Frequently Asked Questions

Why Canvas?

Canvas offers:

Collaboration and content creation for students and faculty:

  • Allow students to create and comment on pages
  • Set up video-based web conferences instantly
  • Submit and grade group projects easily
  • Record videos and audio via webcam

Writing assignments:

  • Assign papers and readings easily
  • View Word and PDF submissions directly in the grading interface
  • Create a rubric for added grading speed
  • Let students grade peers using rubrics

Efficient workflows:

  • Bulk upload and download through drag and drop, selection or zip
  • See assignments and other items that need your attention on the Dashboard
  • Receive notifications via email, text, or in your calendar

Will I have to manually enroll students or create a new account or request a Canvas course?

No. Your Canvas course is created each quarter. Your roster will be added to your Canvas and synched with enrollment updates, so enrolled students will be able to see the course after you publish it. You and your students will login to your Canvas course using your SUNet ID and password.

Can I create my own Canvas course?

No. Canvas courses are created automatically.

When are Canvas courses created?

For information about the Canvas Course Creation Schedule please see our Stanford Canvas Help Center article.

Is there a recommended browser for Canvas?

Yes. We recommend using the Chrome browser. See this guide for more information about operating system, browser and device requirements.

Are there mobile apps for Canvas?

Yes.  Students can download the Apple iOS Canvas App for iPhone and iPad or Android Canvas App. See the Canvas Mobile App Guide for more information.

Instructors and TA’s can download the Canvas Teacher App for iPhone, iPad or Android devices. See the Canvas Teacher  Mobile App Guide for more information.

What types of Canvas data are collected and used?

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.What about Canvas and large course support?

Although Canvas is robust for most users, some courses such as large lecture courses, are impacted by Canvas’ functional gaps. See our Large Course Support Update list for more information.

  • Large classes with section-specific content: The Stanford Canvas team has designed a Section <-> Group cloning tool to address documented functional gaps.

Can you provide a Canvas overview for us at our department/faculty meeting?

Absolutely!  We’d love to give a Canvas overview at your department meeting. Please contact us with some possible dates, times and locations. We’d be happy to tailor our presentation to your needs if there are any particular Canvas features or functionalities you’d like to learn more about.

Please see our Upcoming Events section for information about our schedule for Canvas orientations, demos, workshops and events.

How can I get help with Canvas?

Are you still supporting CourseWork?

No. CourseWork was retired on December 21, 2016.  The Stanford Canvas team migrated all CourseWork courses from Fall 2014 through Fall 2016 to Canvas.

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

Was my CourseWork course migrated to Canvas?

All CourseWork courses from Fall 2014 through Fall 2016 were migrated to Canvas. Some earlier courses were also migrated by request.

The deadline for requesting migration from CourseWork has passed.

CourseWork content migrated to Canvas can be found at Courses > All Courses list.

We encourage you to consider how you might take advantage of the new features and functionalities in Canvas to increase collaboration, communication and engagement in your courses. Here are some tips for making the most of Canvas to develop meaningful student-centered learning experiences.

Why did we retire CourseWork?

CourseWork, the learning management system that had served teachers and learners at Stanford since 2005, was based on an “open source” platform called Sakai. Stanford, along with 4 other universities, founded Sakai in 2004. We had continually contributed to the platform during the last 12 years, adding many features that have been requested by Stanford instructors.

Software platforms, such as Sakai, require frequent updating in order to stay current with emerging technologies and the increasing expectations of users. Occasionally, a major rewrite is required in order to ensure a platform’s continued supportability and extensibility. Although there was an effort by the open source community to develop a successor to Sakai, the project did not result in a platform that could meet the basic needs of users upgrading from Sakai.

Stanford was the last of the 5 founding universities to still be using Sakai in 2016. Although the platform continues to provide benefit to many institutions worldwide, it was no longer viable for us to maintain and enhance the platform to meet the growing needs of teaching and learning on campus here at Stanford. In choosing Canvas as the successor platform we are following in the footsteps of 3 of the 4 Sakai founding institutions and leveraging their experience and migration tools to minimize the impact on our instructors and students. As a participating member of the Canvas R1 Peer Group, which is comprised of 40 universities from across the country, we are collaborating with other universities to lobby Instructure to address major functional gaps.

Why a new Learning Management System (LMS)?

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.

How is Canvas different from CourseWork?

CourseWork-Canvas Feature Comparison Chart

Who is using Canvas?

In addition to Stanford, several of our peer universities – who had previously used Sakai, the LMS that CourseWork was built on – have piloted and adopted Canvas, including Indiana University, University of California at Berkeley, University of Michigan and Yale University.

How are we addressing feature gaps between CourseWork and Canvas?

As with any software migration, there is not a one-to-one mapping of features from CourseWork to Canvas. There are many new features in Canvas and an overall improved user experience. At the same time, there are features, especially ones that we have developed in response to instructors’ requests, that are missing in the new platform. Please see the Canvas Feature/Functional Gaps List and the CourseWork vs Canvas Comparison Chart for more information. The Canvas platform, although commercial, is extensible. The team is developing additional features to help fill the gaps that exist between the two platforms. For example, we developed  a Roster Photos tool that will be available in Spring 2016 and are in the process of developing an Anonymous Grading of Papers feature.

Some of the differences that you will experience are more deeply rooted in the platform and cannot be changed through the development of additional tools. We are working with Instructure, the company that provides Canvas, to make the changes that will continue to improve your experience. We are working closely with peer institutions, via the Canvas R1 Peer Group, that are also Canvas users to apply pressure to Instructure in areas that are of mutual interest. Even with all this development and lobbying, there will inevitably be differences in behavior that you, the users, will have to accommodate through changes in your practices. Many of these will be minor changes in your workflow. However, others may be less efficient than your experience with CourseWork. We have a support person who is available to work with you with regards to efforts to minimize the impact of these workflow changes. At the same time we will work closely with Instructure to address your top concerns.

How can I learn more about Canvas?

Check out our resources for links to helpful tutorials and easy-to-use documentation. The documentation includes tips for communicating within Canvas, managing your Canvas course, calendars, grades, groups, and more. The clear, step-by-step instructions and videos will quickly get you up and running with Canvas.  You’ll also find other materials to help inspire you such as our Stanford Canvas Course Profiles that showcase exemplary uses of Canvas to enhance teaching and learning.

We’re always happy to help; so please contact us if you’d like to schedule an appointment to discuss your course and get one-on-one help.