Canvas Instructor Guide

Canvas is UBC’s primary learning platform for delivering online course content.​ In Canvas, you can share materials (text or multimedia), enable student collaboration and discussion, manage assignments and quizzes, and assign grades. Canvas can also be used with many other UBC learning technologies.
Cost Yes Free
Bandwidth Yes Low demand
Canvas Integration Yes n/a
Privacy Yes Canvas is FIPPA compliant and data is stored securely in Canada.
Similar UBC-Supported Tools edX Edge, UBC Blogs, and UBC Wiki are other centrally-supported tools that can deliver course content.

What can I use it for?

You can use Canvas to run any aspect of your course online:

  • Sharing course content
  • Hosting lectures
  • Giving assignments and quizzes
  • Administering exams
  • Facilitating discussions and group work
  • Managing grades

How are other faculty using Canvas?

Robert Russo uses Canvas to create a highly interactive course for students

As with most law courses, the subject matter lends itself to a great deal of exposition, i.e., creating an online environment that is very text-intensive. I wrote the course so that the modules build on each other with practice quizzes and activities following most modules. There are also weekly assignments that make good use of the discussion forum platform. I have received very good feedback from students. Read more »


Nadja Kunz uses Canvas in a simple way for key course activities

I’ve kept things simple and used Canvas for three main purposes: (1) online quizzes, (2) posting lecture material, and (3) contacting students. I plan to take advantage of additional functionalities in later iterations of the course. The system makes it very easy. Read more »

What do I need to use Canvas?

A supported web browser

Canvas runs in your web browser and supports using Chrome, Edge, Firefox, or Safari. For which versions work, check the Canvas supported browser page. Canvas will not work with Internet Explorer.

A UBC course you are teaching in a past, present, or upcoming term

All UBC courses have matching courses in Canvas automatically created, with the enrolled students added, even if you have never used Canvas. Canvas courses are available approximately two weeks after the UBC course calendar has been published, which is typically several months before the start of term. This allows you time to set up your materials and activities.

Tips

  • You and your students can log in to Canvas at canvas.ubc.ca using your Campus Wide Login (CWL). If you don’t have a CWL, please sign up for a CWL first.
  • You and your students can also access Canvas using the Canvas mobile app, which allows everyone to view content and interact in their courses.
  • Lab and tutorial sections are not automatically created in Canvas, but you can request them by contacting your faculty’s Instructional Support Unit or contacting us.
  • You can enrol in Canvas 101, a self-paced course with a basic overview of the features and functionality that will help you build your course with confidence.

How do I use Canvas?

To use your Canvas course, you will first need to make it visible for students to find when the term starts, then you can customize and use the course for a variety of learning activities.

Click any bar below for instructions and tips for using Canvas.

Set up your Canvas course

  1. Log in to Canvas from canvas.ubc.ca using your UBC CWL (Campus-Wide Login) name and password. This will open your Canvas Dashboard.
  2. On your Dashboard, you will find all the courses you are teaching. Click any course to open it.
  3. Once inside a course, you can start adding content, creating assignments and assessments, and setting up discussions and communications.
  4. When you are ready, make the course available to students by clicking Publish, located on the course home page, in the right-hand sidebar under “Course Status”.

Tips

  • UBC Vancouver offers an optional UBCV course syllabus template that can be used when creating syllabi in or outside of Canvas. You may find the template useful, as the automatically-generated syllabus in Canvas does not satisfy the UBCV Senate's syllabus requirements.
  • You can make your Canvas course content available to download for offline viewing, which improves access for students with limited Internet connections. Click "Settings" in your Course Navigation, select the "Feature Options" tab, and toggle on the item for "ePub Exporting".

Understand your options for building courses in Canvas

Modules

Modules in Canvas allow you to organize course content and direct the flow of your course. Modules can be set up to require students to complete materials in a sequential fashion (e.g., Week 1, Week 2, Week 3), and each module can contain files, assignments, assessments, discussions, and other learning materials.

Announcements

Announcements in Canvas allow you to broadcast information like course activities and logistics to students. Students can receive announcements by email, if they keep this default on in their Canvas notifications. You can include links, files, and images in announcements, as well as allow students to reply to them. Use announcements to keep students on track, share news and resources, and celebrate student success.

Assignments

Assignments in Canvas refer to a wide range of learning activities, including traditional assignments that invite students to submit a completed work (text, multimedia, file, link) and assignments that are completed using the Canvas discussion board feature, Canvas quiz feature, or an external tool. Assignments may be completed for grades or not and can be submitted by a group or an individual.

Quizzes

Quizzes in Canvas are used to create and administer online quizzes and exams that assess students' comprehension of course material and understanding of course concepts. Quizzes can be graded or ungraded and can be set up to work with tools for remote proctoring (Proctorio) and restricted browser settings (LockDown Browser).

Discussions

Discussions in Canvas are discussion boards that invite interactions between two or more people. You can assign discussions to the entire class or to smaller groups of students and optionally add grades for students' participation. You can use discussions to pose and answer questions for the class and facilitate class-wide conversations.

Groups

Groups in Canvas come with private collaborative areas for each group to work in, which contain announcements, pages, discussions, and files that are shared only within the group. You can create groups for students automatically or manually as well as allow students to make their own groups. You can also use groups to create group assignments for students to collaborate on and be graded on collectively.

External Tools

Other UBC-supported tools integrate with Canvas, meaning they can work within or in conjunction with your course to give you additional flexibility in the learning activities you provide for students.

  • Collaborate Ultra and Zoom add video/audio web-conferencing and collaboration
  • ComPAIR and peerScholar add different types of student peer assessment of work students produce; iPeer adds student peer assessment of student teamwork in groups
  • iClicker Cloud adds polling in the classroom
  • Kaltura adds video capture, editing, storage, and streaming in Canvas
  • LockDown Browser adds browser constraints and Proctorio adds remote proctoring to online assessments
  • LOCR adds access to course reserves
  • OnTask adds learning analytics-driven automated feedback for students
  • Piazza adds more robust discussion boards
  • Respondus Quiz adds options for managing formative assessment questions offline and in bulk, and Webwork adds assigning numeric problems and equations as formative homework or quizzes

Settings

Settings in Canvas allow you to change or view details of your course, including the course status. You can also hide, show, or reorder your Course Navigation. The right-hand side bar on the Settings page gives you options to import/export course content and view the course as a student.

Tips

  • To help you set up an effective course structure in Canvas, some faculties have implemented Canvas Templates developed by learning designers. These templates can be imported into your Canvas course from the right-hand side of the course homepage, and you can customize them to your needs. To request support with these templates, please inquire with your faculty’s Instructional Support Unit.

Grade with Canvas

Available grading features

You have three main options for grading with Canvas: grade in a spreadsheet (Gradebook), grade while viewing student work (SpeedGrader), or grade offline (export to a spreadsheet).

  • The Gradebook is a spreadsheet in Canvas that helps you input and distribute grades for students based on their work in the course. Each column represents a published assignment, graded discussion, or graded assessment. Grades can be calculated as points, percentages, complete or incomplete, pass or fail, GPA scale, and letter grades, with optional weighting applied to groups of learning activities.
  • The SpeedGrader enables looking sequentially at each student’s work and entering grades as you go. You can also provide comments directly on student PDFs, Word documents, and PowerPoints. You can access SpeedGrader from any assignment, quiz, or graded discussion, or directly from the Gradebook.
  • To grade offline, you can export grades from the Gradebook in an editable spreadsheet. When grading is complete, you can upload the spreadsheet back to Canvas to post the grades for students.

Manually post grades in Canvas

By default, grades will be visible to students as soon as they complete an auto-graded assessment or you enter a grade for the item in the Gradebook, but you can change this default.

  1. Log in to your Canvas course, and click Grades in the Course Navigation.
  2. Click the settings gear icon on the right-hand side.
  3. Click the Grade Posting Policy tab, and choose Manually Post Grades.
  4. Click Update. The word “Manual” will appear next to all the column titles in your Gradebook.
  5. Enter grades using any relevant approach above.
  6. Once all the grades have been entered for a column, hover over the column heading, click the column option menu (the 3 vertical dots), and choose Post Grades.
  7. Students will see their grades for this item.

Tips

Learn who can access your Canvas course

Canvas offers a number of roles for people in your Canvas course, including but not limited to Student, Instructor, and Designer—each of which is associated with its own permission settings, meaning things each role can access and do.

Who has access to your course in Canvas and what role they are assigned is handled automatically based on course registration and teaching appointments. But you can request additional access for people, if you have a reason to include another person in your course.

Who is registered automatically

Students are automatically added to your Canvas course, once they are enrolled in your UBC course.

Instructors and teaching assistants (TAs) are automatically added to a Canvas course once they have an active appointment to teach in the course. Note that instructors and TAs first need official appointments with UBC, before they can be added to any course.

How to add other people

You may request to add other people in additional roles (Observer, Designer, or Test Student) to your Canvas course by contacting us. Please make sure to clearly list what you need the additional people to do, so that the appropriate role can be assigned in a timely manner.

If you wish to add another person in a traditional role (Instructor, TA, or Student) or if you don't have access to a course you think you should have access to in Canvas, please contact your faculty or department directly. If you aren't sure who to contact, reference the representative spreadsheet.

How to extend access

At UBC, Canvas courses are set to close eight weeks after the last day of class, but students with ‘Standing Deferred’ status can be granted extended access to your Canvas course. To request an extension, please contact us and provide information about the nature of the extension, so we can determine how to best manage it in Canvas.

Accommodate UBC exams in Canvas

If the UBC Vancouver Centre for Accessibility or the UBC Okanagan Disability Resource Centre has contacted you regarding a student who requires exam accommodations, you can add time extensions and allow multiple attempts on Canvas exams for that individual.

Add time extensions

  1. Log in to your Canvas course, and click Quizzes in the Course Navigation.
  2. Click the 3 dots to the right of the quiz, and select Edit from the drop-down menu.
  3. Scroll down to "Options", check the Time Limit box, and enter the minutes allowed for all students to complete the quiz, if you don't have one already.
  4. Uncheck the "Show one question at a time" option, if it is checked.
  5. Under "Assign to", click + Add.
  6. Type the name(s) of the student(s) who will need extended time.
  7. Adjust the "Due", "Available from", and "Until" dates, ensuring you are considering any extended time allocations, adding the appropriate extra time.
  8. Click Save.

Allow multiple attempts

  1. Log in to your Canvas course, and click Quizzes in the Course Navigation.
  2. Click the name of the quiz.
    • If the quiz is not published, please publish it first.
  3. Click Moderate This Quiz in the menu on the left-hand side.
  4. In the table that opens, click the edit pencil icon to the right of the student you want to give more attempts to.
  5. In the "Student Extensions" pop-up, enter the number of attempts.
  6. Click Save, and repeat this for any other students who require accommodations.

Add time extensions

  1. Log in to your Canvas course, and click Quizzes in the Course Navigation.
  2. Click the 3 dots to the right of the quiz, and select Edit from the drop-down menu.
  3. Under "Assign to", click + Add.
  4. Type the name(s) of the student(s) who will need extended time.
  5. Adjust the "Due", "Available from", and "Until" dates, ensuring you are considering any extended time allocations, adding the appropriate extra time.
  6. Click Save.

Allow multiple attempts

  1. Log in to your Canvas course, and click Quizzes in the Course Navigation.
  2. Click the name of the quiz.
  3. Click the Moderate tab at the top.
  4. Find the student you want to give more attempts to, and click Moderate to the right of their name.
  5. Enter the number of additional attempts.

Canvas FAQ

Find UBC-specific answers to frequently asked questions by clicking any bar below.

New courses

All new course sections in the UBC course calendar are automatically created in Canvas approximately two weeks after the UBC course calendar is published, which is typically several months before the start of term. If your course has been added to the UBC calendar but does not appear in Canvas after this time period has passed, please contact us for assistance.

Labs, tutorials, and courses offered through UBC's Affiliated Colleges (e.g., Carey Theological College, Regent College, Vancouver School of Theology) need to be created manually in Canvas. Please contact your Instructional Support Unit or contact us to get courses and sections manually added to Canvas.

Old courses

At the end of each term, Canvas automatically sets courses to close and converts them to a read-only archival state. At UBC, Canvas courses are set to close eight weeks after the last day of class. To retain the default closing date, please do not change the end date of your course in Settings.

If you did not "favourite" your course before it closed, it will no longer appear on your Canvas Dashboard when you log in. However, you can still find all your Canvas courses by clicking "Courses" in the Global Navigation (dark blue bar on the left) in Canvas, then clicking the "All Courses" link at the bottom of the list.


Yes. UBC is legally required to perform a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) on all systems that collect or use personal information. The UBC PIA determined that Canvas is a secure system and is privacy-compliant. It is also used by many other educational institutions across Canada.

The information in Canvas is stored and backed up in secure data centres run by Amazon Web Services (AWS) in Quebec. AWS is a very secure storage service that is used by many public bodies in BC and across Canada and is at least as secure as UBC's own data centres. Information in Canvas is not stored outside Canada at any time.


The following types of personal information may be automatically collected and stored in Canvas's logs:

  • internet protocol address (the number assigned to each device connected, which may identify the general location of the device)
  • device event information such as crashes, system activity, hardware settings, browser type, browser language, the date and time of access, and any referral URL (links that send you to Canvas)
  • on-page clicks including but not limited to login events, viewing content pages, launching tools, uploading files, posting to forums and discussions, authoring calendar items, and submitting quizzes
  • user-assigned or calculated records including but not limited to grading rubric scores, grades, and badge and outcome achievement awards

Personal information is also transferred from UBC’s Student Information System (SIS) into Canvas, including student names, numbers, email addresses, and course enrollment information.


UBC is subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), a privacy law that governs all government bodies in British Columbia. FIPPA protects personal information (recorded information about an identifiable individual) and allows UBC to collect and use this information only for purposes connected with its programs or activities and only if UBC keeps this information secure and confidential.


Unlike private sector privacy laws, FIPPA does not require UBC to ask for consent before collecting or using personal information; it allows UBC to collect personal information that directly relates to and is necessary for academic programs or activities. UBC does have to notify students about the data collection. The data collection notice for Canvas can be found in the "Acceptable Use and Privacy Policy" in Canvas, which is linked from the footer of the Dashboard.


No. It is important for all students to use Canvas to ensure that UBC can deliver its courses and programs effectively. Most similar services provided by public bodies do not allow for opting out.


Under FIPPA, personal information can be used for the purpose it was collected or for a consistent purpose. That means students’ personal information in Canvas is used for the purpose of facilitating the delivery of courses. Personal information may also be used in providing course support and for tools that support the quality of teaching and learning (such as dashboards for monitoring progress or tools that provide student feedback). Additionally, personal information may be combined for statistical analysis purposes, but only after anonymizing it by stripping out identifiers so it is not tied to a specific individual.


Under FIPPA, UBC can make identifiable information available to faculty or staff only on a need-to-know basis. UBC enforces this legal principle by restricting UBC employees' access to information within Canvas with role-based access controls (wherein different roles have access only to what each needs to know). Students cannot view information about other students, with the exception of the names of students enrolled in their courses.


FIPPA does not allow sharing any personal information with third parties outside UBC without the consent of the individuals the information is about. There is an exception to this rule, however, that allows public bodies to share personal information with service providers, i.e., companies or consultants they hire to perform services for them.

Employees working for service providers sometimes require access to the systems they support for installation, troubleshooting, and data-recovery purposes. In these instances, service providers are permitted temporary access to information for these limited purposes, but they are forbidden from retaining any personal information or using it for any other purposes.

In the case of Canvas, the above means information is accessible when necessary by service providers who support Canvas and other tools that integrate with Canvas.


Under FIPPA, service providers are treated the same as employees. That is, they are subject to the same restrictions on use and disclosure of personal information as UBC employees. They are also subject to investigation by the provincial Information and Privacy Commissioner and can be charged with an offence if they violate the rules—and violations can result in large fines. In addition to these legal restrictions, UBC ensures that all service providers sign strict confidentiality agreements that require them to notify UBC if there are any security breaches.


  1. Log in to your Canvas course, and click Settings in the Course Navigation.
  2. Enter the date/time that you wish to make your course available as the “Starts” date.
  3. Check the box for “Students can only participate in the course between these dates”
  4. Scroll down and click Update Course Details to save your changes.

Where can I get more support with Canvas?

Technical support

If you have trouble with Canvas:

  • Contact your faculty’s Instructional Support Unit as your first point of contact
  • UBCV instructors can contact us for further assistance:
    604 827 4775 or lt.hub@ubc.ca or visit the LT Hub online
  • UBCO instructors can contact the Centre for Teaching and Learning:
    ctl.helpdesk@ubc.ca
  • You can also use self-service troubleshooting by clicking the "Help" link in Canvas's Global Navigation (the navy blue menu).

For supporting your students:

Learn more


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