzes breadcrumb, but when they click on it, it will tell them that page is disabled.


However, you cannot disable the Discussions or People breadcrumbs. If a student is in a Discussion you’ve listed on your syllabus page, they can still click the breadcrumb “Discussions” and see a list of all the discussions. This list is often in poor order, and the student can choose the order in which to see them. All this could lead to confusion. It is necessary then to “pin” all the Discussions and put them in order. If you don’t, it could even lead to anger if you’re using the Requirements feature in each Module that forces students to complete one task before moving on to another. Then they could use the breadcrumb to see links to Discussions they cannot view.

hansel2Workflow for breadcrumbs if using your own navigation:

1. Disable all pages that can be disabled (Home, Quizzes, Assignments, Syllabus, etc.)

2. Clean up pages that can’t be disabled:

a. Discussions should be pinned and put in order

b. Grades should be organized by assignment groups for clear viewing

3. To change the names of any items in the menu:

a. Copy the URL for the page you want to change the name of (such as “People”)

b. Use the Redirect Tool to create a course navigation item using that URL, titled as you wish (such as “Colleagues”)

7 thoughts on “Eating (some of the) Canvas breadcrumbs

  1. I admire your fortitude in trying to make Canvas work as a primary space for your students to navigate your course! I decided that it would be impossible to use Canvas for real navigation when I saw that I would have to deploy a Redirect LTI for every course element I want to rename (just to rename the link I have to use an LTI???), and that students would be challenged for any Redirect URL that goes outside of the Canvas space. Seriously: what’s with that? what is so freaking dangerous about clicking on a URL the instructor put in the course navigation for crying out loud…


    (not sure if I can put an image in here directly…

    So, I’ll just be using Canvas as I did D2L: for Gradebook and for Quizzes. I haven’t explored Gradebook or Quiz area yet because I don’t expect it will be any fun, and I am saving the not-fun stuff for when I am back on the clock for real in August.

    But I am having fun creating live content pages… not because I want or need them (I’ll use real web spaces instead), but because it might be a way for faculty to see that there are some live content possibilities in addition to the static content they will be oh-so-laboriously building in Canvas. Having a cat-of-the-day is very satisfying. 🙂


    1. And I admire your creativity! 🙂 I need to look more closely at that live content program. Looks better than the built-in calendar, which is on my list to explore, just as a calendar. A cat-a-day is a fun idea! I have a different era every week so maybe I could do something there (“Welcome to the Middle Ages!”).

      Actually, now that I think about it, couldn’t this be used to release the week’s assignments, so I don’t have to do that manually?


  2. The tool is surprisingly powerful! I’ve been using it for over 10 years… my fav tool! I hired a student to build it all those years ago and it is still going strong because we came up with a really strong concept: HTML tables that the tool parses and turns into javascript. In one column of the table is either a date (with or without year) OR the word random, and in the other column is ANY content you want in HTML format. Including … (wait for it!)… other javascripts. So you can randomize javascripts. It’s recursive!

    Anyway, I use that to surface content from the huge Project Archive for my classes – you can see the random content popping up here at the wiki:
    And here at the archive:
    And I use it throughout the course in other places too. Javascript is really important to me; it’s a big reason why I use Blogger and PBWorks. Both are fine with javascript.

    I don’t do a lot of the date-based stuff anymore since I prefer random as a discovery process, but works great for both AND you can randomize a calendar after the face if you want. Super fun, and Randy has left the tool online all these years for free although you have to host your script in a webspace somewhere.


  3. Oh super, I am so glad! The long-ago former student who built it is still doing computer stuff but his main claim to fame is that he creates board games… and his last one is historical: you might like it! He did some very cool research to put it together. His name is Randy Hoyt, and here is the game:
    World’s Fair 1893


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