Canvas Student Guide

Canvas provides a secure, online classroom for each of your courses at UBC. Your instructors may use Canvas to communicate, share course materials, and assign learning activities for you to do. You can use features in Canvas to help keep track of your work, collaborate with classmates, and preview your grades.

Canvas is FIPPA compliant (i.e., it follows provincial privacy policy) and its data is stored securely in Canada.

What will I use it for?

Your instructor may have you use Canvas to do any of the following:

  • Read course content
  • Watch and attend lectures
  • Give presentations
  • Submit assignments
  • Participate in discussion boards
  • Collaborate in groups
  • Take quizzes and exams
  • View your grades

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.

  • For the best experience with a screen reader, use Firefox / JAWS (Windows) and Safari / VoiceOver (Mac).


  • You can download the Canvas Student app on your mobile device.
  • Use the app for anything except quizzes and exams. The small screen size does not fit the quiz layout very well, and any quizzes that say “Remotely Proctored” will only work on desktop and laptop computers.

How do I use Canvas?

All courses at UBC have a Canvas course created at the beginning of term, and you are automatically enrolled in yours. To get started, log in to Canvas with your UBC CWL (Campus-Wide Login) at

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

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Access your Canvas courses

After logging in at, you will see your Canvas Dashboard. From the Dashboard, the Global Navigation (the menu in navy blue) is on the left. Below the announcements, you’ll see a course card for each class you are enrolled in.

  1. Access a course by clicking on its card.
  2. Once you enter the course, you will see the Course Navigation on the left (to the right of the Global Navigation), with a list of links specific to that course. Click any link to visit that section.


  • To make sure you are viewing all your Canvas courses, click Courses in the Global Navigation, then click All Courses at the bottom of the list. If you can’t find your course after doing this, check that your instructor has published it.
  • You can download course content for offline viewing, if your instructor enables it. Click Account in the Global Navigation, then click Settings. Click the “Download Course Content” button on the right-hand side to see which courses are available.

Set your Canvas name and pronoun

Edit your name

Your Canvas name is set by the preferred name you have on record with UBC's Student Services Centre. You can change your personal information on record, and this change will also update your name in Canvas.

Edit your pronoun

  1. Click Account in the Global Navigation (the menu in navy blue) and select Settings from the options.
  2. Click Edit Settings, which may appear on the right-hand side or at the bottom, depending on the size of your screen.
  3. Choose your pronouns from the drop-down list.
  4. Click Update Settings.


  • A preferred or chosen name is a name that you commonly use – it is what you want to be called, not what other people prefer to call you.

View Canvas course announcements

Your instructor may use announcements in your course to communicate changes, upcoming events, and other important information intended for everyone in the course.

  1. Click Announcements in the Course Navigation.
  2. On the Announcements page, announcements are listed in reverse chronological order, with the newest appearing first and the oldest at the bottom.


  • By default, you will receive email notifications when your instructor posts an announcement. To modify notification frequency, click Account in the Global Navigation, then click Notifications. Set immediate or daily notifications for anything you don’t want to miss.
  • Please ensure that the email used in Canvas is your most frequently used and up-to-date email to receive Canvas notifications. If you do not want to use your existing email address, you can also use an additional email for notifications.

Communicate with Canvas Inbox

You can communicate with your instructor, teaching assistants, and other students in your class using the Canvas Inbox. The Inbox is like a personal email tool within Canvas.

  1. Click Inbox in the Global Navigation.
  2. Click the compose icon (pencil). A Compose Message window will pop up.
  3. In the drop-down menu, select the course where you want to send your message.
  4. To add individual recipients from the course to the message:
    • Search for a person by typing the name in the “To” field.
    • Or use the course roster with the Address Book icon next to the “To” field.


  • You can directly open your Inbox in a new browser tab, if you right-click or option-click the Inbox link. This keeps it handy while doing other tasks in Canvas.
  • Once a course has concluded, you cannot message anyone in that course using your Inbox. However, you will still be able to see past messages exchanged in the course.

Submit your Canvas assignments

As you complete your course, you may be asked to submit assignments directly in Canvas.

  1. Click Assignments in the Course Navigation.
  2. Click the title of an assignment from the list to open it.
  3. Click Start Assignment to access the submission page.
  4. Depending on the type of assignment, instructions may vary on how to submit your work.
  5. Click Submit Assignment on this page to submit your assignment.


  • You can also access your assignments through your Dashboard or, if enabled in your course, through the syllabus, gradebook, calendar, or modules.
  • Assignment file uploads are limited to 5GB and media uploads to 500MB.
  • Instructors may set restrictions on the file types you can upload. Make sure to check these in advance of your due date.
  • If your instructor has allowed an unlimited number of attempts and you want to submit your assignment again, click New Attempt and follow the prompts. Otherwise, make sure to check the number of submission attempts before the due date.

Participate in Canvas discussion boards

As you complete your course, you may be asked to participate in a class discussion, either by responding to your instructor’s discussion question or responding to another student’s comment or thread.

  1. Click Discussions in the Course Navigation.
  2. On the Discussions page, discussions are organized with the newest discussion on top. Click the name of the discussion you want to participate in.
  3. Click Reply and type or paste your response in the textbox.
    • Depending on how the instructor has set up the discussion, you can also click Reply to respond to an individual student’s comment.
  4. Click Post Reply.


  • If the Discussions link is not available in the Course Navigation, try accessing it in another area of the course such as the modules or assignments.
  • You can reply with text, links, photos, equations, and/or multimedia using the response textbox. If your instructor allows, you may also be able to attach files.
  • Always remember there is a person behind the post and that culture and personality influence communication style and practices.

Use Canvas course groups

You may be asked to work with other students in a group in your Canvas course. Each group will have its own private group area to work in, which contains announcements, pages, discussions, and files that are shared only within the group.

  1. Click Groups in the Course Navigation.
  2. Click the title of your assigned group to access your private group area.

Set up your own groups

If you want to create a study group or discuss an assignment with others in your course, you may be able to set up your own student group. Like course groups, student groups have their own private area to work in, which contains announcements, pages, discussions, and files shared only within the group.

  1. Click People in the Course Navigation.
  2. Select the Groups tab.
  3. Click +Group blue button in the upper right side
    of the screen.
  4. Name your group.
  5. To allow anyone in the course to join, select Course Members are Free to Join from the drop-down menu.
  6. To invite only certain people, select Membership by Invitation Only, and invite members to the group by clicking the checkbox next to their name.
  7. Click Save.


  • If the People link is not available in the Course Navigation or if you don’t see the +Group blue button, your instructor has not enabled this feature. You can ask to have it enabled.
  • Canvas student groups are covered in more detail in the People and Groups section of the Canvas student documentation.

Complete Canvas assessments

There are two main types of quizzes in Canvas: Classic Quizzes and New Quizzes.

  1. Find your quiz under Quizzes or Modules in the Course Navigation.
  2. Locate the quiz. If you see “Requires Respondus LockDown browser” next to the quiz name, you will need to install LockDown Browser first. This browser restricts printing, copying, and accessing other websites or applications during the quiz.
  3. Click the title of the quiz you want to take.
  4. Type in an assessment code, if prompted. (Your instructor will give this code to you ahead of time, if it is needed.) If no assessment code is required, click Take the Quiz (for Classic Quizzes) or Begin (for New Quizzes) to start your assessment.
  5. Click Submit Quiz (for Classic Quizzes) or Submit (for New Quizzes) to complete your assessment.


  • Canvas will always call your assessment a “quiz”, whether instructors assign a quiz or exam.
  • Don’t leave a timed quiz midway. The timer will continue running while you’re gone, and the quiz will auto-submit when time runs out.
  • Take quizzes on your computer, not your phone T he small screen size does not fit the quiz layout very well, and you may miss something important.
  • If you get bumped out in the middle of a quiz, go back in and find your way to the question you were on by checking the question list in the sidebar.
  • Check out UBC's LockDown Browser student guide for more help with using LockDown Browser.

View your Canvas grades

Depending on how your instructor has set up grading, you will either see grades immediately (e.g., after you take a quiz) or when the instructor manually releases the grades.

To see the grades currently available to you:

  1. Click Grades in the Course Navigation.
  2. You can use the "Arrange by" menu to sort grades in a different way, such as by due date or title.
  3. To view specific details of an assignment, click the assignment title.


  • Note that your Canvas grade may not reflect your official grade. Your official final grade will be posted in the UBC Student Service Centre.
  • You can print your grades for the course by clicking the Print Grades button at the top right.

Canvas FAQ

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

Canvas is FIPPA compliant (it follows provincial privacy policy) and its data is stored securely in Canada by Amazon Web Services.

Under FIPPA, personal information can be used for the purpose it was collected or for a consistent purpose. That means your personal information in Canvas is used for the purpose of delivering your courses. Personal information may also be used in providing course support, in detecting misconduct, and for tools that support the quality of teaching and learning (such as dashboards for monitoring progress or tools that provide 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.

Canvas provides instructors and teaching assistants with several kinds of learning data that they can use to better support your learning in courses. You can find more information about Canvas analytics and statistics on the UBC Learning Analytics website.

More details about privacy policies are in the "Acceptable Use and Privacy Policy" in Canvas, which is linked from the footer of the Dashboard when you first log in. The UBC Canvas instructor FAQ also answers questions about privacy and Canvas.

You can do many Canvas course activities on your phone, like reading course content, watching live or recorded lectures, submitting assignments, participating in discussion boards, collaborating in groups, and viewing grades. For these activities, access Canvas through the browser on your phone or download the Canvas Student app.

You should not use your phone for Canvas quizzes and exams. The small screen size does not accommodate the quiz layout very well.

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

If you are using a supported browser and still encountering issues, try logging out of Canvas, clearing your browser cookies, and logging back in. You can also disable any browser extensions or plugins to see if that's causing an issue.

If you still can't access Canvas, get UBC Canvas help.

Make sure you are viewing all your 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. Also be aware that Canvas courses may not appear until the first day of class.

If you can’t find your course on the All Courses page and classes have begun, check with your instructor that the course has been published. Unpublished courses will not be visible to you in Canvas.

If you still can't find your course or can't access Canvas at all, get UBC Canvas help.

Check your notification settings by clicking Account in the Global Navigation (dark blue bar on the left) in Canvas, then clicking Notifications. Set immediate or daily notifications for anything you don’t want to miss in your courses. It's generally a good idea to get immediate notifications for course announcements.

If notifications are set up but sending to the wrong email, you can change your address:

  1. Click Account in the Global Navigation, and then click Settings.
  2. On the settings page, use the list on the right to add a new email address or change which email is your default. You may get an email at the new address about the change; click the confirmation link it contains.

Optionally, also make sure you have the correct email address on file with the UBC Student Service Centre (SSC). The email Canvas initially used came from the SSC, so changing your SSC email ensures you won’t miss any other UBC communications.

If your instructor uses the default end date, the course will be available until 8 weeks after the last day of class for the term.

However, instructors may change the default to an earlier end date. It's best to get the materials you need from the course before the end of the term.

Where can I get more support with Canvas?

Technical support

If you can’t find your course or have trouble accessing Canvas:

Reach out to your instructors or teaching assistants with any questions, too, as they often have a lot of experience with Canvas.

For support with online learning:

Learn more

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