Managing your files and content in Canvas

Now that the University has moved to its new Learning Management System (LMS), Canvas, it is a great time to think (or rethink) about how to incorporate resources in your subject. Readings, lecture slides, PDFs, PowerPoint presentations, videos, images (and more!) can all be used in your subject in a way that fosters student engagement, meets copyright requirements, is accessible to students with diverse learning needs, and stays within the 1GB default subject size limit in Canvas.

Add readings and journal articles using Readings Online

Key resources you may be using in your subject such as textbooks or journal articles can be made available to students in your subject using Readings Online. You can set up a reading list for students and categorise readings based on topics - for example, each week, or required vs. recommended readings. You can also link to individual readings within Canvas pages - this approach allows you to provide instructions and context around a particular reading, or include it as part of an activity.  Another advantage of using Readings Online is that readings meet copyright obligations in a way that uploading PDFs of texts does not always do.

You can set up your Readings Online within your subject yourself, or if you’d like assistance (or have a very long reading list!), the library can assist.

Laptop with book

Video lectures and presentations

For the benefit of the Student Experience, lecture and media resources should be managed using the following strategies:

  • Lecture recordings or other videos should be recorded and stored in Lecture Capture (Echo360) or Kaltura. You can then link to or embed the videos in your subject.
  • If providing lecture slides alongside a lecture recording, it may be better to upload the presentation to lecture capture. This way, the slides are available with the recording for better context and relevance, and the file is stored in Echo360.
  • For pre-recorded videos, chunk your videos into smaller topics and save them in Echo360 or Kaltura. You can then embed them within your subject. The advantage of shorter recordings is that you can give them clearer titles for easier searching, you can track which ones students have watched, and you can more easily replace any videos that get out of date without having to re-record hours of content.
  • Saving in Kaltura or Echo360 means media files are served properly to both yourself and students. Media is streamed as needed, rather than as a whole download. Students will have access to video controls such as speeding up or slowing down the media. And perhaps most importantly, Students will have access to transcripts and captions that are automatically generated by those services.
  • If using Zoom for online webinars or other activities, you can record the Zoom session to your desktop or to the Cloud. We suggest if it is an ad hoc or short term asset providing students with a link to the recording in the Cloud may be adequate -  but for long term use the recording should be copied into Echo360 or Kaltura to gain the above advantages.

Lecture capture


Managing Zoom recordings

Make PowerPoint/Keynote presentations and Word documents small and accessible

If you need to upload PowerPoint or Keynote presentations, there are some things you can do to make your presentations smaller, well designed, and accessible to people using screen readers (alternatively, an even better approach is to redesign your content and build it in a Canvas page).

  • Use Uni branded and Uni approved PPT templates as a base, as these ensure appropriate fonts and colours are used.
  • Use the ‘compress pictures’ option and delete cropped areas as per the University's PowerPoint guide
  • Ensure images:
    • Adhere to copyright - e.g. Use copyright free, creative commons or other appropriately sourced images, check with copyright office as needed. Include attribution/reference for the source as text under the image or on a final slide in your presentation
    • Include ‘alt text’ descriptions for any non-decorative images (e.g. any images that are adding context or providing relevant information should include an ‘alt text’ description for accessibility purposes).
  • Try to make your PPTs as accessible as possible. Ensure headings are tagged, lists are formatted as numbered or dot point lists, and tables are only used to convey information and not for layout.

Considerations when saving documents in PDF format

Saving as PDF is often not recommended as animations and other multimedia may no longer be displayed, and incorrect PDF design can lead to accessibility issues for students who are vision impaired. If you are not sure how to create accessible files, it’s best to keep the file as a PowerPoint or Word document. If however you do wish to save your PowerPoints as PDFs, use the following steps to compress the file and make it as accessible as possible

  • Try to make your PPTs as accessible as possible to begin with.
  • Choose ‘save as PDF’, and also:
    • Select the radio button "Best for electronic distribution and accessibility (uses Microsoft online service)." This ensures the PDF is tagged.
    • Choose minimum file size when saving, this compresses the file
    • If you don’t need all the slides saved, use Options to save a slide range or to convert the slides to lower quality handouts which will also compress the file size.
  • Verify accessibility either by checking accessibility in the PDF as needed or after uploading to Canvas, use Ally in the LMS to also check accessibility

Reduce file sizes for your LMS content

Redesign your content to be web friendly

Instead of creating lecture slides and uploading them to your subject, a better approach is to write content directly in a Canvas page using the text editor.


  • Accessibility: Students can scan the page to search for terms more easily, content can be read via mobile devices, and screen readers can resize/zoom in on text without losing quality. Students can read the content directly within the page and don’t need to go to the extra step of downloading a file and opening it using a different program.
  • File size: text is quicker and easier to load and won’t add much to your subject size.
  • Keeping content up to date: No need to download, edit and reupload files to update your content - just edit and format your content directly in the page. This also allows you to collaboratively edit content as a teaching team, and you can use the view page history option to track past changes and versions.
  • Engagement: You can add relevant images, videos and links alongside the text to provide more context and build engagement using different media.

Using the Canvas text editor

Save large files in Cloudstor

You may have other types of files that you include as part of teaching materials - for example, practical materials students use for performing assessment or other activities such as Excel files, datasets, database packages, etc. Consider saving these in Cloudstor then providing the link within Canvas.

Online file transfer using Cloudstor

Cleaning up old content

Now is a great time to review your subject and remove or update any content or resources you are no longer using. We recommend doing the following:

  • Remove old Blackboard files, such as old unused lecture slides, announcements, activities, PDFs, Turnitin assignment links, etc.
  • Review readings and lecture presentations to ensure they are still up to date, update or remove relevant links, documents or slides. It’s worth removing slides that cover information related to assessment and orientation/getting started and just keep this information in your subject. This approach keeps the file size of your presentations smaller, but if you need to make changes to the information at any stage, you only need to update it in one place.
  • Check web links to ensure these are still working. Remove or update any broken links as needed. You can do this in your subject under ‘Settings’, then on the ‘Subject details’ tab clicking ‘Validate Links in Content’ in the right-hand menu.

Why is there a storage quota in the LMS for Subjects?

Subjects and Communities in the LMS are restricted 1GB of storage. This is due to a licence-wide storage limit requirement, and importantly helps to act as a reminder and guide around the above advantages and ultimately for the benefit of the student experience.

The above suggestions do require some extra effort from staff to undertake, and we acknowledge that and try to help you with resources such as this one to make those efforts as streamlined and small as possible.

The benefits and gains for students however are of such a disproportionate benefit that the annoyance of a quota cap and fitting within by following these few rules about media hosting and file creation are very much worth it.

That said, the quota cap can be adjusted up for discipline areas or pedagogical requirements that require more and this can be accommodated (just don't ask for adjustments to cover bad practice). Please contact Learning Environments as needed.

Touch screen with folders