Feature Highlight: Analytics in Canvas

What are Analytics?

Numbers representing analyticsAnalytics presents logged activity by users in various components of a Canvas course. Course Analytics takes a three-pronged approach to creating substantive data for Canvas users.

  • Justification focuses on system reports and how the system is being used.
  • Intervention looks to predict at-risk students and how to meet their needs.
  • Learning focuses on learning outcomes, the effectiveness of the teaching style, and the division of time between students achieving competence and those falling behind.

For more information please see: http://guides.instructure.com/m/4152/l/66789-what-are-analytics-for-my-course

What kind of Analytics does Canvas track for students?

Canvas tracks page views, participation, assignments, and grades for students through the Analytics tool.

Canvas also tracks the Last Activity and Total Activity in a Course. Last Activity refers to how often students interact with the course and Total Activity refers to how long students interact within a course and is associated with page views. Total activity requires a two-minute page view minimum for performance. Note: This does not capture page views for videos that do not include intermediate page requests, such as a half-hour recorded lecture. This information is accessible to instructors under the People tool. For more information please see: http://guides.instructure.com/m/4152/l/55478-how-do-i-access-people

How should Analytics in Canvas be used?

Your students may wonder if or how Analytics will be used in your Canvas sites (e.g., for grading participation), so it is best to be as transparent as possible about analytics. We recommend instructors outline in their Syllabus expectations for students’ site activity, or any weight that analytics will have on grading.

Is there other data that Canvas tracks?

Canvas includes timestamps for all submissions to Canvas tools like Discussions, Assignments, and Quizzes. Additionally tools like Quizzes include information like the Average Time the assessment took to complete and time to completion for each user.

Is there anything else to know about the Analytics that Canvas tracks?

Currently, Analytics does not measure activity on mobile devices.

Who can I contact for questions about Analytics?

The Penn Canvas Support team would be happy to answer any questions. You can reach us at: canvas@pobox.upenn.edu

Do You Know an Unpublished Module Affects Its Published Items?

The Do You Know? series provides tips for working with quirks in Canvas. Please email Courseware Support at canvas@pobox.upenn.edu if you have any questions.

Unpublished Modules

An unpublished module with published items.

An unpublished module with published items.

Canvas modules appear in an unpublished state by default. Students cannot see anything that’s unpublished, so a module must be published for students to see it.

Published Items in an Unpublished Module

It would seem that published items in an unpublished module should be available to students through the items’ primary content areas in a Canvas site. For example, a file in an unpublished modules seems like it should be available in a site’s “Files” area or through a file link in another area like a Page. This is not the case, however, because–

Published items in an unpublished module are not available to students at all.

If a student tries accessing such an item in another Canvas area, they will receive a message saying the item is unavailable because it’s in an unpublished module.


This is what a student sees after trying to access a published assignment that’s in an unpublished module.

Tip: Check Unpublished Modules for Items You Want Students to Access

If you’re concerned that your unpublished modules contain published items you want students to access, look at your modules and, if you find such items, do one of the following:

1.) Delete the item from the module. You can do this by following these instructions:

How do I remove Module items?

Please note that deleting a module item only delete the link to that item in the module; it doesn’t delete the item from your course. If you want to delete an item from your course, you will need to do this in the item’s primary area (e.g., delete a file in the “Files” area of your course).

2.) Move the item to a published module. You can do this by following these instructions:

How do I reorder Module items?

Please Reach Out If You Need Help!

We hope this information makes the module-item-access quirk easier for you to manage. If you have any questions, please email Courseware Support at canvas@pobox.upenn.edu.

Best Practices: Hiding Course Navigation Buttons

The Best Practices series focuses on what instructors and students can do to effectively use Canvas. You’re welcome to contact Courseware Support at canvas@pobox.upenn.edu if you have any questions about best practices.

Do You Know Where Your Students Are (in Canvas)?


Canvas’s navigation options prevent students from getting lost in your site.

Perhaps you’ve never asked this question, but it’s worth considering. While one of Canvas’s strengths is its numerous tools and features, a byproduct of these options, depending on how you’ve structured your site, are extraneous navigation buttons. Unused navigation buttons–just the ones with black text, not the ones with gray (more on this later)–divert students from the content you’ve added. For example, if you’ve ever wondered why you have a button called Collaborations and don’t intend to use it, then it’s probably safe to assume your students are wondering about it, too. For students, wondering may lead to wandering, as in clicking on this and other buttons and finding areas unpopulated with course materials but present and visible nonetheless. Retracing one’s steps in Canvas is easy (the course navigation bar appears in all areas of a course), but so is customizing your navigation bar to hide buttons to unused areas, and doing the latter can stop students from getting lost in your site.

How to Hide Course Navigation Buttons

You can hide Course Navigation Buttons by following these instructions:

How do I reorder and hide Course Navigation links?

Other Reasons to Edit Your Course’s Navigation Bar

  • Customize the default order to display buttons according to your preference.
  • Hide the Files button. The “Files” area can’t be organized–all files and folders automatically display alphabetically and, if numbered, ASCIIbetically (1, 11, 12, 2, 27, 3 . . .). We recommend using Modules or Pages to organize files and other course content and just treating files as a document repository for instructors, TAs, and course builders.

Why Some Buttons are Black and Others Are Gray

Upon first entering your Canvas site, before you’ve made any edits, the course navigation bar looks like:


Course navigation bar in a new Canvas site.

The black buttons are visible to your students, and the gray buttons aren’t (to see this for yourself, take at look a your site in Student View by following these instructions: How do I access Student View?).  As you add content to areas in your site, the corresponding navigation buttons go from gray to black. Here’s an example from a site with content in most areas:


Course navigation bar with content added.

When you hide a navigation button it goes from black to gray, indicating that it’s no longer visible to your students.  Here’s an example of the same course navigation bar pictured directly above with several buttons hidden:


Course navigation bar with hidden buttons.

Keep Track of Your Buttons

If you aren’t sure why a button is gray, first check to see if it’s hidden. If it’s not hidden, click on the button and verify that the area doesn’t have any content. If you’re working in a content area and notice a button is gray, or if a student says they can’t access an area that you know has content, check to see if it’s hidden and, if it is, make it visible if you want students to enter the area.

Please Note

You can’t change the text on a button. Also, you can’t add buttons to the navigation bar, neither to unlisted areas of a Canvas site (e.g., “Groups) nor for external web links.

Don’t Button Up–Please Share!

If you think you’re colleagues would benefit from this information, then please share it with them. If you have any questions, please contact Courseware Support at canvas@pobox.upenn.edu.

Due Date Issue in Canvas

Our vendor has notified us of an issue affecting users at multiple institutions. Students have been reporting that they are seeing incorrect due dates–that is, the due dates they see are different from what their instructors have given.

Until the issue is fixed, please have your students follow the due date that appears for an item in the ”Assignments” area of your site, not the due date that appears when they click on the link for the item. The due date in the ”Assignments” area is correct; the due date that appears on the page through the link (it’s where students see information about the assignment and submit online assignments) is incorrect.

Our vendor’s engineering team is working on a solution for this issue now. Courseware Support will post updates from our vendor to the Canvas at Penn blog. We apologize for any inconvenience this issue may cause.

Feature Highlight: CC’ing Yourself on Canvas Messages

The Feature Highlights series shares information about neat and useful things you can do with Canvas features. Please email Courseware Support at canvas@pobox.upenn.edu if you have any questions about the features discussed in this series.

Self-CC’ing Is Here!

Canvas community, rejoice! Your requests to have a self-CC’ing function on Canvas messages have been answer! Now you can set a new notification preference that allows you to receive a copy of all conversations you create. When enabled, this feature lets you see what conversations have been sent and how they appear in their specified communication channels.


The “Conversations Created by Me” notification preference lets you CC yourself on the Canvas messages you send.

A few things to note about this new feature:

  • When you create a group message and click the “Send Individual Messages” checkbox, Canvas generates only one notification for the sent message.

Side note: When messaging multiple users (e.g., your whole class), the “Send Individual Messages” lets a user reply just to you rather than all to recipients of your message.

  • In Conversations, sent messages appear in the Sent folder.
  • When a message receives a reply, the message thread will appear in the Inbox.

Enable  “Conversations Created by Me”

You can follow these instructions to enable this notification preference:

How do I set my Notification Preferences?

Spread the Word!

Courseware Support is nothing short of elated that our users can finally CC themselves on their Canvas messages. The absence of this feature has been frequently brought up in our discussions with you about Canvas Conversations, so we are overjoyed to bring you this good news! Please let colleagues who might be interested know about this new feature. If you have any questions, you can contact Courseware Support at canvas@pobox.upenn.edu for assistance.

Canvas Production Release: Saturday, November 8, 2014

Canvas operates on a three-week release cycle through which features are added or updated. Courseware Support posts highlights from Canvas’s production release notes, a link to these notes, and other relevant content to the Canvas at Penn blog a few days before the production release, which usually occurs on Saturdays. Please contact Courseware Support at canvas@pobox.upenn.edu if you have any questions about an upcoming production release.

11/08/14 Production Release Highlights:

  • Moderate Quiz Updates:  When a student views a timed quiz and time expires, Canvas auto-submits the quiz. However, if a student navigates away from the quiz page, the quiz submission remains outstanding. Previously, instructors had to manually submit each outstanding quiz individually as indicated in the “Time” column as “Time Up!” Now, when instructors open the Moderate Quiz page, Canvas generates a warning message so instructors can manually check outstanding submissions for the entire quiz at one time.
  • User Access Report Additions: User access is now logged in the following areas of Canvas: Course Home Page, Outcomes, and Modules. At the course level, user access activity appears in a user’s Access Report. User access information also displays at the account level in user page views.
  • Group Leader Settings: Instructors can modify the group leader settings in a Group Set at any time. When editing a Group Set through the Settings icon, the “Leadership” section appears at the bottom of the browser window. Previously group leader settings could only be specified while creating a new Group Set. Edited settings won’t take effect until after the next membership change, such as when another person joins or is assigned to the group. For manually enabled changes, you may have to refresh the page to see the group update. This functionality will continue to be improved in a feature release.

For a complete production release update, see:

11/08/14 Canvas Production Release Notes Featuring Moderate Quiz Updates

Watch the following screencast to see some of the upcoming production-release changes in action:

11.08.2014 New Feature Screencast from Instructure on Vimeo.

Roll Call Maintenance Downtime: Sunday, November 9th, 12-2am

Canvas engineers will be performing maintenance on the Roll Call/Attendance tool on November 9th, 2014 beginning at 12 am Eastern Standard Time. Only the Roll Call/Attendance tool will be down during this maintenance, which is estimated to last about 2 hours. Canvas will still be up and functioning as normal during this maintenance.

Please contact Courseware Support at canvas@pobox.upenn.edu if you have any questions.