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Embedding content in Canvas can be an easy way to add more interactive and engaging elements in a course. What is embedding? How do you do it? What kinds of activities and interaction can be embedded in Canvas? Read on to learn more!

What is Embedding? A Window to Another Website

laptop with a youtube video on language-you can play embedded items in your course directly instead of going out to another web location

Embedding is a way to stream content from a different location so that it appears in an interactive format within your course pages. It uses HMTL code to create an “inline frame,” or in HTML language, an iframe, that contains content from another web location.

Think videos. If you have added a video into your course pages so that it plays on your course page instead of making the student go to to watch it, that video is embedded in your course!
The reason embedding is cool is that items that are embedded keep their interactivity! This is why you can play the video on the page, but this is far from the only type of interactivity that can be brought into your course through embedding. Because they are not actually in your course, they also take up no space (uploading videos, by contrast, can use up lots of space in a hurry). If you can’t wait to know what other types of embedding you can do, skip to the bottom of this blog.
Embeddable items do not integrate in the gradebook so they work best for creating formative content to help students study, or interactive content that you wish them to use in the process of learning, rather than as assessment. (In general, to grade items using Canvas, an integration is required.)
Videos are a common item to embed–so common in fact that there are special tools in your Canvas rich content editor that let you embed them with minimal effort. Because of this, you may not realize that behind the scenes, this is using embed code to stream in your video. However, there is also a generic embed tool that allows you to use embed codes to add content from many other sources.

What about Copyright?

When you embed, you do not make a copy of items so no copyright is involved. Instead, embedding mirrors the item but the content still lives in its original location.
click on the plug icon in the rich content editor to see special tools including youtube and films on demand embed tools

How to Embed

You can certainly use the special tools for youtube and Films on Demand to embed that content. You will find the tools for these under the plug icon in the menu. If you don’t see the item there, click “view all” to find it in an alphabetical list of special tools.

For other items, Canvas allows you to embed any type of item with an iframe-based embed code. To embed an item in Canvas, you need two things: 1. you need to know where the generic “embed” tool lives in Canvas, and 2. You need the embed code for the item.

Finding the Generic Embed Tool in Canvas

The first item is easy. The generic embed tool in Canvas is under the “Insert” menu in the rich content editor (see image to right below). Because it is a part of the rich content editor, you can find it in every text field where content can be added into Canvas: Pages, Assignments, Quizzes (directions or questions), and even Announcements.

Locating the Embed Code

The embed code of the item you wish to embed is usually under a “share” button. Or you may see one of the common symbols for embedding:
the generic embed option is under the Insert item in the rich content editor menu

</> = HTML code which may indicate the html-based embed code

☁ =  A cloud can indicate a way to embed something, as in the Canvas menu.
a symbol for embed that looks like a paper airplane pointing to the upper right corner

= this paper airplane type symbol indicates an embed code
Look for the embed code and copy it. Many of these tools know you want to copy it and offer a special “copy” button to make that step easy. Then paste it in the embed field in Canvas.

Putting it Together: Steps to Embed

  1. Locate the embed code.
  2. Copy the embed code.
  3. Go to Canvas > Insert menu and choose  “Embed.” Paste the embed code.
  4. Review your page to ensure the item looks right on your page.
Here are a few Canvas Guides in case it is useful to review step-by-step directions with screen shots.
Many types of public facing video platforms allow you to embed videos. This includes Vimeo,, Facebook videos, and other major video platforms. One video embed idea you may not have considered:
  • Embed Canvas how-to videos for students.
    • Go to the Canvas Video Guides
    • Click the little airplane “embed” symbol in the upper right corner
    • Copy the embed code and paste it in the Embed field in Canvas
    • You just added video help for your students on how to use a tool.
    • Note: Canvas allows all help guides to be embedded, but other Canvas content (such as release guides) may not allow you to embed the video to share it. 

Formative Quizzes

Several tools create fun studying or review options using quizzing that can be gamified by the professor or give the student options for how they review, letting them adjust to review with crosswords, flashcards or in other formats. These items may work best for aysnchronous class use, gamifying independent activities and encouraging study. Even though they don’t have gradebook integration, some items allow you to see who interacted with them so participation points may be possible.

Presentations & Graphics

You can use PowerPoint in Office 365 or Google Slides as embedded items. Here are some other options for presentations or dynamic/interactive graphics you can embed:
  • Prezi: an alternative for presentations
  • Adobe Spark: free to educators for video and other dynamic presentations
  • Microsoft Sway; has a nice accessibility option as well as alternatives for presenting
  • Canva: make graphics or presentations that can be embedded
  • Interactive Map based on Google maps
  • Google Calendar Google has posted these instructions online covering how to obtain your Google calendar’s embed code.
  • Google Charts
  • Qualtrics Surveys Qualtrics is an institutionally licensed survey tool that faculty and students alike can use. You can embed Qualtrics surveys into your Canvas course to collect info and embed reports that show word maps or charts of the survey outcomes.
  • GoConqr Free Mind Map tool.


 Games & Other Interactive Elements

These can work well for various purposes: collecting items related to the class in an open-ended way, or for support of interactive games in Zoom meetings. Many of these have synchronous or asynchronous possibilities.
I’ve mentioned many tools here, but please note that this is not an endorsement of the particularities of the tool. You should still review the privacy and accessibility aspects of the tool and ensure you know the rules for what you can do with free versions of the tool. Also, companies sometimes change their policies so it is good to verify that a free version remains an available option.

Some Caveats about Embedding

These are but a few of the wide world of embeddable tools. External tools are great but there are a few things to check or ask before using an embeddable tool.

What are the Limits of “Free”?

I have focused above on tools that are free tools (Google tools, Classroom tools), “freemium” tools (tools you can use for free in a limited way or pay for the premium version) and tools that are provided at Mt. SAC (Office 365, Qualtrics).
This post is in no way an advertisement to pay for tools! Some are free forever. Others are used across sectors and are not funded to be free forever. Please check the terms on any tool to be sure the free version allows for your use in number of items you can share, features you can use, or number of students who can access it before it costs money.

Is it Accessible?

I have focused primarily on tools that were made for an education market. This often means they are sensitive to accessibility requirements of schools. It is still always a good idea to check for info on accessibility. One way to check is to search for an accessibility page or a VPAT statement. VPAT stands for “Voluntary Product Accessibility Template” and outlines how the tool meets accessibility requirements. When a company has a VPAT, it is usually a good sign that they have a plan for accessibility.
The other way to check accessibility is to try it out! Use ReadSpeaker in Canvas to test whether the reader can tell that the item is there and read it. (you are welcome to try other accessibility readers such as JAWS, which are available for free on the web and can be found on the Mt. SAC Access website.) Sometimes you may need to include text on the Canvas page before the item to let all users know that the embedded content is there so students know to click into it. Another option is to provide a link to its home location so that all students can experience the content.

Does it meet FERPA?

There are two aspects of FERPA, the student privacy law, to think about when evaluating third-party content.
  1. Does this tool collect information considered personally identifying about the student? Who can see it?  Most tools built for education do not, or to the degree they do, they have privacy policies that protect that information. If you use a tool that was not designed primarily for education, it may be less sensitive to these requirements. This is especially important if the tool requires a sign-up or login or if it collects any grade information. We advise that grade information is best shared within Canvas rather than through external tools.
  2. Does this site sell information? Again, tools developed for education are generally aware of the need to meet FERPA but it is good to make sure that the tool will not collect and sell the students’ information.
Check its Mobile Functionality
Most embedded content works fine when access through the Canvas mobile app, but it never hurts to give it a try and see if it can be viewed or interacted with when accessing Canvas via phone. You may need to inform students if they need to view it through a computer or browser rather than over a mobile device, or it may change your mind about using it if it cannot be visible on a phone.

Troubleshooting Embedded Items

Note that embeddables are typically not institutional tools, so helpdesk or FCLT resources may be limited in their ability to offer technical assistance with specific tools beyond general advice.
If you or your students do have troubles: content is missing or showing a blank screen, the most likely culprit is the browser. From time to time, Canvas users encounter a blank or partially-blank page where content (usually streaming videos) should appear. Canvas says that the problem is almost always the browser! Read more about how to solve this problem.
Do you already embed stuff in your courses? Have other suggestions for programs or items to embed? Is there a topic you’d like us to write about? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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