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.
Access Immediate
Bandwidth Yes Low demand on internet connections.
Privacy Yes Verified by UBC’s Privacy Impact Assessment process.

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
  • Submit assignments
  • Participate in discussion boards
  • Collaborate in groups
  • Take quizzes and exams
  • View your grades

A note about Canvas

By default, student access to most courses in Canvas will end eight weeks after the last day of class, although instructors may choose an earlier end date. After this date, access to course materials will no longer be available.

This tool guide was last reviewed in December 2022.

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 a combination of Firefox / JAWS (Windows) or Safari / VoiceOver (Mac).


  • You will log in to Canvas at using your UBC CWL (Campus-Wide Login). If you don’t have a CWL, please sign up for a CWL first.
  • You can also access Canvas using 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.

How do I use Canvas?

All courses at UBC have a matching 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 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 Dashboard announcements, you’ll see a course card for each course that you are enrolled in.

  1. Access a course from the Canvas Dashboard by clicking 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 cannot find your course after doing this, check that your instructor has published the course.
  • 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

To customize how your name or pronoun appears in Canvas, follow the steps below.

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.

If you are a student who is an active UBC staff member, you will also need to change your name in Workday. Your Workday name will set your Canvas name during your employment period. Log in to the Workday system and use the "Personal Information" application to update your name.

  1. Click Account in the left-most 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 left-most Global Navigation, then click "Notifications". Set immediate or daily notifications for anything you do not want to miss.
  • To receive notifications, make sure the email you use in Canvas is up to date. Click "Account" in the left-most Global Navigation, then click "Settings". On the settings page, use the list on the right to add a new email address or change which email is your default.

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 left-most Global Navigation (the menu in navy blue).
  2. Click the compose (pencil) icon. 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 right-click or option-click the Inbox link. This action keeps the Inbox 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. Instructions will vary on how to submit your work from here, depending on the type of assignment. Instructors may set restrictions on the types of files you can upload. Make sure to check these in advance of your due date.
  5. Click Submit Assignment on this page to submit your assignment.


  • You can also access your assignments through your Canvas Dashboard when you first log in 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. If you can submit using the Canvas text editor, the Kaltura (rainbow sun) icon in the text editor toolbar will let you include media up to 2GB.
  • Some instructors may allow an unlimited number of attempts, so you can submit your assignment again. If this option has been enabled, click "New Attempt" and follow the prompts.

Participate in Canvas discussion boards

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 in 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.
  • Remember that UBC’s diverse community includes people from various cultures and backgrounds, which influence their communication style and practices.

Use Canvas course groups

Access instructor-created 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 People in the Course Navigation.
  2. Select the Groups tab.
  3. Click Visit next to 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 "Joining" drop-down menu.
  6. To invite only certain people, select Membership by Invitation Only from the "Joining" drop-down menu, and invite members to the group by searching their names under “Invite Students”.
  7. Click Submit.


  • Another way to access groups is to click "Groups" in the Global Navigation. You will see a list of the groups that you are in across all your courses.
  • Student-created groups need to be enabled by your instructor. If the "People" link is not available in the Course Navigation or if you do not see the +Group blue button, your instructor has not enabled this feature yet. You can ask to have it turned on.
  • Read more about Canvas student groups 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. The steps are a little different for each, but both follow the same general workflow.

  1. Find your quiz under Quizzes or Modules in the Course Navigation.
  2. 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 needed.
  5. Click Take the Quiz or Begin (whichever you see) to start your assessment.
  6. Complete the assessment.
  7. Click Submit Quiz or Submit (whichever you see) when you reach the end.


  • Canvas will always call your assessment a “quiz”, whether instructors are giving you a quiz or exam.
  • Avoid leaving a timed quiz midway through. The timer will continue running while you’re gone, and the quiz will auto-submit when time runs out.
  • Take quizzes on your computer, rather than your phone. The 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, you can go back in. Find your way to the question you were on by checking the question list in the sidebar.

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, follow these steps:

  1. Click Grades in the Course Navigation.
  2. You can use the "Arrange by" drop-down 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 of the Grades page.

Manage Canvas notifications

You can change the default notification settings in Canvas by selecting your preferences.

  1. Click Account in the left-most Global Navigation (the menu in navy blue), and select Notifications.
  2. Under the “Settings for” filter, select whether you want to change notifications for your whole Canvas account or for a specific course. Keep in mind that course notification settings will override your account notification settings.
  3. Once you set the filter, you will see a table of all the emails associated with your Canvas account and all types of notifications that you can receive. Select the notifications you want by clicking the icon under each email address.


  • Keep your email address up to date in Canvas. If you don't see the right email when checking notifications, you can change it. Click "Account" in the left-most Global Navigation and select "Settings". On the settings page, use the list on the right to add a new email or change which email is your default. You may get an email at the new address about the change; make sure to click the confirmation link it contains.
  • Learn more about managing Canvas notification settings as a student by checking out Canvas’s documentation.

Canvas FAQ

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

Canvas complies with the BC Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), meaning it follows provincial privacy policies, 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 more 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 in Canvas. Click "Courses" in the left-most Global Navigation (menu in navy blue), then click 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.

If your instructor uses the default end date, your access to a course in Canvas will end eight weeks after the last day of class. However, instructors may change the default to an earlier end date. It's best to assume that you will not have access to course materials after the end of the term.

Once registered, you will be automatically enrolled in the Canvas course in the "Student" role, providing you with the same access to the course as other enrolled students.

If you have questions or issues with auditing a course in Canvas, get UBC Canvas help.

Where can I get more support with Canvas?

Technical support

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

Online learning support

Learn more

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