Knowledgebase Home: 13. Web Conferencing
Quick Guide for using the Conferences tool for Instructors
Posted by on 28 November 2016 02:51 PM

Note: These instructions are for faculty.

Click on one of the following links for more information:


What is the Conferences tool?

  • The Conferences tool in Canvas allows the instructor and students to communicate in real-time using video (via webcam), audio (via USB headset) and text (via the Chat pod). Conferences allows you to broadcast real-time audio, video, demo applications on your desktop, share presentation slides, or demo any online resources. Currently, Canvas integrates with BigBlueButton.
  • Using the Conferences tool, you can:
    • Upload a file (i.e. For a virtual presentation)
      • Note: If you want to share a PowerPoint file, we strongly recommend saving it as a PDF in PowerPoint first and then uploading the PDF file (not the PowerPoint file) in the Conferences tool when presenting.
    • Share your desktop (i.e. To demo an application)
    • Share your webcam (i.e. To meet virtually with a student)
    • Chat with the entire class or initiate private chats with specific users
  • The person who creates the Conference is the moderator in the Conference. If you have a class presentation, the moderator will be your instructor.
    • As the moderator, you can upload a PowerPoint, share their desktop, mute or unmute all users at anytime.
    • All users can turn their webcam or microphone on or off, but only the moderator can mute or unmute specific students or the entire class at anytime.
    • The moderator can also click on a student’s name and make them a presenter. Doing so gives that student all the abilities of a moderator.
    • Only one student can be a presenter at a time in the class Conferences tool.
      • For group presentations: At the start of a group's presentation with a PowerPoint, the instructor will make one group member a Presenter, which means that this student has the ability to upload a PowerPoint and navigate between the slides for the group.
  • The instructor may want to use the Conferences tool for virtual presentations, office hours, or to meet with select students who are having trouble in the class or with student groups.
  • Students can go in and create a web conference at anytime with other students. This is helpful if they have to give a virtual presentation in your class and want to practice using the technology or want to meet virtually with other students.

How to Select Your USB Headset as Audio Input and Output on your Computer

Be sure to plug in your USB headset and webcam prior to starting and joining a Conference. To learn how to check that your USB headset is selected as the audio input and output on your computer, do the following:

  • Plugin your USB headset into your computer.
  • For Mac Users:
    • Click on the Apple icon in the top-left corner and select System Preferences.
    • Click on Sound.
    • In the Input tab, select your USB headset.
    • In the Output tab, select your USB headset.
    • Close the System Preferences window.
  • For PC Users:
    • Click on the Start menu and click on Control Panel.
    • Click on Manage Audio Devices.
    • In the Playback tab, select your USB headset.
    • In the Recording tab, select your USB headset.
    • Close the Control Panel window.

How to Create the Conference

For the presentations, as the instructor, you must create an Assignment # Conference 5-15 minutes prior to the first presentation time slot. To do so, do the following:

  1. IMPORTANT: Plugin your USB headset and webcam (if not built-in) into your computer.
  2. Be sure to use Firefox with the Conferences tool in Canvas.
  3. In your course in Canvas, click on Conferences in the Course Navigation.
  4. Click on New conference button (on the right hand side).
  5. Type Assignment # - Block # in the Name textbox.
    • Note: All group presentations in this block will take place in this one conference. In other words, you don’t have to create a separate conference for each time slot, just one for the night’s block of presentations.
  6. Under Duration, type 360 minutes.
  7. If you want to record the conference (Note: Recordings are automatically deleted 14 days after the conference ends), click on the Enable Recording checkbox.
  8. You can select the Invite All Members checkbox if you want to invite the entire class.
  9. Click Update to create the conference.
  10. Click on the Start button to enter the Conference.
  11. Before joining a conference, you will be asked how you want to join the conference audio: via microphone or listen only. Click on Microphone.
  12. Click Allow to allow microphone/camera access [may or may not show depending on your browser].
    • If you are using Firefox, you will have to accept a Firefox-specific permission to access your microphone. Choose your microphone from the Microphone to share drop-drown menu and click the Share Selected Device button. Note: If you don't see the list of microphones, click the Microphone icon [to the left of the URL address bar].
  13. Complete the on-screen audio test.

Click here to learn how to use the Conferences tool with detailed step-by-step instructions.


Important Notes

  • Before the presentations start, you may want to tell the students the following:
    • Students who are presenting should have their microphones on and share their webcams. Students who are not presenting should mute their microphones and turn off their webcam. To ask questions or provide feedback during the presentations, students can use the Chat tool and questions will be addressed at the end.

      Note: If you want to share a PowerPoint file, we strongly recommend saving it as a PDF in PowerPoint first and then uploading the PDF file (not the PowerPoint file) in the Conferences tool when presenting. 
  • For individual presentations:
    • At the start of each student's presentation in the block, make that student a Presenter. Being a presenter means that student has the ability to upload a PowerPoint and navigate between the slides.
    • To switch presenter: When you are the presenter/moderator, you can switch the Presenter by highlighting the name of a user in the User list and clicking the Change Presenter button [2]. That user will now be able to upload a presentation file.​
      View Participants
  • For group presentations:
    • At the start of a group’s presentation, as the instructor, ask who is the Presenter for the group, which means that student has the ability to upload a PowerPoint and navigate between the slides for the group.
    • During each time slot, one group will present.
    • To switch presenter: When you are the presenter/moderator, you can switch the Presenter by highlighting the name of a user in the User list and clicking the Change Presenter button [2]. That user will now be able to upload a presentation file.
      View Participants
  • Students do not have to be a Presenter in order for their microphones and webcams to work.
  • If a document is uploaded and shared with the class (i.e. PowerPoint, handout, etc.) by a presenter, it will stay on the screen until the next student or group uploads a new document to replace it. 
  • Click here to view troubleshooting tips.

More information and step-by-step instructions can be found in the Canvas Guides by Instructure.