tl;dr - Canva is a tool that brings sophistication and simplicity to graphic design
Canva at a glance
How many of us are graphic designers, either by trade or by hobby? We might have a few in our midst within TCS Education System, but most of our specialties lie elsewhere: psychology, medicine, technology, etc. Likely, even people who are adept at platforms like Photoshop will appreciate how easy and professional the Canva platform is, as well as how fun it is to tinker with it. You can create amazing pictures, banners, and graphics to upload into your Canvas course.
An account is free and it is easy to get started. You can begin by selecting one of their many templates for your custom graphic. There are many sizes and styles to choose from. You can even make a custom banner specifically for a Facebook cover, Google+ header, YouTube channel art, or LinkedIn banner. Canva is a free tool, though there is also premium content available that you can purchase (technically, I think it is licensed), and you can subscribe for a Canva account that will give you additional design and administrative functionality.
How can I use Canva in my class?
Canva would be great for Home Page graphic headers, as well as anywhere in the course where visual imagery could supplement the course content: assignment pages, content pages, quizzes, announcements, discussion boards (instructions or discussion posts), etc. We can put imagery any place in Canvas that utilizes the Rich Content Editor. If you design presentations in PowerPoint or Prezi, or if you like to add imagery to documents, the Canvas will provide you with many aesthetically appealing options for imagery. Additionally, if you use any external platforms as part of your curriculum - perhaps a class Facebook page, a Twitter account, or a blog - then Canva embeds or uploads easily into those platforms as well. You can also introduce Canva to your students so that they can use it in their presentations and deliverables.
Here is what I like best about Canva
Canva is an incredibly easy tool to use, and the end product is a beautifully designed graphic that looks very professional. It has just enough customizability to be incredibly useful without overwhelming us with a complicated interface. Although it doesn't have nearly the freedom you would find with products such as Illustrator of Photoshop, it will take a fraction of the time to design in Canva, and they even provide engaging tutorials and templates to help get you started or advance you to the next level of design expertise. You can also collaborate in Canva and share resources with a team (teams are limited to 10 people with the free account). And here's an extracurricular bonus for you: you can use Canva to make awesome birthday cards, announcements, invitations, and so on.
This is what I dislike about Canva
This platform is amazing, but it isn't foolproof. For non-designers, unless you stick with one of their templates, what you produce might need not always be flattering. With that said, I strongly encourage all people to check out their design tutorials to learn the essentials of graphic design.
A big bummer with Canva is that they do save the best of their features for the premium accounts. There is still a tremendous amount of value with the free account, but it costs a minimum of $9.95/mo to get access to features like reusable templates, unlimited folders, 300,000 images, branding with custom logos and fonts, etc., plus many other premium options. The very best is only available for those who are willing to pay.
Let's be honest, no student is able to truly appreciate a learning environment that is just an information dump. Canva is intuitive and easy to learn, and it won't take very much effort for you to be able to dress up your courses, PowerPoints, and course material with some awesome custom art and imagery. This platform is beautiful and empowering, and it's actually even used by design professionals (I won't mention a certain notable art institute located in Chicago that I happen to know uses Canva for some of their course design in the Canvas LMS).
Written by Dr. Sean Nufer, Director of Ed Tech for TCS Education System.