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Is your syllabus reaching prospective students?

Even without publishing a Canvas course, using the Canvas Syllabus Tool makes your syllabi available to prospective and enrolled students (Updated May 3, 2024)

1. Syllabus Tool and provide centralized access to course syllabi for both prospective and enrolled students. To ensure syllabi appear in these locations, instructors need to utilize the Syllabus Tool within Canvas to share their syllabi. Syllabi can be shared in this way even before a Canvas course is published. This article highlights the significance of getting syllabi into and provides guidance on how to do it.

Syllabus Tool detail showing you can add file or edit text
 You will see the Syllabus tool when you open your Canvas course.

2. Sharing syllabi early and openly helps Stanford students choose courses and prepare for class

We surveyed students about how, when, and why they use syllabi in November 2023. The comments in the survey confirmed that students don’t want to wait until the Canvas course is published or have to enroll in courses to get access to syllabi. It’s less stressful if syllabi are openly accessible weeks ahead of the first day so students can check if a course fits their interests and that the assignment and exam schedule won’t conflict and/or overwhelm them on certain days or weeks. Details of the survey results will be shared in a future article, but of the 1800+ students who responded:

  • 87% review syllabi to help with their enrollment decision
    • When asked whether they’ve been in a situation of being unable to find syllabi because they are restricted or not yet posted, 50% of students have been unable to find the syllabi they wanted and said it negatively affected their enrollment decision. Another 9% said it was an inconvenience when syllabi were unavailable to them.
  • 51% check the syllabus to know what books and equipment to buy (at least 29% of students are buying books with more than two day shipping). 

The next section describes how using the Syllabus tool allows you to share your syllabus with the audience you want, even before you publish your Canvas course. 

A screenshot of after selecting Spring 2023 and PWR department
Search for a term and a subject at

3. Using the Syllabus Tool makes it easier for enrolled and unenrolled students to find your syllabus

Most instructors share their syllabi in the Syllabus Tool, but some only share their syllabus in Canvas Files, Pages or Modules. Students’ most frequently mentioned frustration in using Canvas is that it is hard to locate essential items like syllabi in Canvas because the content is not in a consistent location. Even if you already share your syllabus in Files, Pages or Modules, adding your syllabus link or file in the Syllabus Tool makes it easier for prospective students to find your syllabus. If you only want your syllabus available to enrolled students, you can modify the Syllabus Visibility setting. Adding your syllabus in the Canvas Syllabus Tool gives it a consistent location labeled “Syllabus” in the navigation bar of your Canvas course.  

Syllabi uploaded to Canvas via the Syllabus Tool are, by default, accessible to all authenticated Stanford users at ExploreCourses and, even before publishing your Canvas course. While students appreciate when syllabi are posted openly, you can modify the Syllabus Visibility setting so that it’s only visible to enrolled students. 

Contact for help or more information. If you want to provide feedback on how you post your syllabus and why, please answer our Instructor Syllabus Survey by December 8, 2023.

4. Further Reading

Optimizing the Syllabus: Article from the Center for Teaching and Learning

Editor’s Note: The November 30, 2023 version of this article contained lower percentages because multiple responses were allowed in three questions and the survey software calculated the percentages based on total number of responses, rather than respondents. This has been corrected in the May 3, 2024 update..   

Canvas Course in Student App
Using the Syllabus Tool makes it easier for students to find your syllabus on your course landing page once your course starts. This is especially helpful if you've changed your homepage to Modules or Pages, as shown in this mobile view.

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