What is Canvas?

Canvas is a cloud-based learning management system (LMS) by Instructure. Canvas is a modern, easy-to-use, reliable and adaptable LMS that supports current and evolving teaching and learning needs.

You can use Canvas to:

  • organize your course using an integrated calendaring and syllabus system, content modules, and communication stream
  • stimulate active learning, critical thinking and reflection with discussion forums
  • leverage built-in faculty and student audio and video recording functionality (in assignments, quizzes, discussions, web conferencing) to maximize interaction outside the classroom
  • save time grading using SpeedGrader
  • access your course using a mobile app (iPhone, iPad and Android devices)
  • easily set up assessment tools that track, grade, and communicate student outcomes

Why Canvas?

Although Stanford had used CourseWork (Sakai) LMS since 2005, over the last ten years there have been many changes in LMS technology. Modern learning management systems offer exciting features and functionalities to create engaging and meaningful learning experiences. After conducting a review of the current learning management system landscape, an analysis of Stanford’s needs as well as input and feedback from the 2014-2015 Canvas pilot, Canvas was selected as our new learning management system.

Canvas Course Creation

Canvas courses are automatically created each quarter. For more information about the Canvas Course Creation Schedule please see our Stanford Canvas Help Center article. You can access Canvas at canvas.stanford.edu.

Login to Canvas

Note: Instructors need to click the “Publish” button in Canvas for students to be able to see their Canvas courses. A Canvas course will not be available to students until published.

Once your course contains a graded submission, you can no longer unpublish your course. [more]

If you’d like help getting started with Canvas, please contact us or check out the Canvas documentation in our resources section.

Canvas Data Collection and Usage

The Canvas Learning Management System gathers data about student usage and interaction in the online platform. The full extent of data gathered by the system is outlined in the following document authored by the software company, Instructure, that makes Canvas: https://portal.inshosteddata.com/docs. Instructure’s privacy policy can be found here: https://www.instructure.com/policies/privacy. Some data are made available to authorized Stanford faculty and staff for the purpose of improving instruction and students’ experiences using the platform, as well as other purposes consistent with that faculty/staff member’s role and responsibilities. A  subset of these data are also made available to faculty and instructors through an analytics tool, created by Instructure and offered as a standard feature in Canvas, as outlined here:https://community.canvaslms.com/docs/DOC-17998-41521003848. As a part of a Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) integration, some data may be shared with certain providers of third-party educational tools so that those tools can be used in Canvas courses.  Anonymized data may be used in educational research or for other purposes (e.g., Google Analytics) aimed at enhancing the learning experience.

When did we move to Canvas?

The transition to Canvas is now complete. In September 2015, Stanford began transitioning to Canvas as our primary LMS. As a part of this phased implementation, we supported courses in both CourseWork and Canvas. CourseWork was retired on December 21, 2016. See our Transition Timeline for more detailed information.

Canvas Transition Timeline

CourseWork was phased out at the end of Fall Quarter 2016.  

The Stanford Canvas team migrated all CourseWork courses from Fall 2014 through Fall 2016 to Canvas. Some earlier courses were also migrated by request.

The deadline for requesting migration from CourseWork has passed. Any additional content migration will be self-serve. See below for details on accessing the CourseWork Archive.

CourseWork Archive

The CourseWork Archive site was available at courseworkarchive.stanford.edu until January 31, 2019.


How was Canvas evaluated?

After a review of the current learning management system landscape, an analysis of Stanford’s needs as well as input and feedback from the 2014-2015 Canvas pilot, Canvas was selected as our new learning management system.

During the 2014-2015 academic year, the Stanford Canvas team hosted an open pilot of Canvas, a new cloud-based learning management system by Instructure. Canvas proved to offer functionality and workflows that faculty, students and instructional support staff have long wanted in CourseWork. After a successful pilot, Canvas has been adopted as Stanford’s primary LMS as a replacement for CourseWork.

Project Team

The Office of the Vice Provost for Student Affairs (VPSA) Learning Technologies & Spaces Canvas Team.

How can I learn more about Canvas?

Check out our resources for links to helpful tutorials, easy-to-use documentation, answers to Frequently Asked Questions and other materials designed to make it easy to get started with Canvas. Or contact us to arrange an appointment to discuss your course and get one-on-one help.