Hiding Menu Items

How to streamline your course menu for students benefit

By Chris Casey, University Coordinator of Digital Education together with Jessica Riviere, Instructional Consultant

On November 18th, Chris Casey and Jessica Riviere presented very briefly on the why and the how of a feature of Canvas course design: hiding menu items.

Watch the recording of our conversation:

Why would a teacher want to hide menu items?

Canvas is a powerful tool, and is used in different ways by different instructors. The starting place for any course begins with a menu that lists all the choices that a teacher or student might need over the course of the semester. But each teacher will know which items are the most important for their students, and which aren’t.

Some teachers find that there are parts of the Canvas site that they never use. Say for example, “Attendance” – something that may not be relevant in an asynchronous online course. Canvas gives you the ability to reorder or even remove entirely these items so that the students are not distracted by menu items they never use.

What does the research suggest?

When Jessica turned to the research (excellently summarized and presented in Michelle Miller’s 2014 book Minds Online) the concept of Cognitive Load Theory seemed relevant. Scholars of cognitive load suggest that there is a limited capacity for our thinking at any point in time, and it can be described in three categories when theorizing learning. Two cannot be changed much: intrinsic and germane cognitive load have to do with the effort it takes to learn something new. But a third category, Extraneous cognitive load, is the part of effort that teachers can reduce, so that students have more bandwidth for the necessary work of learning.

“Extraneous load is imposed by the material but could have been avoided with a different design.” 

— T. de Jong (2010), Cognitive load theory, educational research, and instructional design: Some food for thought, Instructional Science: An International Journal of Learning Sciences 38(2): 105-134.

Streamlining the design of your course, including removing menu items, makes it easier for students to spend their limited time, attention, and energy, on completing the work of learning, rather on how to navigate the canvas site.

Minds Online. Teaching Effectively with Technology by Michelle D. Miller (2014). Pp 82-83 

How do I do it?

Chris walks you through the steps in the video above. We wanted to share links here from the Canvas website that will help take you through it step by step.

How to use the Navigation Menu:


How to manage the links in the Navigation Menu:

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay