Creating Descriptive Links in Canvas

Links created in Canvas should be descriptive to students. A descriptive link allows a person to know what they are clicking on, and have an idea of where it will take them. It also helps ensure users with screen reader technology are not having an entire address read out to them without any context of its purpose.

Improper practices for linking

There are several improper practices when linking, including (but not limited to):

  • “Click here” – This type of link does not give a viewer information about what the link is or where it will take them.
  • Filenames as links (ex: C101SYLF.docx) – Filenames as links are often not descriptive enough to know what the file is or what it contains. 
  • http://your.website.address/here/with_a/long/link_that_may?include=numbers&other?characters – Links without a description do not give a viewer information about its purpose.

Better practices for linking

When creating links in Canvas, it’s better to use descriptive information as the link itself. This allows the user to know about the contents of the link and where it will take them. This has the added benefit of helping users with screen readers, as it will instead read out the title of the link rather than its full web address.

Canvas has multiple ways of creating links with descriptive text or images, depending on the scenario:

  • If uploading a file
    • Type a descriptive name of the file (ex: Fall 2018 Syllabus for College 101). Highlight the text that was typed, then go to the Insert Content pane on the far right of the screen. Click the Files tab, and select the desired file (or upload a new file). The text will quickly flash in yellow, but will then turn blue. The text is now a link to the file.
    • More information on this process is available in the Canvas Guide, “How do I create a file link in a page in a course?“. While the instructions specifically mention a Canvas page, the same instructions work anywhere in the course where text can be entered and edited.
  • If adding a link
    • Type a descriptive name of the link (ex: Online Course Development Information). Highlight the text that was typed, then go to the connected chain link on the toolbar. Click the chain link, then enter the desired website address into the box that appears. Complete the process by clicking Update Link.  The text will quickly flash in yellow, but will then turn blue. The text is now a link to the external website.
    • More information on this process is available in the Canvas Guide, “How do I create a hyperlink in the Rich Content Editor as an instructor?“.
  • If wanting to make an image into a link of any type
    • Add the image to the text area, then select the image much like how text is highlighted. Follow the same steps as listed above for uploading a file or adding a link. The image will instead become the link. Don’t forget to give the image an alt tag!

Questions? We can help!

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