New “Atomic Search” Tool Arrives in Canvas

Course Search Image

In January 2023, UW System added a new Atomic Search tool to Canvas. This tool allows both instructors and students to more easily locate content within Canvas courses by searching for keywords. In a Digital Learning Environment student usability study conducted by UW System, students expressed having difficulties locating course content, especially when the layout of the Canvas course was not clear and consistent. Adding a search tool to Canvas was identified as a potential solution. 

Instructors do not have to take any action to enable the Atomic Search tool in their courses. The search tool appears both in the left global navigation bar as a “Search” icon and in course navigation menus as a “Search” link. Starting a search from the global navigation bar will search within all of a user’s enrollments; starting a search from the “Search” link of a course navigation menu will search only within that course. The search tool respects all of the access restrictions an instructor can apply to course content items, so search results shown to a student will only include content that the student could find through normal navigation of the course. 

The most important consideration for instructors is that the addition of a search tool in Canvas heightens the importance of making sure that outdated course content is unpublished or deleted. While preparing a Canvas course, removing an outdated Page from a course module but then forgetting to delete it entirely from the course is an easy mistake to make. With the arrival of a search tool in Canvas, students are now more likely to encounter an old page that you have removed from a module but never deleted or unpublished. Especially in those courses in which you’ve been reusing and iterating upon the same base of Canvas content over several terms, we recommend reviewing your course “index” pages—Announcements, Assignments, Discussions, and Pages—and deleting obsolete content and abandoned drafts. 

Course delete page

While cleaning up your course, remember that removing a page from a module does not also delete that page from the course. Likewise, deleting a module does not delete its contents. Items that module contained will still be found among the Pages, Assignments, and Discussions index pages of the course. Fully deleting a content item from your course can only be done while viewing that item or while viewing the index page for that item’s type—for example, the list of pages you can view by clicking the Pages link in the course navigation menu. Anytime you plan on removing an unneeded content item from a course module it is a good practice to first unpublish that item so that even if you forget to follow up and delete it, students cannot find it. 

After reviewing your course and deleting old content, we recommend running your course’s Link Validator to scan your course for any links which point at now-deleted content. Remove or update any broken links found by the validator tool. 

Please also keep in mind that new content and content changes will not immediately appear in search results. After a change is made to course content, the search tool needs to “reindex” the course before it can deliver updated search results. For an active course, this reindexing process happens automatically at least once every 10 hours. 

Additional Resources 

Spring 2022 Events Digest


Consultations & Office Hours

Request a consultation with CATL staff to ask questions about anything teaching and learning related, brainstorm assignment design ideas, or if you need someone test new technologies with you, we’re here to help!

Request Consultation

Tapping into the Affective Domain of Learning to Close Classroom Performance Gaps with Dr. Angela Bauer (Mar. 4, from 3-5 p.m.)

Join Dr. Angela Bauer, former UWGB Professor and current Vice President for Academic Affairs at High Point University, Mar. 4, for a discussion of her research on growth mindset, active learning, and addressing equity or performance gaps in the classroom. There will also be opportunities for informal conversation before and after her presentation. Learn more.

Student Parent Advocacy Workshop (Mar. 24, 12-1 p.m.)

As part of their equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) work this semester, Shannon Ribich (2021-22 EDI Intern) and Katia Levintova (Professor of Democracy & Justice Studies & 2021-22 Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Consultant) would like to invite everyone interested, to their workshop on helping student parents to have better educational experiences. This workshop is scheduled for Thursday, March 24, 12-1 p.m. via Zoom. Learn more.

Presentation & Discussion: Culturally sustaining/responsive pedagogy (CSRP) in the “after” of the Pandemic (Mar. 31, 1-2 p.m.)

Join Christin DePouw (Associate Professor, Education & 2021-22 Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Consultant) for a presentation and guided conversation on March 31 from 1-2 p.m. In this conversation, we will identify some of the shifts we have experienced in teaching and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, including a heightened awareness of mental health and socio-emotional learning, ongoing struggles to achieve racial justice, and continuing shifts in both work and our broader economy. We will connect our experiences and understandings from the past two years to CSP and consider how to move forward as teachers, learners, and community members. Learn more.


Consultations & Office Hours

Request a consultation with CATL staff to ask questions about anything teaching and learning related, brainstorm assignment design ideas, or if you need someone test new technologies with you, we’re here to help!

Request Consultation

Call for Spring 2022 Teaching Circles (due Feb. 9)

When is the last time you and colleagues had the opportunity to sit down together and just talk about teaching and learning? Do you miss those meaningful discussions that it seems there is no time for today? Let CATL help you with our Spring 2022 Teaching Circles. Yes, there will be some time commitment, but the return on investment may be well worth it: connection, community, and renewed teaching energy. Learn more.

Call for The Council on Faculty, Diversity, & Emotional Labor in Teaching (due Feb. 14)

Thanks to the support of Provost Kate Burns, CATL will lead a one-semester Council on Faculty, Diversity, & Emotional Labor in Teaching. A small group of instructors will be selected to serve based on an application process and will meet approximately monthly during the semester. Learn more.

Presentation & Discussion: Culturally Sustaining/Responsive Pedagogy (CSRP) and Moving Beyond Guest Speakers (Feb. 17, 1–2 p.m.)

Join Christin DePouw (Associate Professor, Education & 2021-22 Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Consultant) for a presentation and guided conversation, on Feb. 17, from 1–2 p.m. In this conversation, we consider the reliance on guest speakers within EDI work and how this “add on” approach limits true institutional transformation. Learn more.

“Opening Access: Understanding the Neuroscience of Traumatic Stress and Its Impact on  Engagement and Learning” with Dr. Mays Imad (Feb. 21, 3–4:30 p.m.)

Join Dr. Mays Imad and the CATL staff on Feb. 21 from 3–4:30 p.m. as we consider the power of knowledge and how understanding the neuroscience of toxic stress can empower us to self-regulate and help our students, cope, engage, connect, and learn. Learn more.


Consultations & Office Hours

Request a consultation with CATL staff to ask questions about anything teaching and learning related, brainstorm assignment design ideas, or if you need someone test new technologies with you, we’re here to help!

Request Consultation

2022 Post-IDI Workshops: Addressing the Barriers to a Welcoming Learning Environment (Jan. 14 & 18, multiple times)

In alignment with Dr. Tracie Addy’s keynote address and workshop at the Instructional Development Institute, we wish to create opportunities for instructors to work together and address barriers to creating welcoming learning environments.

Think of this as structured work-time with colleagues rather than a workshop or a presentation about the topic! Learn more.

Distance Education Certification Course Series (Jan. 24 – May 13)

  • Teaching with Technology Basecamp Course: The first course is called Teaching with Technology Basecamp. This course includes information on course development in distance environments as well as technical information on Canvas and the various physical and digital rooms instructors will use for teaching distance education courses. As a basecamp, it will provide the essentials you need to be successful on the path to building your course. Learn more.
  • Course Design Trail Guides Course: While the basecamp will provide essentials, the second course, called Distance Education Trail Guides, picks up where the first course leaves off. The trail guides course centers on developing learning pathways for students. This course is for you if you have completed the basecamp and would like to explore more systematically how to develop distance education courses. You will be able to choose from one of two options: developing a synchronous course or developing an asynchronous course. Learn more.
  • Distance Education Retreats: In the third course, you will participate in a community of practice that provides help and support during the teaching of your distance educations course while also exploring a topic of interest related to the teaching of your distance education course. Learn more.

CATL Concierge Assistance

In addition to consultations and professional development opportunities, CATL offers a limited menu of “concierge” services to help make instructors’ lives a little easier. How to request any of these support services can be found in the descriptions below.

Canvas “Spot-Checks”

A Teaching, Learning, and Technology Consultant or Instructional Designer will do a spot check of your course in Canvas. A few things we always check for include course organization, whether features are turned on or off, and basic accessibility features. If there’s something specific you’d like to get a closer look, such as the setup of discussion groups or grading breakdown, let us know. Request a once-over by emailing

Transparency Checks

Not sure if your instructions are clear? Looking for a better way to phrase something because students always seem to miss your meaning? Send a copy (or direct link in Canvas) of your instructions, syllabus language, etc. and we’re happy to take a look for transparency, inclusive language, and student-centered language. Looking to work with someone to review an entire course? We encourage you to schedule a consultation.

Canvas Integrations

In order to best manage instructor and student data in Canvas, campus Canvas admins ask that instructors wishing to use an integration requiring administrator action complete a request for integrations for their courses. The request form is available here.

A list of available apps is available on this page. Other limitations (such as whether we have an institutional license) vary by product. External App approval is done by UW-System based upon publisher compliance with System policies. To request an integration not listed, please email Most requests take 30-60 days to complete.

Caption Generation

Videos posted in Kaltura My Media now automatically generate “machine captioning.” This is an important step in making course materials accessible, but it isn’t perfect. If you require full-accuracy captions to comply with an SAS request, please email with a sharable link to each video requiring captions.

Text-to-Canvas Quiz Conversion

CATL has limited access to a tool for converting and importing “quizzes” (or exams) to Canvas. The tool converts a formatted text document (.txt, .rtf, or Word) into a Canvas ‘quiz.’ Details of the formatting required can be found in this document (downloadable PDF). When you’ve got your document, use this brief form (instructor login required) to submit a link to the intended course and your documents of 20 or more questions for CATL to convert and upload. Note that depending on the volume of requests, it may take some time for CATL to process your document. We will upload your exam directly into Canvas in the Quizzes area and the confirmation message that the exam is available will include information on how to finish applying settings and making the exam available to students.

The Things We’ll Carry (May 14, 2021. 11 a.m– 12 noon)

The last year has changed the way we engage with students. A health crisis changed the means of classroom engagement while also putting a new onus on compassionate interactions with students. At the same time, social crises spurred many of us to engage students in conversations around how our disciplines could help them make sense of their world in new and more complicated ways. Many may have also helped students engage directly with bringing about a new and better world in response to the overlapping social/political/and health crises. CATL and the Center of Civic Engagement would like to engage with you in a discussion on what you will carry forward from this year and make a permanent part of your teaching. We will host a discussion on May 14 from 11am to noon (this link opens a Teams meeting). We hope to spend some time reflecting and engaging with you.