Five Frequently Asked Canvas Questions

Canvas is a flexible system, and with that flexibility comes some complexities for you as an instructor. Here are some of the more common questions we in Teaching & Learning Technologies are asked about Canvas. If you have any Canvas questions or would like to meet with a Canvas expert, let us know and we'd be happy to meet with you for a consultation (we'll even come to your office if you'd like)!

Without further adieu, here is the first installment of the Canvas frequently asked questions:


1. How can I be sure that my students have seen time-sensitive course material?

Use Announcements. By default, a full copy of an announcement will immediately go to your students' email and a notification will show up on their mobile device if they've downloaded the Canvas Student app. Does this guarantee that they saw your announcement? No. But using announcements in Canvas is the easiest way to quickly get information to your students through email and on their mobile devices simultaneously. See this guide on how to create an announcement in your Canvas course.

Pro-tip: The Canvas Teacher app allows you to create announcements right from your smartphone while on the go.


2. Is there a good way to see if everyone has contributed to a discussion?

If your Canvas discussion is a graded discussion, then you can see which students have submitted to a discussion board from the Gradebook. Now, this won't tell you how many times, or how substantive the posts are, but it is a quick way see if someone hasn't posted in a discussion. See this guide on how to make a discussion and review the "Create Graded Discussion" section.


3. How does e-reserves work?

Course Reserves, adminstered by the library, allows your students to access digital materials the Libraries have made available for your class, whether it be links to PDFs, articles, book chapters, or streaming media. If you have any questions about Course Reserves, contact

Follow this guide to using Course Reserves in your Canvas course.


4. Can I get the content from a class my colleague taught?

Yes, if your colleague is willing to share. Canvas lets you, as an instructor, import any specific content or an entire course into your new course IF (and this is the caveat), you are enrolled as a Teacher in both courses. So, if your colleague has some content that you need for your course, here are the steps you'll need to follow:

  1. Ask your colleague to add you to their course.
    See this guide on how to add someone to a course manually using their NetID.
    Use this guide on how to add someone to an older course (if the + People button is grayed out).
  2. After you're enrolled in your colleague's course, go into your course that you'd like to bring content into, and then follow this guide on copying content from one course into another.


5. How do I know if my students have read the content I’ve posted?

Course Analytics provides a basic overview how much students are viewing pages in Canvas. Pages can be different sections of your Canvas course, such as "Modules," or they can be content pages from the "Pages" section of your course. Unfortunately, there is currently no way to see if a particular file or page has been viewed by your students.