Canvas PDF Workaround

Last year we did a post on pesky PDFs and how to work with them in Teams. Now it is time to consider how to use them best in Canvas. There are several approaches you might consider. Let’s explore a couple in detail.

Using a PDF and Canvas’s Doc Viewer

Canvas Doc Viewer is that wonderful annotation feature that you use when grading in Speedgrader. There is a hack to allow students to also use this for annotating PDF’s right in Canvas. There are a few steps for the students to follow. Check out this video.

Here are directions you can include for students when doing this the first time:

Annotate the PDF in Canvas.

  1. Download this PDF: Include title and the link
  2. Upload it to the assignment.
  3. Click on “Submission details”.
  4. Click on “View feedback”.
  5. Annotate straight onto the PDF. You can highlight important parts and add text (questions, connections, ideas) that you will want to discuss with your group when you meet. It will automatically save.
  6. Resubmit the assignment.

Online PPT and Images/PDFs

If you have images or have time to create images from your PDF files, you can use PPT to allow students to draw and annotate. One advantage of using PPT is that you can create Office 365 cloud assignments for your students which ensures they each get their own copy to edit. Check out this video on how to do this.

Additional Options for using PDFs

Some other ways you might use PDFs for your students include the following:

  • Integrate One Note Class Notebook into your Canvas course and use the notebook for PDFs this. Students can use One Note annotation tools. The current integration is NOT seamless, so this option is great for notes but not the best option for continual assignment collection.
  • Adobe editor gives students some limited annotation options if available for the student.
  • Convert word-based PDFs to Word docs. Form Word, choose the PDF to open and it will start the conversion process for you.
  • Students using Microsoft Edge will have a editing tools available in the browser. It looks different depending on which version they have. They would need to save the PDF when done editing to submit to you.
This is the editing tool in the upper right on older versions of Edge.
New Edge Chromium editing toolbar.

Hopefully, one of these PDF hacks is an option for you. If you need support or would like to learn more please contact your Ed Tech TOSA.

  1. Brian Schenkman October 16, 2020 at 1:06 pm

    The PowerPoint cheat is a work around that will be useful, particularly for math!


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