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Making it easier for students to shop a course if they can't come to class

Most Canvas courses have only been accessible to students who are officially enrolled. However if students can’t get to or fit into a lecture hall or seminar room (due to Covid, etc.), and they can't enroll because they have reached their 20-unit limit, the Stanford Canvas team developed a new option for instructors to make their course content “open” to Stanford students during the shopping period. This is especially useful if the course is posting lecture videos or Zoom meetings for popular classes and doesn't require submissions for a week or two.

How can students find courses?

When browsing course syllabi at, students will see a “View available Canvas resources before enrolling” link located below the course title if the course has a Canvas site that is open for shopping.

Screenshot of link to view available Canvas resources

Clicking the View available Canvas resources before enrolling link will take them to a content-only version of the Canvas courseStudents will not be a member of the course, so will not be able to get notifications or announcements or submit work, but will be able to see Home, Syllabus, Modules, Files, Pages, Assignments descriptions, and if your school/department uses it, Panopto Course Videos and  Zoom. If students do not see this link, the instructor hasn't opened their Canvas course to non-enrolled students for shopping or hasn't published a Canvas course. 

How can instructors make courses visible to all of Stanford?

After publishing a course, instructors will see a yellow button on the homepage (some schools and departments have opted out).

Open Course for Shopping button in Canvas

This button opens a prompt that explains the following:

Once you confirm to Open Course to All SUNet ID Holders, your course will be open until the shopping period is over. After the Add/Drop deadline, your course will be restricted automatically to enrolled students.


  • Students who are shopping are not official Canvas course members. They do not get notifications and can’t see tools that identify official students, including Announcements (students can reply to these). 
  • Shopping students can see things such as Files and Zoom recordings if you are using Zoom. Therefore, take care with sensitive information if you make your course visible beyond your course.
  • Shopping students will not be able to submit work, but can see Assignment and Quiz descriptions. They will need to register for your course in Axess before they can complete work online.

If you are uncomfortable with this, don’t use this option. You can require students to register in Axess to be added to your course as an officially enrolled student.

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